First and foremost, I hope you and your loved ones are safe during this very stressful time.
Let me step onto this soapbox for a second to say that it’s incumbent on all of us to be good citizens of humanity during this time, even if we’re not personally at high risk. Minimize spread, look out for friends/family/loved ones/neighbors/strangers, and be generous if you have the financial means to help those whose livelihoods have been impacted.
But assuming you’re safe, you have your must-dos covered, and you’re being a responsible citizen: write. Write write write write write.
For many of us, our highest and best use as a human being right now is to stay home and avoid spreading the virus. So stay home and write.
I’ve said before that writing is one of the best ways we have to turn darkness into light. We need people who are taking the stress of this time and turning it into art, even if it’s solely for the effect it has on the artist.
Here are some tips that have worked for me when I needed to write when life circumstances were interfering in a big way:
Recognize your luck
If you have the means and ability to write during this time, you have it really good. Recognize your luck. Let that privilege sink in. Let it guide you toward being a better and more generous person. Do whatever you can to help those who are less fortunate than you are.
Be a good person first, a writer second.
Be patient with yourself
Self-quarantining and working from home might free up time, which could feel like a huge opportunity that you don’t want to pass up.
But paradoxically, having a lot of time to write can actually slow you down. And that’s during calm times, let alone when there’s an avalanche of alarming news streaming through our phones and every day feels like a month.
You’re probably not going to work as quickly as you normally do. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
I’ve previously blogged about the benefits of meditation for writing, and this goes doubly for times of anxiety.
Meditation has a secondary bonus that’s helpful during times like this: it gets you off social media and the news for a while.
Worst case scenarios have their place right now, and short of outright panic, we’d probably do better to overreact than underreact at the moment. But we need hope too.
Savor those best case scenarios and imagine a time after this. Write for the world that’s going to exist after this one. Write towards that life.
Let writing be your light
Call me crazy, but I really do think it matters that people take stress and anxiety out of the air and channel it into something better. We need people who can serve as beacons during the dark times.
Channeling our stress into writing can help us be the best version of ourselves. And I really believe that matters for us and the rest of the world.
And if you haven’t written in a while and are returning to it, here are some tips for returning to writing after a long break:
Do you have any tips for writing during stressful times? How are you approaching this?
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Art: Memory of the Garden at Etten by Vincent van Gogh
Lisa Kusel says
Thank you for this.
JOHN T. SHEA says
Wise words, Nathan. Many thanks!
Thanks for inspiring us to be our best selves and making it about doing any little thing to make someone else’s day. That’d be a win-win for sure.
I think this pandemic is very over-rated as a force for calamity, and in the wise words of someone, ‘This, too, will pass.’ And when it does, we’ll look back and think, ‘What were we worried about? It appeared to be the perfect storm, but it was just a just a storm in a tea cup.
Yes, it will eventually pass but not before thousands (or more likely, millions) have died. In Italy alone, the death toll is rising exponentially and Iran is digging mass graves large enough to be seen from space. It’s dismissal and passivity that drives pandemics to their worst-case scenarios.
Be alert, take precautions but don’t stress/panic as over time this will effect health more dramatically than any virus and cause mental suffering which has no positive benefit. Last winter I caught what the media over here were trumpeting as a ‘killer flu’. And ‘Many are dying with this new and deady strain!!!’ My symptoms were no worse than a severe cold, and I’m in the ‘worst affected’ age group. When the cold weather ceased, so did this outbreak.
I speculate that fear kills more people over time than any pandemic ever has. When we’re in a state of fear, or stress–same thing–a certain amount of energy goes out depending on the severity of fear and the length of time we allow fear to effect us and warp our rationality. How much energy do you (generic ‘you’) remember having the last time you felt fearful or depressed? How does this compare with the last time you were experiencing a joyful emotion? Our life-force is composed of energy and energy is life.
Fear does suppress our immune system and the internal organs of elimination cease to have the energy to function efficiently creating a build up of toxicity or ‘morbid matter’ in the system. We perform at our optimum when we’re operating in a positive emotional state.
Medical statistics are starting to reflect the belief that one of the biggest causes, over time, of dementia is fear and stress. I’ve found that it’s not the experiences we have that can hurt us, but how we react to them that does the most harm.
This article states that the authorities have authorised the digging of mass graves so there can be a rapid burial of those who are currently sick and MIGHT die.
The Guardian states ‘….one thing that does seem clear is that the vast majority of people who get the disease will survive.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated the mortality rate from Covid-19 is about 3.4%. That is higher than seasonal flu and is cause for concern – but even if it is correct, more than 96% of people who become infected with the coronavirus will recover.’
In other articles I’ve read the mortality rate is stated to be as low as 0.2%
This elderly couple have been diagnosed, and they’re in hospital together, sipping tea, chatting, making videos and having a laid-back time.
JOHN T. SHEA says
Thanks to Wendy for a bit of perspective. The Coronavirus has highlighted the conflict between optimists and pessimists, a division that runs both between and within us. Great challenges remain but, for example, the virus appears to have peaked in parts of China, with only a tiny fraction of a percent of the population having been infected. Perecentage death rates are likely being exaggerated by the simple fact that deaths are obviously and easily counted but many infections are mild and not reported.
Jackie Ley says
Thank-you for this post. I found it really helpful. I’m halfway through writing my latest novel, and as you say, in spite of writing most days, I’m not clocking up a brilliant word count. But in the current situation (I live in France, so we’re in total lockdown) I’m more relaxed about this. Surviving a pandemic puts everything else into perspective. So I only managed 500 words yesterday. I enjoyed the process and hey, no-one died.
Nathan Bransford says
Hang in there!
Sandra Gulland says
For a writer, nothing is lost. For me, as a historical novelist now immersed in Elizabethan England, it makes vivid what they went through during the plague and other epidemics.
I’m finding it hard to read, much less write. In addition to Covid stress, my husband is recovering from a serious operation. I need to begin by setting aside even a half-hour at my desk. After all, Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine from the plague. 🙂
Linda S Fox says
Thank you for this! My novel is over 1/2 way down, and I’ve been bogging down. Couldn’t figure our why.
I’m going to use your tips and get back to it. I’ll comment again if things change, and I can break the stoppage.