The first rule of being a writer is learning to accept isolation. Separating ourselves from outside distractions enables us to focus on the words and listen to the internal voice that helps us to follow our vision.
Being a writer is isolating in and of itself. It’s an isolating endeavor, as most arts tend to be because it’s just you and the computer or your writing tool of choice. The hardest part is when we are no longer allowed to take a break from our self-imposed isolation. What happens when our entire world is in isolation in response to the Covid-19 virus? The loss of freedom has taken a toll. In Los Angeles, all of the beaches, hiking trails, and parks are closed, not just restaurants, bars, and other “nonessential” businesses.
The first thing I thought of when the lockdown was announced for California was that it would be simple to write at home. I was wrong. When I would go to work and physically leave my house, by the time I returned at night, my mind welcomed the change of environment. The act of changing up my environment allowed me to sit at my home office after work and put my word count in for my next work in progress.
I feel that a lack of freedom is especially hard for writers because we lose the ability to balance isolation. Freedom gives me the ability to walk away from my computer and go to the beach, have a nice dinner at my favorite all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant, watch a movie at the theater. My nearly five-year-old daughter being at home rather than at preschool was also an additional challenge.
I’ve found a way to regain joy in writing through isolation by treasuring the moments you are free to write. Even if you don’t have many opportunities, try and practice time management. Here are some tips I’ve learned by exercising my writing muscles amid a global pandemic and when most of the nation has been called to stay-at-home.
Writing Tips Through Isolation:
- Set a work & writing schedule: If you’re working from home, schedule writing time around your work hours.
- Write for 20-30 minutes: Do you feel overwhelmed like you don’t have enough time to write? Set a timer and try writing in short bursts of 20-30 minutes at a time.
- Break up morning & night word count: Try writing 500 words in the early morning and 500 words in the evening. By breaking it up, you can achieve at least 1000 words in the day by cutting up your word count in increments.
- Let your spouse help with kids: If you have children, lean on your spouse to take them out for a walk or a bike ride while you write.
- Write on the weekends: Get going on your writing, even if your progress is slow at first. Sometimes I can’t always write 500 words in a sitting. Sometimes due to a particular harder scene, I might only achieve 250-300 words. But that still counts! Then, I take a break and try and do another 250-300 words.
- Take a break from your computer screen: Go for a walk, even if it’s for only ten minutes. Getting the blood circulating is always important and necessary and can make a difference.
- Keep a healthy sleep schedule: A daily sleep routine is invaluable to bolster the quality of your writing and ability to remain productive. Don’t forget to read as much as possible. Reading is the best way to improve our craft, especially if we’re feeling stuck. It’s also an excellent way to unwind, relax, and unplug at night before going to bed.
- Do a digital detox: I’m currently taking a break from Facebook because the social site actually started making my depression worse. Now, I’m solely on Facebook and other social media platforms for work. But taking a digital detox is helpful. It’s too easy to be glued online and plugged in, especially when there is nothing else to do. Monitor if social media and being online too much are helping or hindering your mental state.
- A small daily word count is okay: Give yourself a break if you don’t hit your daily word count. Sometimes I can crank out 1000 words so quickly that I surprise myself. But there are other days when the words don’t come out that quickly. It’s okay if your progress is slow, especially since the state of the world is causing a lot of uncertainty.
- Keep in touch with family: Reaching out might even help boost your creative juices and get you in the flow. I have some family members out of work. I have a sister that lives in New York City, and I also know someone who has had Covid-19 and is currently recovering in New York. So, I know on a very personal level, just how much current events and circumstances outside of our control can affect our mental and emotional wellbeing. Peace of mind goes a long way. It helps to reach out and see if loved ones are doing okay.
The Bottom Line
It can be a challenge to stay positive during uncertain times. Isolation can tend to hamper our momentum, increase our desire to turn to an addiction out of boredom, and also leave us all in a state of varying degrees and stages of depression. Finding joy in writing, even if we don’t feel like writing at the time, can be tough. But don’t lose hope. It’s possible to still create even during times of stress.
We’re all feeling the burden of social isolation. Many of us might be scared. So many people are affected in various ways. People are sick, dying, out of work, and businesses are shut down. On a global level, this is hard on everyone. Not one person is left unaffected. The best we can all do is to try our best to lead somewhat normal lives, even if nothing feels normal. I’ve been depressed this past month, and many of you might have been feeling the same. I hope that if you’re a writer, editor, or publisher, that we can still keep creating and publishing and continue to use our creative abilities to get us through these uncertain times.
If you’re having a hard time, I am, too. Hang in there. Sending virtual hugs to all of you.