How (Not) to Write in a Pandemic


What a strange year it has been for most of us, and I'm very thankful not to have any sadness or major problems. However, my writing life has been through a roller-coaster ride.


Let me explain by dividing the time since the pandemic struck into three phases.

Phase 1: Freedom, Hedonism, and Getting Nothing Done

A silent cheer went up inside me at the notion of everything closing down: no getting up early to get the kids ready for school; no arguments about homework; nowhere else I should be. Lockdown came with a wonderful sense of peace: this is what the world should be like, my family and I having fun, exploring new walks, new board games (yes, we had a serious board game phase), and new recipes. In a clear inverse ratio, my writing output dipped to new lows as writing became something I did when I wasn't doing anything more fun. And when you have a deadline for a novel, perhaps this way of thinking isn't so very useful, which led to...

Phase 2: Trying to Catch Up and Chasing my Tail

You can't force creative writing. No matter how much that deadline stares you in the face, rushing it does not help. I spent a few months chasing my tail, re-thinking characters, trying to race through only to have to rewrite chapters completely, and the final straw, realizing that the plot had gone off on a massive tangent, demanding a full overhaul. Frustration, long work hours, and, at times, sheer panic overwhelmed me: how could I finish the chaos that the book had become?

Phase 3: Giving Myself a Break and Getting Back on Track

After the months of turmoil, I decided that stressing out was also not conducive to good writing, so I gave myself break, accepted the lost time as simply that, and went back to my usual slow, steady, thoughtful approach... and what do you know, it works! Now I feel confident the book will be done on time, and I actually think it might be a good one, too.


I hope your writing has flourished during the pandemic, and wish you safe and literary,

Jennifer

© 2018 by Jennifer Ryan

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Washington, D.C., USA