We’re all at home these days. And, yet, very likely feeling uprooted. From our jobs. From our friends and family. With normal life not quite in sight. Everyone is suffering in their own way. In my case, my writing chops withered. So, lately I’ve been digging into some pretty dry soil and nourishing it. All of my efforts in the past month have been to regrow some writing roots. To get my feet back on the ground, that is, firmly planted under my desk. I hope my experience can help you to ground yourself, too.
(Title image: Lawnstarter. No copyright infringement is intended.)
Ground Yourself, Writer: Adjust Your Writing Routine
We are all experiencing the pandemic differently. I understand this. However, the common denominator may be (may be!) that whatever we were doing pre-pandemic, we are now doing the opposite. I have a writer friend who said that pre-pandemic she could binge-watch Netflix. And now she can’t. I never before binge-watched Netflix…. And now I do. Easily, in fact. I used to read and write all day long. And now I don’t.
From mid-March to mid-November I had the feeling of slowly becoming suspended in time and space. This suspended animation killed my writing life. The Aha Moment of its death came last month when I realized that I had written absolutely nothing in the past 30 days.
Not a good feeling.
I have long experienced writing as an aerobic activity. As mental breathing. And I had always taken for granted the ingredient necessary for aerobic activity: oxygen. So, when I finally understood my pandemic-induced oxygen-deprived state, I was able to adjust my daily writing routine. I’m working on an anaerobic writing schedule now. Which means I work harder and for shorter periods of time. With lots of recovery.
Before I adjusted my thinking, I had burdened myself with the assumption that if I couldn’t write the way I did before, then I couldn’t write at all. In retrospect it seems perfectly obvious that a mental adjustment was in order. “Just do it differently, Julie!” But it took me eight months of a slow death to arrive at my light-bulb moment. And then another month to figure out ways to organize my days around writing spurts, rather than long, luxurious sessions.
I’m still adjusting.
Ground Yourself, Writer: Reconnect to Your Writing Purpose
You, as a writer, have to make a living. Thus, it’s nothing less than a crisis when you encounter a serious health issue or burn-out or any other event that interferes with what you need to do. So, sure, part of your purpose is to pay the bills.
I was fortunate to have a couple of projects in the works before the pandemic hit. And I was able to finish them before I flatlined in October. I am also fortunate that I can remain unproductive for a bit longer without financial strain. But what writer wants to live that way?
Some of you may have passionate social or political interests that inspire your work. For me, the goal of my writing is first and foremost to entertain myself. To start a story and wonder, “What happens next?” Bit by bit during the pandemic I had surrendered my own creativity to Netflix. And was okay with it – without quite consciously realizing it.
No more. I have put myself back in charge of my entertainment.
Ground Yourself, Writer: Adopt a Home Alone Mindset
You may well be home alone. So, my reference to adopting such a mindset isn’t to your current status. I’m referencing the 1990 quasi-Christmas-themed movie, Home Alone.
To remind you:
As you may remember, Kevin is played by Macauley Culkin, aka The Incredible Culk, He is inadvertently left at home while the rest of the family flies off to Paris. When he first discovers his new-found freedom from his family he indulges in every excess: endless TV, massive amounts of junk food, jumping on beds. But then he confronts a series of challenges set by two inept criminals. The more he rises to the occasion, the more he brings order into his life. By the end – and before his distraught family is able to rush back home to retrieve him – he is doing the laundry, setting the table and eating real food. In other words, he gets his act together – his feet on the ground – without adult supervision.
If Kevin can do it, we writers can, too.
Indeed, as I rise to meet the challenge of my oxygen-poor writing conditions, I find myself more firmly rooted in my writing life.
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen