How to Write When … Your World is Upside Down
This is the fourth post in the How to Write When… series.
Right now, it might well feel like your world has been turned upside down. Most countries have been in some form of lockdown in an attempt to combat Covid-19. Many people have been working from home for the first time, often with young children at home too.
When any kind of big change happens, it can have a heavy impact on your writing. Even outside of a pandemic, things like changing jobs, starting or finishing university, having a baby, going through a difficult time health-wise, or facing the grief of a bereavement can all have a huge practical and emotional effect.
During the past few months, you might have found that:
- You have more free time than before, since you no longer have a commute or evening activities. You feel like you should be doing more writing … but you’re struggling to find enough motivation or energy.
- You desperately want to be doing more writing … but you’re trying to work from home and take care of small children, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
- Your writing seems trivial or futile in the face of world events.
- You’re struggling to focus in the face of strong emotions – perhaps fear about your health, or about a family member’s health, or bitter disappointment at lost opportunities.
- Your usual routines have been swept away overnight – maybe you used to write during the day when the rest of your household was out, but now they’re home all the time.
All of these are hugely difficult things to face. You might well be having to cope with several of them at once, too. It’s no wonder that they’re having an effect on your writing.
So what can you do about it? How can you keep on with your writing despite everything that’s happening?
Before we dig into some specific tips, I want to make it really clear that you don’t have to write if it’s all too much.
Your Health (Mental and Physical) is Far More Important Than “Productivity”
I’m the sort of person who likes to check things off on a to-do list. I enjoy seeing my word counts go up. I love making new things for Aliventures (like Supercharge Your Writing Session and Supercharge Your Writing Week, most recently).
You might be wired the same way. Maybe you feel a lot of pressure to be “productive” – to finish your novel, or launch your blog, or make a start on your long-planned freelancing career.
But your health, both mental and physical, is far more important than checking things off on your to-do list.
It’s always okay to take a break from writing, for any reason. You write (I hope!) because you enjoy it; don’t let your writing become a chore that you have to force yourself through.
If you do want to keep writing, that’s also a very valid choice! Please don’t feel that your writing is unimportant or frivolous in the face of world events. There are a heck of a lot of people, right now, who are really grateful for novels to escape into, for technical tutorials that have helped them get the hang of Zoom, for poetry that gives them a fresh perspective, and so on. Writing matters.
Practical Tips for Enjoying Writing During Difficult Times
If you do want to keep writing, here are a few things that might help:
Avoid the News Before Your Writing Session
I know how hard it can be to switch off from the constant news right now, but if you can avoid it before a writing session, you’ll likely find yourself more able to focus. You might also want to keep off social media.
Let Writing Become an Escape
Can you turn your writing time into something special, something that’s set aside from the rest of your life (and the rest of your household!) in some way? That might mean writing in a different room, or at a time when others are asleep or busy with their own activities.
Consider Working on Smaller Projects
This quarter, one of my goals was to write a chunk of my novel-in-progress. After quite a few weeks struggling with it, I’ve decided to switch to short stories for a bit. If you’re struggling with the time/energy for a big project right now, could you work on something small and self-contained instead?
Revisit Your Writing Goals
You might have set goals for the year back in January, when the world was looking very different … and perhaps those goals now seem a long way off. It’s fine to go back and change them. That doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on them – you might want to instead change the timescale, or drop part of the goal, to make it more achievable.
Block Out Intrusive Noise
If you’re stuck at home right now, there’s a pretty good chance that your family, housemates, and/or neighbours are, too – and they might not be as quiet as you’d like! I find it really helps to put on headphones and listen to my music, to block out these distractions. If you prefer don’t like having music on when you write, you might want to try earplugs instead.
Please don’t feel guilty if you’re not writing at the moment. Equally, please don’t feel guilty if you are writing. Make whichever choice is right for you – and that might well change from day to day or week to week, depending on how you’re feeling and how the rest of your life is looking.
Are you trying to get into a good writing routine? Supercharge Your Writing Week is designed to help. It covers how to (realistically!) fit writing into your week, how to make the most of the time that you do have, and how to fix common problems that might come up for you.
Along with the Supercharge Your Writing Week guide, you get three printables to help you map out your ideal week, set up your weekly routines, and make plans for what you’re going to work on during each week.
Right now, Supercharge Your Writing Week is just $5 – the price goes up to $8 after Friday 12th June.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.