Of Writing Productivity During a Pandemic

All through the Covid pandemic, I've been under continuous low-level stress, that spikes and ebbs depending on news I receive on personal and professional fronts.

April has been a surreal month for me, as I'm sure it has been for all of us (I've been self-isolating since March due to low immunity ). The most mundane things like going for a walk, grocery shopping, watching a play, seem like things I must have done in another life that I have but a vague memory of.

I've worked from home for more than a decade, so the 'circuit-breaker' here in Singapore has not changed my life in a drastic fashion. It has taken away options, though. I can't pick up my laptop and write at a cafe if my muse proves elusive, or call a friend for coffee to listen to each other nattering about our lives, or work off some steam at the gym.

Add to that the relentless barrage of ugly news, and it makes me want to curl up and hide.

Having looked at all this in a calm fashion (something I'm capable of doing once in a while), I realised that the lack of control is what is getting me antsy, and one way to (pretend to?) reclaim it is to get back to writing the best I can. And those are the operative words. Best. I. Can.

Not the best I've ever done, or the best I see myself doing, or the best that others have achieved.

So, in case it helps any other writer who has had a bit of a struggle these past few weeks, here's what I've been telling myself:

1.  Writing during a pandemic: Accept that this is here to stay.

At the outset, when country after country went on lockdown, it seemed surreal. Stress builds up in unusual situations, and stress could be mood killer when it comes to writing. We now know that the virus will be part of our lives for a while and that uncertainty is the new normal for a long while yet. Once this is accepted, we can begin to plan our routine, and figure out how to make it work.

2. Writing during a pandemic: Set different productivity benchmarks.

Many of us will be staying with our families in closer proximity, have more care-giving responsibilities, and more chores. We need to figure our writing around that, and that means being all right with sporadic productivity. We might write less than before, but that is acceptable, because we're also trying to survive a pandemic. Productivity looks different during a struggle for survival. It is simple: when your body thinks it is under threat, it will not relax easily enough to want to create art. Or anything, for that matter.

3. Writing during a pandemic: Small sprints for the Win

With all that's happening around us, it might be difficult to sustain focus for extended periods. If you tell yourself you can write in shorter bursts though, it tends to work better. It is easier to imagine that for those 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 minutes, you will focus on whatever it is that you need to write. it will add up. Take longer breaks in between, reward yourself, but set a timer and write. The pomodoro technique is your friend.

4. Writing during a pandemic: Perfect is the enemy of good

Unless you need to obsessively edit whatever you write (continue with that if it works for you), you can try and finish the draft of an essay or a story or a chapter before trying to revisit it. Get it down on paper, and then better it during rewrites and edits.  Writing can be a stressor or an escape, you choose which is which for you.

5. Writing during a pandemic: Step away from it all

You don't have to be writing all the time. You don't have to be on social media all the time. You don't have to watch the news all the time. Take periodic breaks. Time might have lost its punctuation marks, but you can choose periods of absolute quiet for your mind--with nature, pets, books, art, music--whatever works for you. Come back recharged, and then tackle writing again.

6. Writing during a pandemic: Find a way to help others

At first glance, all of us seem to be in the same boat due to the pandemic, but a deeper look reveals that all of us are suffering in our own boats at this time. We have different mental, physical, social and financial challenges, and are trying to cope the best we can. Reaching out to someone in need not only helps that person, which is crucial to sustain a community, but also aids our individual mental well-being. Being able to help others reassures our body and mind that we are not unsafe or powerless. Once that feeling of safety is established, creativity returns.

What have been your writing hacks during the pandemic? What are you working on? Are you pleased with your productivity? Or like me, frustrated by the lack of it ? Have at it in the comments!

Tweet me up at @damyantig, or reach me at www.damyantiwrites.com


Chet said…
Thanks for all the tips, Damyanti.
Damyanti Biswas said…
Pleased it was useful, Chet.

This post was a good reminder to self as well :)

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