COVID-19 + Quarantine = Writer’s Block?

We are now three weeks into our quarantine.

Three weeks into homeschooling, three weeks into food and supply rationing, three weeks into shutting off the news because I simply can’t take one more ounce of doom and gloom.

My mood fluctuates. Some days I feel like we’re doing okay, like we’re getting things down, that things aren’t really all that bad. Other days I feel hopeless, as if there’s not a light at the end of this tunnel and things will never be “normal” again.

I’ve been trying to add more “fun” into my days. I’ve been journaling more, keeping a record of pandemic life. I’ve been painting again. I’ve been taking Spanish lessons. I’ve been reading a LOT–and not just for research, but for the escapism.

The one thing I haven’t been doing a lot of is writing my book.

Coming into this quarantine, I thought the extra time at home would led to an outburst of creative energy in which my current WIP would just explode with words, ALL THE WORDS. Instead I find myself staring at the blinking cursor completely and utterly devoid of a single, coherent thought.

And, you know what I’ve found? That’s okay.

I’m not saying I’ve given up writing completely. To be a professional writer, you MUST force yourself through periods of writer’s block and uninspired-ness. I still sit down and every day ATTEMPT to get something down on paper. It may be garbage, but at least it’s something to keep the creative juices flowing.

What I HAVE done, however, is taken that monkey off my back, that one that says I must be working full-time, always writing, always editing, keeping to the schedule I had before the pandemic, typing, typing, typing away as if everything were normal.

Because things AREN’T normal. They aren’t normal at all.

People all around the world and even down the street are dying. My kids’ school is closed and now I’m suddenly teaching math and science and reading. My husband is tele-working, popping off for conference calls and leaving me to keep the kids quiet for hours at a time. My weekly stress-relief trips to Target “just to look around” are gone.

I don’t know when or if things will ever be the same again. The government is now telling me I can’t leave my house. This quarantine will last AT LEAST another month, if not longer. I can still take a walk around my neighborhood, but I can’t visit friends, go see a movie, or even take a trip to the library.

Things are not normal.

The writing process is different for different people, of course, but for me, I write as a response to the world around me. My stories flow directly from my experiences, my faith, and my attempt to make sense of life in general. The story I’m working on now sprung from a place and a time that is completely different from where I am now, from WHO I am now. It’s no wonder that I’m having difficulty diving back in.

And that’s okay.

I will come back to the story eventually. I love my characters and I believe the manuscript has a lot of promise. I’m not going to quit. But I am going to pause. I am going to pause so I can try and make sense of the place the world has become. I am going to spend time with my family, consume books and art and movies with gusto, and find things to do that fill me with joy during a time when joy itself is a rapidly shrinking commodity.

We’re all navigating this new “normal.” It doesn’t look like before. It doesn’t feel like before. So your writing may not look or feel like before either. If you’re a creative struggling like me, just remember that you aren’t alone–others are floundering too. But the words will still be there when you’re ready.

For now, just take care of yourself, however that looks to you. Stay healthy. Stay safe. And write when you can…or not.

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