Things We’re Doing to Motivate Ourselves
to Write During Quarantine
By Aarushi Shetty and Eve Volungeviciute
Social Distancing and the whole COVID-19 fiasco has brought a lot of anxiety to many of us. But we decided to focus on the positive aspect of the time we have on our hands and have made an effort to have a good writing routine. Here’s a small list of things that we are doing to keep writing.
Since the lockdown, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, and so I decided to read some good old classics. I have read The Wonderful City of Oz, Anne of Green Gables (audiobook), The Secret Garden, and so on. All this reading has helped me cope with social distancing. It has also given me some insight on how much the world has changed! Of course, there’s the added bonus of acquiring new vocabulary. There are some really amazing words that I would never have used in my writing or speech – for instance: trifle. Reading classics works for me because I am exposed to a different society: their culture, use of language, the socio-political views, and so on. It inspires me to use history to develop my stories. I don’t necessarily write historical fiction, but I use them, for instance, as references for a re-imagined steam-punk world.
I have also found some solace in reading. There’s nothing quite like escaping your reality by opening up a good book and getting lost in the pages. Personally, I prefer contemporary literature, mainly YA thrillers/mysteries. I’m a sucker for stories set in small remote towns that are practically their own entities, for stories that are filled with suspense with many twists and turns. Since I myself write similar stories, it’s a good stepping stone to get a grasp on good characters, plot points, and such. Recently, I have been trying to open myself up to more genres because I am debating on trying to write a NA (for those who aren’t aware – it’s a subgenre of fiction where the protagonists are between 18-30 years old, and which deals with similar topics as YA fiction, only in a more mature manner. This can be appealing for readers in their 20s who feel like they’re outgrowing YA but don’t quite fancy adult fiction yet) comedy/drama novels. I’m a firm believer that to be able to write in a genre, you have to know it, so I’m using this free time to learn about them.
2. Participating in my writers’ group
I have a writers’ group where we share ideas, give some feedback and also share opportunities available around. We generally like to update each other on our writing for the week, which has helped us to stay on track with the submissions we are working on. It’s also great to catch up and discuss books that we’re reading, movies we’ve watched, and any music suggestions or literary magazines we’ve come across. By staying connected with each other, we are constantly growing our portfolio. We even give each other writing prompts as a “weekly challenge.” The last one I tried was for the horror genre (not my forte) and although it was very challenging for me, I enjoyed it.
3. Looking for new opportunities
On days when I don’t feel like writing, I look for opportunities. I either use Submittable or simply search on social media sites like Twitter for any call for submissions. When I find something interesting, I also share them with other writers (I like to help all writers and artists that I know). I am unable to complete a submission for many of them; however, they give me prompts, themes or ideas to work on that I may not have thought of before.
Recently, I polished a story I had previously submitted for coursework. I dedicate one day a week ideally to look for where I could submit it. From personal experience, I have always struggled to come up with stories based on specific prompts magazines ask for, as it seems more like homework. Obviously, getting published is the main goal for pretty much every write; however, for me at least, if I try something purely to have something to submit, the result doesn’t resonate with me. Which is why I like to tackle calls for submissions with something I’ve already written, as I find that stories created without the restrictions and the pressure are more lively and authentic. This is just my way of doing it, every one of us must find what works for them. Regardless, I think it’s important to be aware of what sort of places look for genres and mediums you like to write and keep in mind when they’re calling for submissions, so you would have a time frame to work with.
Some days I am not writing anything fresh. Instead, I visit poems and stories that I’ve written a while ago. I start editing when I receive some feedback from my writers’ group. Some literary magazines have themes for which I already have poems or stories written (unpublished). In such cases, I go through those pieces and start refining them. Sometimes, my old ideas give rise to new stories. This way, I can still remain productive during the day.
For me, writing and editing are two separate things, and I try my best to do them separately. As I mentioned above, one of my main goals this year is to work with what I wrote during my Master’s degree, using the feedback I received from my writer’s group and my lecturers, as well as a new perspective time can give. In my second year of university, I also started a novel that I had to put aside because of a million other things. Now, I have time to go back to it, but I need to go through and edit what I already wrote to remember the story and characters again to avoid plot holes. It also lets me use my writing experience I gained since then and hopefully make a better story than I could’ve back then.
5. Drawing and colouring
Drawing, doodling, colouring and sketching keeps my creative juices flowing. I mostly draw trees, flowers and different types of leaves because that way I feel like I’m bringing the outdoors inside my room. It’s a relaxing exercise and in fact works as a warm-up for my writing.
I’m not one for drawing as I’ve never been good at it, but I found it very entertaining to colour one of those adult notebooks for stress relief. Not only is it relaxing, but it’s also creativity inducing, as thinking of different colour patterns and then seeing it all come together on a page helps to exercise your ability to visualise things, which also helps in writing.
6. Watching films and TV shows
To my surprise, screenplays have turned out to be my strong point in writing. To learn the craft of screenwriting, it’s important to analyse visual media, and not just the good stuff, but also the bad so that you know what not to do. It’s also a good excuse to watch some of those films that aren’t Oscar material, but still have entertainment value because heaven knows we could use some of that right now. I also find that watching characters and films and TV shows in action helps me write action scenes better in novels as well since I can use the memories to visualise specific movements I need for the scene.
7. Playing video games
This one entirely depends on the game since, while action shooters are definitely good for some stress relief, they’re not particularly creativity inducing. However, there are plenty of interactive story driven games out there (for example, Life is Strange, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, Detroit: Become Human…I’m getting a bit ahead of myself over here) that rely on players to make choices that shape the outcome of the narrative.
I personally find it very creatively stimulating, as it makes me think of different ways my own stories can play, and what narrative techniques I need to use that would lead to said outcomes. Games like these also have a high replay value, so you’d also be getting your money’s worth. Besides, video games are yet another platform for creativity as some of them have highly engaging concepts which can easily rival some best selling books in their quality. After all, if a story is well-written, the medium it’s on is secondary.
8. Last but not least – drawing inspiration from the isolation
While isolation itself can, and has been, creatively draining for some people, I also have noticed that in a way, it also gives me food for thought. The whole COVID-19 situation has shed light on economic, political, and social mindsets of the countries of the world, as well as people living in them.
More personally, different reactions to the lockdown I have witnessed from people I know on social media have made me think of various ways people handle themselves under stress, especially when it’s induced by something they can control. Overall, there’s definitely material for new stories in this tragedy and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if, once this is over, a new wave of dystopian novels emerged, because after all, we write about what affects us in some way, and if getting it out on paper makes us feel better, that must be something good to come out of this, right?