Something I’ve been musing about for – checks calendar – YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, IT’S ONLY BEEN A YEAR???

Sorry, anyway, something I’ve been musing about is writing during a pandemic. At the start of lockdowns, I remember hearing the buzz about how there would be a rush of book submissions to agents and publishers with everyone having lots of time to write. All those people who believed they had a novel stuck inside them now had enough time to pull out the scalpel and repeatedly stab themselves until they realised they should have taken their doctor more seriously.

But now we’re coming out the other side of that sunny optimism. Articles are starting to appear discussing how lockdown has equalled blockdown.

Punny terms aside, the article in The Guardian touches on much of what I’ve been thinking about without really understanding the issue. It hints at the problem without really spelling it out.

It all comes down to how the creative space works. You need to be able to let your mind wander off to the plains of [insert metaphor here, something really wankery that fits with us creative types] where your story can take shape. To let your mind wander requires a lack of interruptions, a level and type of noise that isn’t distracting, and you have to not be stressed (see my posts on these topics).

Now, what could possibly be getting in the way of creativity during Covid-19?

This is why the original articles talking about how lockdowns would lead to a splurge of novels always seemed optimistic to me. There were only superficial conditions for creativity, not the actual conditions for it. Just having kids in the house all day would be distracting enough to turn the best of times into the blurst of times. Add in working from home and the noted work creep that has had. Add in not working. Add in working on what is called the front-lines in a great reference to trench warfare – and how far away the generals are holding their tea party. Add in home-schooling. Add in stress, financial or existential. Add in feeling crowded in your workspace and then not leaving that workspace for weeks/months on end.

These aren’t the conditions for writing. These are the conditions for sitting on the couch, huddled under a blanket, mindlessly scrolling through social media in search of that sweet sweet shot of endorphins. Is it any surprise that baking sourdough bread, watching terrible Netflix original movies, and tidying the house became popular in 2020?

I recognised this early on and didn’t put too much pressure on myself to write. Sorry, rather, I didn’t put too much pressure on myself to write quality material. Writing wasn’t the problem. Having it resemble something that wasn’t a desperate cry for help or a tirade that would be combed over by profilers wondering why I’d committed such an unspeakable act was the problem.

I’m sure there are writers out there who haven’t had a problem with lockdowns and creativity. From what I’ve seen, dedicated workspaces for writing and a history of consistent writing habits (and being an empty nester) are helpful. But for the rest of us, creativity has been given all the wrong conditions to thrive, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Or do be hard on yourself. Maybe we could have learned how to be creative under pressure. Maybe we do suck!

4 thoughts on “Covid Writer’s Blockdown

  1. With working from home, the only extra time I had during lockdown was the 3hrs/wk that I usually spend commuting to and from work. That was more than drained by the lockdown need to home school. There was definitely no extra time for me to write a book. But my class wrote an impressive story, the week I told him that he had to do his maths work when he finished writing. He wrote for three days straight! (Home schooling taught me that I would be a terrible teacher.)

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    1. Yes, I found that too. That commute time was eaten up with other stuff without any problem at all. If anything, I felt busier during lockdown because there were so many competing needs (work, kids, teaching kids, existential dread) that it didn’t feel like I’d reclaimed any time.

      Although, I saw an article on The Conversation that only an economist could have written. It suggested that the lockdowns and working from home may have been the next big productivity gain… Yes, a huge gain because people weren’t commuting and could work more for the same pay (while costing workplaces less in overheads because the employees are covering office costs).

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  2. I was stunted for the better part of 2020. I flew to the US to visit my family last February. Shortly thereafter, the airport where I live in Panama closed … till October. Just not knowing when I was going to be able to see my husband and dogs again drained all my creative and mental energy. I did get back home, and I’m just now beginning to feel the writing flow again. we have to be grateful if we’re still writing, but we can’t dismiss the trauma of living through a pandemic either. We have to go easy on ourselves. Hope your blockdown releases soon!

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    1. That’s terrible.

      Getting stranded is hugely stressful. Glad you were able to get home!

      I wonder how much of that early sunny enthusiasm about lockdowns and Covid was driven by a want to be positive and how much was by people not considering the impact Covid was having (and going to have) on our lives?

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