Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Writing in the Time of Covid-19

By Jodi Turchin, @jlturchin

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: There world is a challenging place right now, and stress can easily sap a writer's creative energy. Jodi Turchin shares tips on writing in the world of Covid-19.

Jodi Turchin is a Young Adult novelist represented by Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary. She’s also a photographer, a high school English teacher, a former actress and director, an Independent Scentsy Consultant, and a Younique presenter.

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Take it away Jodi…

As I scroll my social media feeds, I’m seeing posts by a lot of writers – published and not – who are struggling to put words to page under the stress of social distancing/isolation/shelter in place orders. So today, I’d like to share with you some thoughts about jumpstarting your creativity in this unusual life situation.

1. Turn off your social media. 

Last week was technically my “spring break” even though our schools officially shut down on Friday, March 13. I found myself falling through Alice’s rabbit hole for HOURS on end, scrolling through social media for new information and articles from reputable sources on what was happening with the Coronavirus outbreak. It was patently unproductive, and I didn’t write a word of any of the stories I’ve been percolating in my head. 

If you feel you have to check your social media, give yourself a time limit, check it, and then turn it off again. It can be a black hole of lost time you’ll never get back again; time you COULD have been writing. 

2. Set a schedule. 

Right now, most of our schedules are in upheaval. Maybe you’re a parent whose kids are now home with you all the time. Maybe you’re working from home. Maybe you have been laid off from your job. I’m a high school teacher and am doing distance learning with my students. 

What I found worked for me the week before spring break and now is setting a daily schedule. Get up at a regular time. Schedule time to have my “office hours” for my students. Time to plan/grade. Time to exercise. Time to eat. And, of course, time to work on writing! 

Set yourself a schedule that works with your current life and – most importantly – adhere to it! Don’t blow off your writing time. Write SOMETHING. Which leads us to point three. 

(Here's more on Scheduling for Writing Success)


Jodi Turchin
It can be a list of reasons why you hate the Coronavirus, a stream-of-consciousness piece about your emotions, a monologue by a character in your story. 

Keep a journal of your emotions through this pandemic. Set aside some time every day to put SOME words on paper. It will keep your brain percolating even while we are so easily distracted by this sudden change in our routines. 

April is Camp NaNoWriMo. Maybe you want to challenge yourself to that in order to ensure you get in your writing time. Camp NaNoWriMo is more fluid than November’s NaNoWriMo – it allows you to select writing or editing and you don’t HAVE to do 50,000 words. But you can choose to give yourself some accountability by going to virtual camp. 

If your brain can’t put your own words together, block out some time to tackle your To Be Read pile. Support independent bookstores and buy some fresh material to have shipped to your quarantined door. Or, if you are living somewhere with stores still allowing patrons, go buy some books. 

Lose yourself in someone else’s world for a while, where the characters get to have adventures that maybe don’t include worrying about economic disaster or a plague rolling through. Escapism is a valuable tool when under stress that keeps you from your writing. 

(Here's more on Why Writers Should Read)

5. Don’t beat yourself up. 

What’s most important, at least to me, is to give the appropriate self-care. Not writing? Can’t focus? Unless you’re a writer on contract with a looming deadline, give yourself some breathing space. It’s okay to not write. Really. I promise. Relax. 

If you’re not writing, you’re not alone. This is a scary time. We’re facing the unknown and experiencing something we can’t control. Sometimes, we just have to accept that writing is not happening. 

Find other things you can do to get through. There are many meditation apps out there; maybe finding a guided meditation will help you relax. Take a bubble bath. Take a nap. Whatever strategy helps calm you may also tease your creative brain into action. 

I find sometimes, when I’m in bed listening to a guided meditation, characters will float through my mind. The creative juices are still flowing, if only subconsciously. You can do this. 

(Here's more on How to Be a Productive, Healthy Writer During Mentally Draining Times)

So in this time of turmoil, give yourself a break. Write if you can. But if you can’t, don’t feel the need to give yourself a hard time over it. We’re only human, and each of us handles situations of stress differently. Take care of you. The words will come when they’re ready.

What are you doing to get through quarantine? 

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