Some Answers to the Current Most Common Writer Questions During the Pandemic

Saturday, April 18, 2020
photo by Marco Verch
Here are some questions that might currently be on your mind:

  1. How do I write when the world is in chaos? 
  2. How do I write when my daily routine is destroyed?
  3. How do I write when I'm never alone, when someone is constantly needing me, and when I hear "Mom" or "Dad" or "Honey" or "Woof, Woof" a million times a day? 
Can you tell I've been asking myself that last one for the past month? 

I've written before about how we have to allow ourselves some grace during this time. Some of us need to physically heal. Some of us need to deal with anxiety and frustration. But I also thought it important to suggest some ways that you could possibly work writing into your life right now--a couple things that are working for me, and others that I've seen on social media or heard on podcasts. These will work for any work-in-progress or even a new project.

Ideas for Writing Progress During the Pandemic: 
  • Write before "they" get up or after "they" go to bed: This is what is currently working for me. For example, I woke up yesterday morning at about 6am and had two glorious hours to work on editing the book I'm trying to indie publish (very soon) (fingers crossed). Even the dog slept by my side while I worked! 
  • If screen time works...don't feel guilty: I struggle with this, trust me. My nine-year-old daughter is playing her tablet more than ever before; but honestly, it's the only time that she's not talking to me or making a lot of noise. She has headphones on, and I can't hear anything. It's bliss. (If the dog would only understand this is also quiet time.) If you need a chunk of quiet time, it really is okay to put some headphones on your kiddo and let them watch an hour (or two, three, four (winks)) of YouTube videos of other people playing video games. I read a great article about how all screen time is not the same. You can find that here, if you'd like. 
  • Do what you can when you can: It's no secret that one of my favorite writer podcasts is "The Self-Publishing Show" with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. They had a terrific episode, out yesterday, about writing during the pandemic, and Mark had some great ideas for working on your work-in-progress. He mentioned bringing a voice recorder (your phone!) on daily walks and dictating while walking--either words of your manuscript or notes about your characters and plot. If that doesn't work for you, he mentioned bringing a notebook to jot down notes. Then when you do have time to write a few hundred words, you'll have already thought about what you want to write. It's a method that worked for my critique partner, Camille Faye, and how she wrote her first novel, Voodoo Butterfly while also being a stay-at-home mom. You will want to check out that "The Self-Publishing Show" episode, which you can listen to on a podcast app or watch on YouTube here
  • Connect with other writers through Zoom or Skype or whatever you fancy: Tomorrow, I'm attending a virtual writing retreat with my critique group from noon to 6pm! (You better believe my daughter will be thrilled to hear this when she hears she will get extra tablet time!) My critique group member, Tricia L. Sanders, a cozy mystery writer, did this type of virtual write-in with her mystery writers' group and said we should do it, too. So we are! Look, if Zoom can be used for happy hours and Easter and Passover dinners, then it can be used for a writing retreat. For 30 minutes at the start of the retreat, we'll get online together and talk about our goals and projects. Then on the :00 and :30, we'll sprint or edit for 20 minutes and then record our progress in our private FB group. For the other 10 minutes, before the next sprint/editing session, we'll stretch our legs, snack, or take the dog out. Then back at it again. This will force me to make the time to work on my own stuff. And I'm not sure if my daughter and puppy will last the whole six hours, but let's say they even last half that time--I will feel like I got so much done; and plus, I'll connect with my critique group members!  
I hope one of the ideas above can help you during this unprecedented time of anxiety, isolation, and change. That's the thing. This is unprecedented! So if you're struggling, well, of course, you are. I have had days where I felt on top of the world, and like I've got this--no problem. Then other days, like right before I sat down to write this, where I felt like I could not make it another hour in these conditions, let alone six more weeks (or more if summer camps are closed). 

If you 've been doing something that works, and you're writing and making progress on your projects, please share with us below.

As you've probably heard said so many times before in the past month: We are all in this together.

Margo L. Dill is a children's and young adult author as well as a writing instructor and coach. Her next class for WOW!, Writing a Novel With a Writing Coach, starts on May 1. To sign up, go here. To check out Margo and her books, go here. Sign up to receive the first chapter of her novel and a coupon here


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I will be interested in hearing how your virtual writing retreat goes. This week, I'm going to be part of a virtual writing critique meeting.

Katie--Have fun on your tablet, while your mom writes. And Puppy... Does your pup like to chew? Maybe a nice bone from the butcher, or a deer antler? ;)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Margo, this is a helpful post, and you're nailing what all of us have been feeling. I can't imagine having kids at home. I would be all about the screen time and not feel guilty about it. My FIL, who needs full-time care, watches TV all day long, but unfortunately, he blasts Fox News. I've learned to seclude myself in my office and wear headphones, and Mike's here to take care of him. I haven't been writing creatively though. I've been busier than usual with freelance work. Not complaining at all. But I realized yesterday it was the first time since this the pandemic started that I had moment of slow time. That was last night. It felt weird to have one second to breathe since I've been going nonstop. Next week will be different, but I'm enjoying this day or two of not having a deadline. :) I'm hoping to write this weekend! Let us know how your virtual writing retreat goes.

Cathy C. Hall said...

I don't have much of anything helpful to add but I know it's important to take care of yourself emotionally and physically. So if you're not writing much, don't beat yourself up about it.

At least, that's what I tell myself. I mean, an excuse like a pandemic doesn't come along every day. :-)

Stay safe, and take care of yourself (and that sweet girl and puppy)!

Margo Dill said...

Hey Ang and Sioux: The virtual writing retreat went very well. We were all productive. It was great to see the members of the Lit Ladies on the Zoom screen, and then we each worked on our projects throughout the day, updating the FB group and then met again before we logged off for the day. Somehow I felt inspired knowing that other people in my group were working on their projects today too. We have had our regular critique group online too. We had already done that sometimes because we have members with small kids and some that live in Texas! :) It is so helpful because we are having such nice weather here in St. Louis, and so the dog can go in and out as she pleases, and so can Katie. Walking twice a day also helps.

Cathy: I hear you. I'm trying not to use the pandemic as an excuse, but like tonight, I'm pooped.

Renee Roberson said...

I feel so fortunate right now that my kids are teens and not younger, or I would be having a terrible time trying to manage their e-learning while working! I'm having a harder time having my husband here, LOL. To be honest, during the week, I feel like I've been more productive having everyone here because I can't fall into my normal traps of "oh, I'll just watch TV for a few minutes while I eat lunch, etc." like I do normally. You are doing a great job with Katie and your pup and I'm impressed that you've even had a virtual retreat! Keep on kicking butt!

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