by Christine Hennebury
I know, I know. This is hard.
Everything is uncertain and you are probably having trouble concentrating.
The way the news is changing from day to day is unsettling, it’s scary, and there is a lot that you could worry about.
However, if you aren’t too sick to write, I think it would be a good idea to try to get back to your writing.
Even if you can’t manage a full ten minutes, a few minutes here and there will help you feel more like yourself. It will help you feel a little calmer, and a little more in control.
It might seem a little weird to think about writing at a time like this but it isn’t silly or frivolous to try to keep yourself calm and grounded by sticking to (or creating) a routine. If you are calm and grounded you will be much more likely to be able to make good decisions and to take good care of yourself and your family.
So, in the spirit of using the tools you have to address the problem at hand, here are 5 ways that writing can help you right now:
Calm yourself by keeping a journal
Take a little time each day to make a few notes (or to write a full page) about the events of the day and how they made you feel. Writing things down gets them out of your head and helps you feel more settled. The very act of shaping things into a list or narrative helps you to make a little more sense of them.*
Escape into a different world
Whether you are writing a novel or a short story, you are in control of the world you are creating. You may have unexpected ideas pop up but you get to decide what to do about them, and you get to determine how things should proceed and how they will end. That has to be pretty appealing right now.
Also, if you have been working with your characters for a long time, the familiarity of working with them now will feel good.
Keep your routine (as much as you can)
As I said above, things feel very uncertain right now. Anything you can do to feel more like yourself will help you to stay calm.
Deciding to keep your routine or to start a new one is a good way to find a little normalcy in the chaos.
If your kids or your partner or your parents are home with you all the time now, you will probably have to adjust whatever routine you were using before. That can be very challenging but set reasonable expectations of yourself (and of them), be kind to yourself when things go awry, and, instead of focusing on the time that is not available to you, try to see the time that is available. Ask yourself ‘When CAN I write?’ and start from there.
Stay connected to other writers
Since this whole situation developed, even the most introverted writers seem to be online seeking accountability partners, writing hangouts, and other ways to connect with each other.
Start with the 10 Minute Novelist Facebook page or twitter hashtag to find writing company and branch out from there as needed.
Keep morning pages
If you are finding yourself waking up feeling befuddled and stressed, this might be a good time to try Julia Cameron’s morning pages technique. There are many explanations available online but the basic technique is simple – as soon as you wake up, write 3 longhand pages of whatever your brain churns up for you to write about. It doesn’t have to make sense, it doesn’t have to be connected, and you never have to read it again.
Morning pages are not about creating a masterpiece or about brainstorming, they are about clearing mental clutter so you can face the day more calmly.
If you won’t have time to write 3 longhand pages first thing, you can do your own version. You can set a timer and just write as much as you have time to write or you can add bits throughout the day (Cameron suggests this second one in her book ‘The Artist’s Way for Parents.’)
While there is an ‘ideal’ way to do morning pages, doing them your own way and finding some calm in the process is just as useful.
Take good care of yourself
Writing won’t fix the current situation but it can help you feel better while you deal with the challenges you are facing right now.
Please be kind to yourself.
*Also, many historians are recommending keeping a journal now – https://news.virginia.edu/content/write-it-down-historian-suggests-keeping-record-life-during-pandemic