Friday, April 10, 2020

Making Time for Writing When You Have Nothing to Do

Last week I taught my first Zoom class to five writers from across the U.S. when our weeklong retreat in Santa Fe was cancelled thanks to Covid.  Two were working on memoirs, two on novels, all in progress.  Each day, we gathered to learn and inspire each other virtually.  I read their writing and offered feedback.  They were patient as I practiced intricacies of teaching remotely.  I think we all learned a lot.

Our final Zoom meeting was especially heart-opening.  We talked about our lives and our writing during this pandemic.  How a retreat away from "life" gave time and space to really sink in.  But writing while living maybe gave us practice at fitting writing into each day.

Being around other writers, even as an instructor, inspired me enough to regularly open my laptop after the class each day. I combed through my chapters and fell into the mystery.  

This week, not teaching, I noticed I wasn't as inclined to open the laptop.  By Wednesday, I got the message:  I personally need the community of writers to write.  I got online and registered for two remote workshops later this month, and took an hour out of doing nothing to get my story going again.

Later in the week, I got another clue while doing an exercise I enjoy regularly.  In my journal, I drew three columns to asses what sucked up my time during these house arrest days.  One column, "Will," was for daily life tasks I felt responsible to keep going, like house cleaning and bills and feeding my family.  The second was "Comfort."  In this, I listed movies, books, gardening (yes, it's beginning here in the north!), naps, stuff that keeps me from panic.  The third column is called "Vision."  It's the wide view of my life, looking ahead to what I want next, what I would love to bring in.  

"Vision" was pretty empty.   I know why.  It's hard, even impossible, to envision future events when life is so terribly unpredictable.  I left it blank for a few days.  Then I realized that my writing lived there.  When I write, I use the visioning side of my creative self.  It was pretty exhausted and it was lonely.

I decided the remote workshops will bring it good company.  To that end, I also am writing this blog post--as I do every week.  Hoping to pass along some community to you.

To end, I recommend this lovely post about self-compassion from life coach Emma Laurence (visit her blog at if the link doesn't work).  And for the opposite side of the spectrum, a very funny New Yorkeressay about Shakespeare's writer's block during the plague.  

Both, so true. 

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