By now we realize that Coronavirus has disrupted nearly everyone’s daily lives.
Whether you are self-quarantined, or just social distancing, it can be very tough to keep your creativity and writing output up. It seems counter-intuitive. Writers all over the globe are exactly where we should be right? In front of our keyboards. But any combination of health & financial stress, working from home, caring for children, and home schooling is absolutely disruptive and exhausting. It can make you just want to curl up into a ball and not write or do ANYTHING creative at all.
I’ve been home for about two weeks now. When I received my work from home announcement, I thought whoa, so much writing opportunity! and I was completely wrong. I wasn’t even able to utilize my usual lunch breaks to get words in anymore. This combined with feelings of anxiety and even mild depression from isolation (I’m one of those weird extrovert writers) tanked my output. This past week however, I carefully managed a routine, and it has helped quite a bit. My word count is up, and most importantly, so are my spirits. Here’s what I’ve been doing. Everyone’s situation is different right now, so these may not work for you, but I hope they might help some of my readership out.
Create A Routine
I am a creature of habit. I thrive on routine. After the first week was just a complete mess of disorganized stress and anxiety, I knew I needed to create a new routine to replace my old one from the “beforetimes” that has been destroyed.
I grabbed my notebook and looked up a beginner’s video on bullet journal’ing. The kids call it “BuJo”. I modified it into a sort of day planner outline. Side Note: If you’re one of those people who scrap book planners and has all the fancy stickers from Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, now is your time to shine!
I laid out a very specific routine for my days that includes a bunch of the following tips, and weekends are a different routine than weekdays due to work. I try to adhere strictly, but it’s clearly not 100% realistic, so I’m not beating myself up over it. I’m just trying my best because I know it is helping. Adhering to the routine is it’s own reward.
Diet & Exercise
Holy cow is this more important than ever. Doesn’t seem writing related, but mood and outlook affect everything. I downloaded the free Planet Fitness app (gyms have been closed in my state for a while now) and I’m using it to track workouts. There are a ton of good home workout apps on Google and Apple Store. Find one that fits your budget, equipment, and tech.
As soon as I wake up, I work out. Seriously. The workouts are 15 minutes or less and I go hide and exercise before anyone in my life can contact me. Then I shower, get ready and have coffee. If I can get a walk or jog in depending on the weather, that’s icing. But at least I get that initial burst of endorphines to start my day.
Then it’s a healthy breakfast, a gallon of coffee (not really but it seems like it), and vitamins. Another sidebar: Why the HELL isn’t the mainstream media or anyone recommending people eat healthy and take vitamins to help their immune systems right now???
I’m attempting to eat as healthy as I can. Vegetables, fruits, and minimizing junk food, sugar, and alcohol. I noticed that while my local grocery stores are lacking paper towels and canned goods, there’s plenty of fresh produce, so I’m reaching for that.
Eating healthy and exercising has been the foundation that has kept me stable this past week to stay focused and in a better overall mood.
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know I actually DON’T adhere to a daily writing routine. Coronavirus changed this.
I set myself a 500 word-a-day goal. I try to knock it out all at once, but if I can’t I chip away when I have a few free minutes here and there. The key is to get at least 500. Last week I managed to go over 500 a few days and it felt great.
I have other priorities, but no excuses. That means when I’m working or taking care of family, those are priorities. Twitter and general internet are SCARY DISTRACTIONS right now. Avoid them, or at least minimize the time you’re on them.
Try to set a realistic goal, even if it’s 50 words. Just having that feeling of structure and accomplishment goes a long way.
I’ve been working through my TBR (To Be Read) pile like a fiend. I had a number of half-finished books and I made a quick “BuJo list” to tackle. There’s no daily goal for this, it’s just that I’m prioritizing reading over using the internet or watching TV. I’m still catching up on Season 9 of The Walking Dead on Netflix, but I’m doing way more reading than watching.
Reading is just a naturally calming activity, and it has also helped me sleep at night, which is another important point that ties into diet & exercise from above.
If you have some short story collections or a big doorstop in your library that you’ve been putting off, or maybe something good you received over the holidays, there’s no better time to dive into it than now. Remember, Stephen King and everyone in #writingcommunity on Twitter says you need to read if you wanna write.
Avoid The News
The news is scary right now. Cable news specifically, knows they have a HUGE captive audience unlike they’ve ever had. They’re exploiting it by running frightening, speculative, generally uninformative stories to fill the void 24/7. Stay away from it.
I’m not advocating to stick your head in the sand. Read your local newspaper and news websites. Check the CDC or WHO sites once a day for 5 minutes and see what they are advising. This is real, important news that affects your life in your region. Stay safe and informed.
The other stuff is just designed to scare you into staring at the TV all day. It will suck up your time and crank up your anxiety, which actually DRAINS your creativity. Anytime you’d find yourself getting sucked into the news for more than 10 minutes, crack open a book or put down some words instead.
Again, counter intuitive. If you have any way and capability to get outside, even for 15 minutes a day, do it. Try to get out and walk. Think about your stories. Work through character and plot in your mind while you stroll. It makes a world of difference.
Stay in Touch
In all this craziness, the silver lining I’ve found is the technology we have in 2020. Video calls aren’t the Hollywood sci-fi they were in the 1980’s. Use your tech to stay in touch with your friends and loved ones. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to let isolation grab a hold of you. If you don’t have family & friends who can talk, there’s never been a better time to join a writer’s group or a writer’s community. You can use Twitter for this, or MeetUp, and there’s a ton of groups running remotely right now. Seek comfort and encouragement from other writers and authors who are going through similar ordeals. “Misery loves company”, but in many ways that contact actually makes you less miserable.
This Too Shall Pass
This will all eventually end. I don’t know when, or what things will look like on the other side, but human beings are resilient. Even with bad news constantly on blast, I keep seeing the best in people. Families out walking and laughing with one another (from 6 feet away), sewing groups making masks for healthcare workers, people volunteering, authors making their books free for those who cannot leave their homes.
People are coming together.
Try to focus on at least one positive thing each day, and channel that positive energy into your writing. Even if you write scary stories like I do. I hope these tips can help you “weather the storm” a bit better.
To all my readers, it’s my sincerest hope that you and your loved ones all stay safe and healthy.