How to be a Writer During a Pandemic
Short answer: You don't have to be a writer during a pandemic.
With so many people either working from home or being at home with no work because their job shut down, there's this idea that you're supposed to be using this new-found free-time to be productive, engaging, or transform yourself. Well, in my honest opinion, this mindset is rather infuriating.
If you are able to keep yourself busy with starting a new hobby or project, or you have the motivation to keep writing that book, then good for you! But please don't belittle those who find themselves struggling in this ever-changing situation.
Majority of people are trying to simply stay alive and to stay calm, and that's damn hard work when the world is essentially at a stand-still with so much uncertainty still hanging on.
My life hasn't changed too much since I work from home, but my anxiety is spiking with the unknowns and worry for my family and friends. I've slacked off on some work and writing because it's just so hard to focus, and then I feel guilty for not working or writing and proceed to overwhelm myself with trying to do too much. So, I've implemented some changes to help myself adapt to this "new normal." Some days I can only write 300 words, and that's okay. Some days I stay in bed until 1pm, and that's okay. Some days I can't read anything, and that's okay. We have to change with the times and allow ourselves to make mistakes as we learn to navigate through this difficult time.
So, what have I done to help myself be "productive" in the middle of a quarantine, without overwhelming myself?
Find a new routine - So many people fall into the comfort of their routine and to suddenly have it heaved out from under them feels like their scrambling for a sense of normality. So, it's time to find a "new normal" for the time being, which means a new routine. I review books, so I request to review ARCs on a regular basis, and I'm lucky enough to be in a constant abundance of new books. I allow myself more sleep, a lighter schedule, light physical activity, write when I can, etc. Find things that don't overwhelm you but still leave you with a sense of accomplishment, no matter how small.
Call family or friends - Social distancing/Quarantine doesn't mean we're entirely cut off from everybody. We still have phones and can call our loved ones just to check in and chat (or utilize Skype or Facetime). Talking with others can definitely help make you feel less alone in this situation.
Exercise - This is dependent on your mobility/heath. But most (if not all) gyms are closed, but that doesn't mean you can't have a little exercise session in the comfort of your home. It can be as simple as some stretches to keep the blood flowing, or maybe following along to a YouTube yoga class. Don't become a couch potato!
Reorganize/Clean - It's still spring outside, regardless of a pandemic, so now it a good time as any to try a little spring cleaning! Go through clothes, dust, redecorate your space, anything that will help change the energy of your home and life your spirits.
Stay off the phone/social media - Unless this is how you keep contact with others, it would be helpful to crack down on your phone time. It doesn't hurt to keep informed, but don't allow the news to overwhelm you. Perhaps, instead, use your phone for only messages or calls and keep your attention on things that'll keep you calm and happy.
Read - This is pretty much what I've been doing since the quarantine started. Read read read! Read your favorite books, read new books, read a book you didn't finish, read e-books... the possibilities are endless! Books allow us a bit of an escape, at least for awhile. Get lost in a good book!
Try new things - Perhaps you always wanted to learn French, learn to crochet, learn to dance, whatever it is now is the time to give it a try! YouTube has plenty videos and walk-throughs over so many subjects and ideas that you could schedule yourself a "lesson time" to learn something new!
Enjoy the small things - Being forced to stay home is difficult, especially if you're a social butterfly. But this gives you the opportunity to slow down a bit and look at life a little differently. It's easier said than done, especially if you're struggling to find any joy while the world is hurting, but start small and work your way up. Watch the sunlight come through the windows, listen to the rain pitter-patter against the window, enjoy the perfect cup of coffee or tea, laugh with loved ones over the phone, breath in fresh air... waking up to a new day is a new start, and that itself is a little joy to give yourself.
As they always day, "this too shall pass." Fortunately (and unfortunately), nothing lasts forever. Normality will return in one way or another. Don't feel bad if you can't write or create right now. Those creative days will return, and your book will be right where you left it. Take the time now to care for yourself and your loved ones.