Confessions of a Writer … in isolation

Writing has always been a solitary activity, but being a writer in isolation has presented many new challenges.

The world is a different place than it was when I published my last blog post a month ago. People are getting sick, many have died, and the rest of us are living vastly different lives in an effort to stop the spread of this pandemic. Children are learning from home, many adults lucky enough to still be in work have had to set up home offices, and routines have drastically changed as family units attempt to juggle competing priorities. 

In my last blog post, Confessions of an Unproductive Writer, I explored my personal triggers of unproductiveness (feelings that interfere with my ability to write) and obstacles to productiveness (activities that compete with my writing, or circumstances that stop me from writing). Clearly, with the chaos the world has been thrown into, I’m dealing with a bunch of new triggers and obstacles. And in the spirit of honest confession, I’ll admit I’ve had a procrastination relapse. This post is my attempt to work through the issues I’m experiencing so I can overcome them and find my way back to productivity.

New obstacles to productiveness

The first obstacle is an environmental one. Generally, I have the house to myself when I write, but now, the whole family is constantly at home. At times, I’ve had to share my office with my husband, and the kids often have questions or need advice on how to complete their school-set tasks. But even when I’m not being interrupted, it’s the noise resulting from their presence in the house that’s proving to be a distraction.

From my previous exploration of triggers and obstacles, I learned that obstacles can be overcome. So, by looking at this new obstacle objectively, I can see a solution—I’ll go back to writing on my laptop and escape to my bedroom, which is at the far (and much quieter) end of the house. I’ll then pop on my noise-cancelling headphones and stream a deep focus playlist. Ta-da! Obstacle overcome!

The next obstacle for me is a competing priority and one I have complete control over—escapism in the form of binge-reading and watching television. (In the last two weeks, I’ve read four books and watched nearly four seasons of Doctor, Doctor!) Now, while I’m a firm believer in going easy on ourselves in times of stress, I know that at some point a bit of tough love is required. I fessed up to my accountability partner and she requested a word count goal from me for the upcoming week, which I gave. And so, it’ll be on me if I don’t meet that goal.

New triggers of unproductiveness

Obviously, a new trigger of unproductiveness for me has been the global pandemic and worrying about how it’s affecting the world, my country, my state, my local community, and my family. Keeping an eye on the situation, staying abreast of national and state news, and making decisions and plans for how we’d deal with the situation as a family took up a lot of my time and headspace in the early days of the pandemic. Now that we’ve put our plan into action and have settled into a new kind of normal, I feel much safer and empowered. We’re doing all we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, and so, for now, this trigger has eased.

The final trigger of unproductiveness I’m experiencing actually has nothing to do with the pandemic or the current state of the world. Instead, it’s a project-related problem—I finished one project and need to return to another. Not a bad problem to have, right? Except I’ve lost my momentum and I’m finding it difficult to self-motivate. Also, getting one manuscript closer to publication makes me feel a little overwhelmed when I think about the half-finished first draft that’s waiting for me. But this is where journalling (or blogging) can help. 

It’s all about mindset!

I should be celebrating! I finished a manuscript and got it to the point where I was happy to send it to my beta readers. That’s an accomplishment, and now that I’ve done it, I know I can do it again. The sense of overwhelm I feel is a symptom of my perfectionism, and to combat that, I know I need to focus on the process of writing, one task at a time, and not the end product. And so, I’m going to break down that word count goal I gave my accountability partner into smaller daily word count goals and take it one day at a time. I’ll keep reminding myself, too, to trust the process and focus!

Image text: Trust the process. Focus on one task at a time.

How have you been handling isolation? Has it impacted your creative pursuits? Your work habits? Family routines? Are you finding it difficult to focus, complete tasks or meet deadlines? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

Next time, I hope to report a return to productiveness and will share with you the first step I took in overcoming my perfectionism—learning to be compassionately objective.

As always, thanks for reading!

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