Writing Scenario #1: If you’re at home now, alone.
It seemed simpler a while ago, didn’t it? All we needed to write was some time alone. But if you’ve been self-isolating, or even if you live in a place where you’re not (yet) self-isolating, the biggest obstacle standing between you and your writing is…well, you.
Sorry, friend — if it’s any consolation, my biggest obstacle is me as well. Or more accurately, my mind and yours.
I can’t write when my mind is buzzing, can you? So the time entirely at home, not by choice, has meant that I’ve got to do a little extra to settle into writing. Here are some of the things I do to center myself to make writing possible:
- I leave my phone out of the bedroom. (There’s a Post-It Note on the bedroom door that says “NO SCREENS ALLOWED.” Not kidding — slightly embarrassed to admit it, but not kidding.) I have to do that so that I don’t start the day on my phone. If it starts that way, it tends to continue.
- I use social media blocking apps for the phone as well. I can still access it after the time limits that I’ve set expire, and I can log in on my desktop. But just that little bit of limiting helps. (My favourite app for that is Freedom, but there are others you can use as well.)
- I have a morning routine that I do when I’m home and not travelling. I can’t say that I’ve been 100% faithful to it in the last two weeks but every day I do it helps me be more focused during the day. Helps a LOT. It includes 15 minutes of meditation (sometimes guided, sometimes on my own) , some reading and journaling. (I used to have fantasies of adding exercise to that routine, but LOL.)
- I schedule my writing time in advance, so I’m expecting it. I set the time so that I have 20 minutes at least, but open space to do more if I want to…and I usually want to, once I get going. I do set a timer. It’s a good week if I can get in 3 or 4 sessions, but this past week I got in two — and I’m okay with that.
- I center myself with some deep breathing exercises or a visualization exercise, or even some colouring, before I start to write. This calms whatever residual mind chatter is still active.
And that’s it. If you live alone and you find that you’re writing less than you have been — and you truly want to be writing right now — then I hope this helps.
But also, if you are finding it’s a hard time to write, then what if you just gave yourself a break right now? If you’re having a hard time and you just need someone to give you permission to take a break from writing just now to take care of yourself and those you love? Permission granted.
Because we’re in this for the long haul, aren’t we? To be writing before, during and long after all of this has passed.
Writing Scenario #2: If you’re at home now, with a partner.
But if you’re not alone and have a partner with you, some of the above may be useful. And what’s more useful is this: you can trade.
You can trade an hour of quiet writing time — and perhaps a little extra encouragement to really take it once you’ve planned it — for an hour when you support the dreams of your partner, whatever those may be.
Mutual support, that’s what partnership is all about, isn’t it? Ask your partner to commit to encouraging and supporting you to make the time to write, and offer that encouragement and practical support back for someone that matters deeply to them.
Writing Scenario #3: If you’re at home now, with a partner and kids.
So, if you both have kids at home, the above still applies…though perhaps with a touch more chaos. (Or a lot more, at times!)
Once you’ve negotiated the time, you’ll need a space with a door that closes, and/or locks. Make a sign for the door and explain to the kids that you’re going to write for a while, and when you come out they can have [INSERT AMAZING TREAT HERE.] Yep, bribe ‘em — no shame, sister.
Writing Scenario #4: If you’re home alone now…with no partner…AND with kids.
If I could ship you whiskey, I would.
But in the meantime, the permission slip I mentioned above is for you especially. Let it just be okay not to write for the moment, no guilt or self-shame.
This time will pass and you’ll find quiet time and space to write again. Because we’re in it for the long haul and you’ll still be a writer when this is all over.
No matter which scenario you're living right now, I'd like to invite you to think about your writing with a long-term perspective. You may get pages and pages written during this pandemic, or you may just get a needed break, or you may just survive with your health and the health of your loved ones — and your sanity! — intact. It's all okay. You're a grown woman and you can make the choices that are in your best interests. Your writing will still be there for you when this resolves.
You don't have to write your equivalent of King Lear right now. (And Shakespeare didn't homeschool his kids or do his own laundry while he wrote it, okay? The Internet needs to just stay home and stop spreading this kind of infectious nonsense.)
I don't think you need anyone's permission to set up your writing life in a way that works for your current circumstances, but if it makes you feel better, then you have mine.