You’re Staying In, You Might As Well Write: Fighting Distractions When Your Routine Is Upended By Coronavirus (or whatever)

COVID-19 has a lot of people scared. We’re being advised by the CDC, the President, and other elected officials to work from home, practice social distancing, and avoid any unnecessary trips out of the house (as if there were anywhere to go!).

These changes can upend your routine, big time. Even if you already work at home, you may now have young kids there with you during the day that need you, or college kids that are studying from home for awhile (that’s us!). In many places, libraries and coffee shops are closed, taking away writing sanctuaries for those on the go.

Still, before you turn to Netflix to fill your non-working hours, consider the opportunity to squeeze in some extra writing time. After all, you can’t really go out on Friday night, or you may not have to commute to your job for awhile, so little pockets of time are opening up that could be used to help you get further along on that novel or freelance project.

A few tips:

  • Rethink Your Routine — You may have to create an entirely new routine based on your new “normal.” See if new time slots have opened up that you could squeeze in some writing. Our college kids are home right now, and seem to want food regularly (and can’t go out to eat right now in our small mountain town), so that takes extra grocery shopping and meal planning.
  • Try Sprints Instead of Marathons — Your style may be to sit for extended periods of time working on a writing project, but your circumstances might make it possible to only work in short bursts. Fit in what you can when time is available. This is where reworking your routine comes in handy. I normally work from home, but am using my planner to schedule writing sessions during my off hours when I may have been out doing something else in other circumstances.
  • Preplan Your Sessions — Try to plan the night before for what you want to accomplish during your sprints or marathons. Outline an article while the kids are working on homework. Write a scene during what used to be your morning commute. As those opportunities arise, you’ll be able to maximize your efforts. This is where my planner is coming in again. I try to set word deadlines for my novel for each block of time I’ve set aside for the next day, along with some time for freelance projects.
  • Don’t Overload — Not every pocket of time has to be filled with writing projects. Leave time to let your mind wander. Dump some ideas into your writing journal (more on organizing that to come). Color, hang out with your kids, plan a romantic indoor picnic with your significant other (may do that this week!), or (yes) binge-watch some Netflix. Your brain is most effective when it has some downtime to recharge, making your writing sessions more effective too. And you’ll be happier for it.
  • Chat With Other Writers Online — Social isolation can lead to depression, which inhibits every area of your life, including your writing and productivity. Now may be a good time to join that freelancing Facebook group, or to put together a Zoom meeting with some of your writer friends. Instead of getting lost in a sea of social media, use technology to your advantage and reach out to others who are also home and looking for someone to talk to. A group of mystery writers that I’m a part of has chat groups that give me a line to the outside world as I try to make progress on my novel.

We’re living in a unique time. Since you’re stuck at home anyway, you might as well try to find some time to tackle those writing projects you’ve been putting off for “when you have some extra time.”

Stay safe, be well.

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