As a writer, I have felt a tremendous amount of pressure to get a lot of work done during this quarantine. What does a writer crave more than long stretches of alone time to sit and think and plan? Not much. So, I’ve sat in front of my computer on many a quarantined night trying to do just that and have come up short. Maybe you’re in a similar boat or perhaps your writer’s block has taken on a different form. Regardless, I decided to drum up a guide to help us both.
Below, I’ve outlined some tips and tricks I’ve been using to get writing in quarantine. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and what works for me may not work for you. But, it should give you a few tools to whip out the next time you’re feeling stuck.
Before opening a fresh Google Doc or getting started on a character profile, think about your writing wish list. What stories/forms/ideas have you wanted to explore, but never felt like you had the time to? What is it that you want to say? How do you want to say it? I recommend blocking off an afternoon to free-form brainstorm for a while. You can write your way through this exercise, draw pictures, make maps, do whatever you want to do, as long as you’re giving yourself the space to sift through your thoughts before jumping into the writing process. More than anything, remember that you’re writing for yourself first, so only dive into projects that truly excite you.
And while you’re brainstorming, make sure to keep it at least somewhat realistic. Instead of saying you’re going to write the next Great American Novel during the pandemic, maybe you say you’re going to write a stellar short story that speaks to your lived experience. Or maybe you challenge yourself to explore a different traditional form of poetry each week. The key is to produce things to completion so you can get that little creative kick without getting discouraged by your inability to produce the next Moby Dick.
To that end, I find it very, very helpful to set goals when starting a new writing project. Earlier this year, I was in a major creative slump. I felt like I didn’t have any good ideas and couldn’t find inspiration anywhere. So, I decided that for the month of January, I was going to write a poem a day. Style and length didn’t matter to me; what mattered was the simple act of writing itself. And I’ll tell you, I was shocked by how gratifying and empowering it felt to complete that goal. Were the poems good? Meh. But it got my cogs turning and allowed me to dive into deeper, more meaningful projects later on.
Having trouble coming up with goals of your own? Then check out some of the awesome challenges literary magazines, online forums, and bloggers are putting forth to writers during quarantine. My inbox has been flooded by 30-day challenges, writing prompts, and other creative fodder, so I recommend poking around the internet to see if there are any you’d like to take part in. Not only do challenges like this give you a kernel of an idea to work with, but they can help to hold you accountable when the going gets tough.
Speaking of accountability, you may find it useful to join or start a virtual writing group. If you’ve never participated in a writing group before, it’s basically a meeting in which writers gather to share work, provide feedback, and support one another through the creative process. These groups are always useful, but especially so in this time of self-isolation. You could meet weekly, bi-weekly, or maybe just once a month to bounce around ideas and work out kinks in your project.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to do is be patient (and kind!) with yourself. Yes, you technically have a lot of “free time” right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to produce your magnum opus. You don’t have to write a poetry collection. You don’t have to create anything of substance at all. Drop the pressure and write because it feeds your soul, or helps you process this truly surreal time. Remember: Productivity isn’t the goal. Creativity is.
Need more quarantine advice? Then check out our guide to all the fantastic things you can do while isolating at home!
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