How to Write While in Quarantine

With the vast majority of the US population shut in or social distancing themselves from everything and everybody. You can’t go to Starbucks, the library—maybe the park. The question now arises how does this affect your writing stamina?

An environment of solitude has always been my creative bubble. Especially when putting on headphones and listening to any of the numerous CD’s in our collection. Everything from White Snake to The Best of Beethoven sets the mood for creative writing as intuitive improvisation flows from the staffs of the melodic notes floating into my brain.

Are you the king or queen of wishful thinking? If so, this is when your creative juices should really be flowing! You may be shut up by current events, but your mind isn’t. And right now is the time for all good writers to come to the aid of their readers.

I am reminded of how Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the Black Death and Daniel Defoe’s account of the Bubonic Plague in his diary entitled A Journal of the Plague Year. Or Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter set round the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

In these perilous times your mind is the freest thing you possess. When you free your mind the ideas will follow. Sometimes you can channel worration and anxiety into creative streams. Not denying the situation, but re-channeling the negative predispositions into dynamic words on a page. You could be the Houdini of authors. Possessing the ability to escape the noisesome pestilence of the corona-virus, into the white noise of doors opening to inner thoughts you are finally able to touch and transpose into fantasy worlds—transporting your readers as you write. With the hopes of taking the reader’s mind off the negative into the joyful bliss of your imaginative tour de force.

Most authors are isolationists by profession, they have to be in order to finish that chapter or meet deadlines. It is just the nature of the beast. As a writer you don’t want to just survive in this thing. No, you want to thrive. So here’s advice from some famous authors to help you accomplish that goal.

Maya Angelou used to rent a hotel room to write in, although she owned her home: “I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses. I never allow the hotel people to change the bed, because I never sleep there. I stay until twelve-thirty or one-thirty in the afternoon, and then I go home and try to breathe; I look at the work around five; I have an orderly dinner—proper, quiet, lovely dinner; and then I go back to work the next morning.” 

If checking out to check in works for you by all means please use it to your advantage. Remember progress is the process—One word at a time. One page at a time.

Stephen King: “There are certain things I do if I sit down to write… I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon. It’s not any different than a bedtime routine.”

It is imperative to have a clear defined routine you adhere to come rain, sleet, snow or hail!

Perhaps you can be like Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, who could only get through the stiffleness of a writer’s confinement by committing to a rigid exercise regimen. He said in a 2004 interview, “When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”

No matter how shut in you are or how small the space, daily exercise is very important. I have discovered when you exercise you are in a better frame of mind. It is a great stress reliever and really sharpens those neurons. With all the apps out there you could come up with something. Or even makeshift apparatuses to get the job done. Here again, one needs to be creative.

Unless you are doing research stay as far away from the Internet as you possibly can. Writers have never held the Internet in high regard, as it derails their productivity.

Novelist Zadie Smith doesn’t have a smartphone while Jonathan Franzen writes in a room without WiFi and tapes up the ports on his computers so he is not tempted to connect.

In the Woman of the Hour podcast, Smith said, “If I could control myself online, if I wasn’t going to go down a Beyoncé Google hole for four and a half hours, this wouldn’t be a problem. But that is exactly what I’ll do. It’s not some kind of high moral ground, it’s that I so want to [write], that I just have to get it done. And everything else has to take a backseat.”

If the Bard wrote King Lear during a quarantine, surely you can apply this time as he. And who knows, you just might have a Close Encounter of the Third Kind that will be your next bestseller.

Do you have any thoughts on the subject?

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5 thoughts on “How to Write While in Quarantine

  1. Pingback: How To Keep Writing And Not Lose Your Mind | Rhemalogy

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