How to write during a pandemic

By Adrian Beck, author of the Derek Dool: Supercool series.

Making time to write is tough.

Making time to write when you have kids is an even bigger challenge.

But making time to write when you have kids (doing remote learning) whilst in the middle of a pandemic is MISSION IMPOSSIBLE! Well, nearly. But like Tom Cruise, I’ve found a way. And I also do all my own stunts.

Initially I had hopes that a lockdown would provide a unique opportunity. Finally, there’s nowhere to go, my real job is on hold, there’s no one to catch up with and no distractions whatsoever from writing that world-beating novel I’d always wanted to smash out ‘if only I had the time’.

Except… No.

The perils of remote learning

I’ve realised that during lockdown 2.0, finding a moment to write is more difficult than ever mainly because of two crucial factors. First up, REMOTE LEARNING. Auuuugh!

My wife is a successful businesswoman, so I have taken on the majority of the home learning supervision. And there is a LOT of supervision. Once the tasks are explained via the teachers’ videos, my girls always have a million questions. Then, of course, I have to watch the videos too to answer their questions. I often have a few questions myself, but I muddle through. Of course, whilst the girls are completing the tasks, the questions continue. And finally, when the questions stop, it’s time to encourage the girls to actually finish the tasks, in between defusing arguments over serious things like Bluey figurines. Remote learning is INTENSE! Plus, all this doesn’t take into account the shared iPad that is too old for the school apps or our wifi that only works when you stand on one leg.

So far, I’m coping okay with Prep but I’m pretty sure I’m failing Grade 2. Either way, throw in some mask-clad exercise with the girls and the days get eaten up quickly. So, time is an issue! And the whole approach would be almost unmanageable with a full-time job to juggle. Full RESPECT to those who find a way.

The time constraints mean I’ve forced myself to return to my old habit of writing when everyone else in the house is sound asleep. It’s the only solution. I get up early and write for an hour from 6am. Plus, I stay up late and write for two or three hours till about 1am. And to help me with this, I’d like to thank my greatest supporters, coffee and chocolate.

Emotional exhaustion

Then there’s the second factor that makes writing a challenge right now. Living through a pandemic is – as it turns out – emotionally exhausting. The news is grim, often tragic, and there isn’t an obvious way forward just yet. For me, the first lockdown was a bit of a novelty. Zoom meetings were new and innovative, wearing pyjamas all day was fun and I didn’t shave for about two months. My beard was very ‘Castaway’ but fortunately I didn’t start talking to netballs. However, the shine has come off in lockdown 2.0. That niggling feeling that the world is in crisis is more present than ever, as is the realisation that we’re largely helpless to change it. On that cheery note, it’s difficult to get into the zone to create, let alone write funny kids’ books like Derek Dool.

But it’s my mission and I’ve chosen to accept it! I’ve had to make it work. So, how can you break through the pandemic funk, just like I have? With these handy tips, of course!

1) Lie to yourself. Say stuff like, ‘I’ll just do 250 words and go to bed’. And often you might find you’re on a roll once you get underway.

2) Read or watch something from the genre you’re writing. This is a good one for me, because it’s usually comedy. This puts you in the right headspace for your project.

3) Set the mood with music. It can get you started, and push you along, especially if it matches the type of story you’re writing.

4) Let your heroes inspire you. Dive into bookish content – online events, youtube channels, podcasts, whatever! Even just a short burst of your favourite authors discussing their craft can really inspire you. Plus, it reminds you that the book world still exists outside your four walls.

5) But if all else fails, make writing a remote learning project. Ignore all my advice and create something by day with your kids. I’ve actually tried this too and at the very least there were way less arguments over Bluey figurines than usual. So that’s a win.

6) But lastly, and perhaps the most important tip of all, is just to give yourself a break. Take a day or two to absorb everything, to appreciate the company of your loved ones and then return to your writing with a clearer head.

These are strange times and we need to be kind to ourselves. Also, during pandemics it doesn’t hurt to indulge in a few extra treats. Often, it’s the little things that help get you through the day. Like Tom Cruise would say, and I’m pretty sure this is correct, ‘Chocolate, you complete me’.

Adrian Beck writes funny, action-packed adventure stories for kids. His latest book, Derek Dool: Supercool – Going Viral, is OUT NOW. And despite the title, it has nothing to do with pandemics. Adrian is the author of the bestselling Alien Zoo series and the co-author of the bestselling kids’ series Kick it to Nick, with AFL Hall of Fame inductee Shane Crawford.

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