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The Pandemic Got in the Way of My Writing. Here’s What I Did About It.

In the early days it was early, but as the pandemic has worn on, more and more writers are facing writer’s block. Here’s how I changed it for myself.

It’s an observation being echoed all over — from writers groups to text between friends. Writers are finding it hard to muster the concentration and focus necessary to write. Bogged down with the stress of life in 2020, the words just aren’t coming.

I’ve been feeling it too. In the early days of the pandemic, I was so inspired. I wrote blog post after blog post and scheduled them weeks out. I started work on a fresh novel, one where the characters were whispering in my ears to get their stories down. And I outlined essays I wanted to get to.

But as summer set in — our unusual summer of no camp, no team training for cross country and no walks to the waterfront with my staff for lunch at the food trucks — something shifted. Instead of inspired, I felt constrained. The words stopped coming.

It wasn’t that I stopped trying. I’d dutifully sit down at the computer daily, trying to write. But the words wouldn’t come.

There were times when I had to write. Then I would muscle though, but it felt off, like the process was faulty.

This echoes what I am hearing from other writers too. In the early days, during lockdown periods when everyone was in this together, so many writers talked about how much they were writing. It was as if we were given permission to make space in our days and lives to write more.

But then things shifted. Or maybe it’s that they didn’t shift, exactly. People continued to die. COVID-19 continued to proliferate.

The prolonged nature of the pandemic and its need for social distancing has changed everything. It’s wearing on people — not just writers, but everyone. And that’s coming through as a loss of productivity. How do we combat this?

Writers write. That’s simple. But it’s unusual to have so many trapped in a cycle of being blocked. For me, change has come because it had to come. I couldn’t sit by anymore, waiting for my fingers to type something.

Something had to change for me. If you are a writer facing something similar, something probably needs to change for you too.

Here’s how I have muddled into a better place:

  1. I talked about it. My writer’s group had a lengthy conversation about where we are with writing. And speaking truth to the feelings was freeing in a way. It’s like I took away the power of the writer’s block, thereby clearing the way to write again.
  2. I joined a write-in. A write-in is a time to gather and just write in the presence of other writers. Mine was held on Zoom and comprised of members of my writer’s group. And it was wonderful — I finished a new chapter of my novel and felt so energized about it.
  3. I made time for writing. Part of this was setting new expectations with my kids. In the mornings, which is the time I’ve chosen to write in, I’d been increasingly pulled to other activities — unloading the dishwasher, washing plates, etc. These are things my kids are supposed to do. So I reset my expectations and told them they need to start unloading and reloading the dishwasher in the morning instead of doing it whenever they feel they can get to it. That cleared my path to getting up, feeding the cat, making coffee and sitting down to write.

How about you? Have you found a way to get over the pandemic writer’s block?

Published inThe BlogThe Writing Life

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