Things To Do Instead (of Writing)

Wednesday, April 01, 2020
So these are challenging times and I’m just going to put this out there: I don’t feel like writing.

Not that I haven’t been writing; I’ve been busier than ever since my SCBWI conference switched from physical to digital. There was and still is a LOT of writing that goes into getting the word out when there are big changes. And if you’re looking for a ton of webinars from industry professionals and authors in children’s writing and illustration, then there’s still plenty of time to register for wik’20 2.0.

See that there? That’s primarily marketing writing and there’s a big difference between that kind of writing and the children’s story-telling I love. I’m finding it difficult to immerse myself in an imaginary world when the real world I’m living in is infinitely more critical and compelling.

And I wondered if you might be a lot like me, with these sudden big chunks of time. I start off determined and hopeful and busy! All those ideas, crammed into files in my desk, just brimming with possibilities—I can do this! But I end distracted, despondent, and drained—without ever writing a word.

So finally, I gave myself permission to ignore that “should” voice and not write what I didn’t feel like writing.

I’ve had a bit of practice with giving myself permission to not write through difficult times so honestly, my finally came after the second day. And just to be clear, I admire the heck out of those who can write, who can shut off the now and go to some far away field of imagination. Some people cope with difficulties by being super creative and productive but I’m not one of ‘em. Maybe you aren’t, either. So here’s what I do instead and maybe these Things To Do Instead will work for you, too:

READ. My youngest brother texted me that he was reading War and Peace (WHAT?); I’m reading Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series (courtesy of my library e-books and YAY! for that service). Reading a well-written book, whether it’s a classic, an NYT best-seller about Botswana, or your friend’s self-published fantasy, will always be a great escape (and a great learning tool for writers).

WALK. My oldest son calls to check in when he’s walking. So I’ll walk, too. It may be back and forth across my deck and look a lot like pacing, but you get the point. I feel better when I exercise and get endorphins pumping through my system. (Even if I’m arguing with my oldest son whilst doing so.)

TALK. It wasn’t until the world closed that I realized how many activities this stay-at-home writer had on a regular basis that got me out of the house, socializing with the human race. So now, I call a choir friend, a lunch buddy, a neighbor. Or I attend Zoom meetings. If you’ve resisted video communications, this is probably the perfect time to get on board when half the population is learning something new. A year from now, people will be like, “You don’t know how to use Zoom?” (And they’ll roll their eyes.)

DOABLE-IN-A-DAY. The thing about fiction writing is that it’s so open-ended; there’s always more edits, more revisions, more whatever. And the payoff may be years away! I need something I can finish, something that gives me a feeling of accomplishment now. Like a blog post for The Muffin, or cleaning out the Inbox. Or maybe even something not-writing but tangible.

Yesterday, I moved the curtains from the dining room to the office and the curtains in the office to the dining room. Oh my word, I was downright giddy! (And it looked so fabulous so thank you, Home Town.)

BE GRATEFUL. Even when the world feels like it’s crashing all around you, there are still moments of kindness and joy, love and laughter out there, and I’m thankful when an unexpected moment comes my way. And maybe you can bring that joy or laughter to someone you love. Perhaps you’ll write ‘em.

Or maybe you won’t write anything at all. And that’s fine, too.

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I'm glad you're rededorating and exercising.

I think we are going to be a changed world once this pandemic is over... and hopefully the change will be for the better.

Margo Dill said...

I love the Number 1 Detective Agency books. I have read a ton of those! :) I think those could help you get lost for a while.

I have had to stop myself from saying SHOULD about a million times during this so far. It doesn't help when people on FB are like: I painted my entire kitchen today. Or you should have more time than ever to write now. I don't find that. I find that I'm trying to take on as much work as I can right now because I'm worried it could dry up, etc. I'm exahauted. I'm less productive with all the interruptions from homeschooling and the puppy, cooking 3 meals a day now, etc etc. Hang in there, Cathy!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Sioux, I'm sure we'll be a changed world. And I'm sure hoping it will be for the better!

And Margo, yes! My volunteer side of working has never been busier as we move EVERYTHING online! And then, when one is taking care of everything else plus work, as a single person, including the emotional toll, then naturally one wants to smack those people who talk about their painted rooms, cleaned out pantries, and almost-completed manuscripts.

One would never do that, of course. But one thinks about it. A LOT. :-)

You hang in there, too, Margo!

Linda O'Connell said...

I think as long as I am moving: if only an evening walk down the block and back, or from the couch to the basement to do laundry. This too shall pass and we will be able to pour forth what is on our minds. Maybe it is time to rest. Take care.

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