Lockdown and Beyond

It has been nearly eighteen months since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world and turned all our lives upside down. Even now, things are a long way from normal, and may never be again. I haven’t set foot in my workplace since March last year, and I won’t be doing so again for some time to come (apart from a brief visit in the near future to clear the last detritus from my desk drawers).

I’ve been working from home for a long time now, and at first it was quite weird. Now I’ve grown used to it, and I’m in no hurry to return to the office. No more shirts to iron. No more unreliable buses. I get up a full hour later in the morning than I used to, as going to work is now just walking into the next room. The only thing I really miss is meeting other people – I only have regular contact now with my partner and the cat.

All this free time at home should be a boon for a writer. Think of all the stories I could write! I could churn out three novels in a year! And yet… I didn’t. I’ve written virtually nothing for over a year, and the more I thought about my unfinished work, the more guilt I felt about it and the harder it was to get back to it.

I’m not the only one that’s felt this way. I’ve seen lots of people across social media saying they feel like they wasted their lockdown period. We could have started new skills, created new art… and some of us did. Others ended up binging TV series and eating too much.

For me, I know exactly what the problem is. It’s my workspace.

In the past, work and home were clearly divided. I got a bus to the office, I had a desk and a work PC, and then I came home on the bus at the end of the day. Those bus journeys were a source of many complaints but they were also a buffer zone – I’d listen to music or podcasts, read books, generally relax, and then I’d start up my home PC and I could play or write or whatever other projects.

Now I’m at my home PC all the time. There is no buffer. I’ve tried to create one – breaking from work to read in the living room for half an hour before I unwind – but it doesn’t help much.

How do you get back into writing when this happens? Short of returning to the office and restoring my old routine, I don’t entirely know. But this is what I’m doing:

  1. Forgiving myself. I haven’t been writing, but worrying about it isn’t helping. It’s fine that I’ve not been writing. This has been a weird time for everyone.
  2. Scheduling time to write. Just a little time each day is fine, and my old schedule isn’t working any more. If I’m tired by the end of the day and don’t want to do much on the home PC, I need to get some writing done before work.
  3. Rediscovering why I write. It’s not about work. It’s not about The Novel. It’s supposed to be fun, and if that means I write something frivolous instead, I’ll take it.
  4. Patience. It’s going to take time to get back up to speed. A little at a time is fine.

If you’re struggling with getting back into your writing – or painting, knitting, exercise, or anything else that fell apart after the lockdown started – be kind to yourself. Take it slowly and make it fun. I hope you find your inspiration again.

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