Your Writing in Lockdown

Dear Writers,

Never again do I want to hear the arts being described as ‘luxuries’. Theatres, libraries, bookshops, sporting events, museums, festivals, concerts, art galleries etc etc – these are not ‘optional extras’ but integral to who we are. We miss them now, and as the weeks turn into months, we’ll miss them more.

Your writing matters.

Gwen John, The Brown Teapot

Lockdown during the Covid crisis is a terrible burden for us all. And it’s simply not the case that being home more = more opportunities to write. Life isn’t like that. The challenges of home schooling, home working, financial worries, caring for vulnerable people, keeping clean and healthy, cancelled plans, cabin fever etc etc all take their toll.

So I urge you now, more than ever, to use your time wisely.

  • Set aside Writing Time in your weekly schedule. Routine is key to coping in Lockdown, so make sure your Work in Progress gets the attention it deserves. Everyone at home needs to understand that this is a priority for you and should commit to supporting you during Writing Time.
  • Refresh your writing space. Declutter; wipe it clean; update your mood board; open a window; leave your phone in a separate room. Cleaning the rest of the house and DIY can wait.
  • Stay physically active. We’re allowed outside once per day for exercise, and I urge you to do so even in bad weather. If you’re out by yourself, I recommend podcasts, audio books, and comedy as your listening. If you can’t get out, I recommend trying Yoga with Adriene, which includes modifications for gentle yoga (e.g. in a chair) and mindful breathing.
  • Support authors of newly published books and bookshops now, not later. They’re going through a difficult time. You can help by ordering books locally, and exploring audio and e-books. Do you want to get on the radar of agents and publishers . . .? Then you should be using social media to enthuse about their new releases, post positive reviews and tagging them in. Network online now, while they most need your support, and it will be easier to approach them later.
  • BE BOLD. The trauma of the Covid crisis is going to change us as a society. Businesses, venues and services are going to suffer; our families may be touched by illness or bereavement; our mental health and wellbeing will be tested . . . However, we’re also going to reappraise what is important; we’re going to cultivate different habits; and we’re going to surprise ourselves. When social distancing is over, we will be eager to reconnect with other people – and this includes a renewed appetite for stories. Brilliant stories. Original stories. Hidden Stories. Funny stories. Mad, bad, moving, invigorating stories. Insightful stories that help us make sense of the world. Don’t play it safe. Be braver. Push further. Your Work in Progress needs you.

In addition to your WiP, consider reviving your creative energy by submitting to competitions or projects. There’s always a lot going on, but these are current at the time of posting and may be worth looking at? Check the deadlines and T&Cs . . .

  • Bridport Prize open for submissions now. Deadline 31 May 2020. Poetry, Short Story, Flash Fic, and First Novel (which doesn’t have to be finished). First prizes £1,000 – £5,000 depending on category. Posh and prestigious, this competition opens doors! *Entry fees £9 – £20. Use the online portal to submit.
  • Keywords – a new series for broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra – it will then be available as a podcast.  To encourage new writing and audio production and empower people to record from their own devices. Keywords invites new and established writers and sound artists, radio makers, and musicians to submit for broadcast. Week 1: Distance. Deadline: 11pm – Friday 12th April 2020. (For the next three keywords, the deadline is 11pm – 19th April 2020) *“The theme should reflect Irish heritage culture and experience. Global affairs that impact on Ireland are also relevant.”
  • The Aurora Prize for Writing 2020, deadline MONDAY 8TH JUNE AT MIDNIGHT. A national competition run by Writing East Midlands, in partnership with the Society of Authors. Seeks outstanding new writing in short fiction (of up to 2,000 words) and poetry (of up to 60 lines). The winners will receive £500, feedback from a leading literary agent and a year’s free membership to the Society of Authors + personalised support in their careers as professional authors. *Entry fee: £9 for first entries, £7 for each additional entry.

Thank you to the people who stayed in touch during my cancer treatment and recovery. I read your messages and was grateful, even if I couldn’t reply. I’m doing extremely well and probably better than most (as my experience of chemo was a lot like Lockdown, I know what to expect).

A good writing habit and making progress with your manuscript is going to help you through this. Stick with it. Be kind to it. Believe in it. And who knows, your novel / poem / script / story could be exactly what someone else needs?

Stay safe and well,


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