It seems like every time I boot up my computer someone is offering advice on how to be more productive, more creative, and just more awesome during Covid. Honestly, all those articles just make me want to crawl under a blanket and do nothing. Which is kind of what I did for the first few months we were all at home, as far as my writing went. Every time I tried to finish my work in progress (from pre-Covid times) it went nowhere. And I in turn felt terrible about myself, and about writing in general. Whenever any notable writer posted on social media about how NOW is the PERFECT time to write that book, I would think, really? Now? When I’m worried every single day I’m going to catch a horrible virus and die? THIS is my most creative time? I don’t think so.
But, as with so many things in life, it’s when you let go things fall into place, so it was with writing. Once I decided to stop beating myself up and stop feeling like a Covid failure, I started to want to write again. It started with giving up, for now, on what I was working on and has spurred me to write the first draft of one novel, and I’m now 10,000 words into another one. I have no idea why I’m suddenly filled with a creative energy I didn’t have 10 months ago, but I have a few clues.
- Shaming yourself doesn’t work. Stop beating yourself up for not writing. It’s hard to feel creative when you’re coming from a place where you feel crappy about yourself. So stop it, and realize we’re living through a period of time books will be written about, it’s historically terrible, so be patient with yourself.
2. Maybe what you’re trying to write isn’t right for right now. Try something completely different. For six years other than some essays and my journalism work, I’d only been writing plays. In August I decided to write a novel. Are you stuck in your novel? Maybe try some memoir or essay writing. Maybe it’s the perfect time to write the screenplay you’ve always had in the back of your mind. Don’t feel guilty about letting a project go for now. It isn’t quitting, it’s taking a break.
3. Read! An actual book! We’re all stuck in front of screens so much we sometimes forget to pick up a real book and read. Reading inspires me. Holding an actual book feels good. I love seeing how other writers craft a story and characters. Reading makes us better writers.
4. Move your body. The pandemic has kept a lot of us indoors for months and it’s been easy to curl up and not do anything. I know where I live — Cape Cod, it’s not the most pleasant time of the year to be out, but I also know I feel better, and often get ideas and feel inspired when I get outside and go for a walk. If it’s just too yucky to go outside, do some yoga, or heck, throw on an old Jane Fonda workout on YouTube. Just move.
5. Have a Zoom meet up with some other writers and talk about writing, share things you’ve written, and vent. I have a writing group that’s been meeting via Zoom for most of the pandemic. There are only three of us, and it helps me so much to connect with others, hear what they’re doing, and get encouragement. We read aloud from what we’re working on, offer feedback and encouragement. It’s a great way to feel less alone.
6. I was given a subscription to MasterClass at the beginning of the pandemic by a dear friend. I cannot tell you how amazing it’s been to watch classes by amazing writers such as David Mamet, Judd Apatow, Judy Blume, Shonda Rhimes and so many more. I know it’s not inexpensive, but maybe you and a friend can go in on it together. It’s been amazing to hear things like Judd Apatow talking about the importance of having “moments of grace” in comedy. Check it out. And if that’s not possible for you, again, YouTube is a treasure trove of people talking about their work.
7. I wrote the first draft of a novel, 70,000 words, in four months by doing this one thing: I wrote every single day, except my birthday, I took that off, for four months. I am lucky to work from home, so I scheduled my work for clients in the morning, and then every afternoon I wrote. My goal was not terribly tough — two pages. That’s it. Sometimes two turned into four, but two was my minimum, and I never pressured myself to write for eight hours a day or anything close. If you write roughly 1000 words a day you can have a first draft in just a few months. And then it becomes a habit. So much so that after I sent my draft off to three beta readers, I started another book a week later while I wait for their notes.
I realize none of my ideas are revolutionary, but maybe there’s something in here that will resonate with you and help you over a hump. As we turn the corner into a New Year, a new administration, and a new vaccine, I’m very optimistic that 2021 is going to be a lot brighter, though I hope a lot of the positives that have come from this time will stick with us. For me, it’s simply been putting one foot, or one sentence in front of the other every single day. Try it, maybe it will unlock your creative brain too.