By Rachel Weatherley
“Unbroken happiness is a bore: life should have ups and downs,” notes Richard, one of the protagonists of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. Paraphrasing Molière here, Richard is a writer working in 1960s Nigeria, frustrated by his inability to finish a manuscript during a time of major social upheaval. Faced with COVID-19 and its accompanying challenges, reading this passage reminded me that we should at least try to maintain some optimism at this time. Difficult times are an enduring feature of life, which we must embrace and adapt to the best we can.
Of course, this is no mean feat. In times of unprecedented personal and collective difficulty, turning away from the world to start writing a book can feel insular and indulgent. Even with the best intentions, adapting to new challenges, and keeping on top of day-to-day life, can distract us from the writing projects we would otherwise love to focus on.
Preventing that temporary distraction from turning into long-term disillusionment is a task in itself—I hope the following tips can keep you engaged, focused and productive!
1. Reorganise and refresh your work space
As cafes and libraries close their doors, and I find myself staring at the same blank wall every day, Janet Jackson’s lyrics ring ever truer—you really don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. This new monotony hasn’t exactly been conducive to getting words on the page—but it did get me thinking about how I could adapt my environment to make it a more inspiring and energising workspace.
Perhaps counterintuitively, I need a workplace with distraction. In my university room, I had a busy and colorful wall covered in all sorts of adornments: postcards, letters, photographs and posters—the more eclectic the better. This wall was the next best thing to a change of scenery: it reminded me of happier times, took me to faraway places, and often served as inspiration when I was stuck for ideas.
2. Consider work that will aid your writing
Every writer worth their salt knows that a significant amount of research and thinking time goes into producing the shiny finished product. So if you’re suffering from a case of writer’s block, you can still make productive use of your time with the following tips:
• Scour blogs like Reddit, home to thousands of illuminating threads where people share anecdotes, experiences, feelings and opinions, ranging from the poignant to the hilarious.
• Call a friend and ask if they have any opinions or feelings about a certain subject. You could even work together and bounce ideas off each other.
• Watch documentaries and video clips that pad out the factual details and context of your work.
This will provide some respite from typing, and maybe even a spark of inspiration for the next stage of your story. Inspiration is found in the most unexpected of places—so get creative with your free time!Continue reading “Guest Post: 5 Tips to Keep Writing Through Difficult Times”