‘…it was the worst of times…’

J. L. Harland   •   March 18th, 2020

Writing is often described as a lonely occupation and the traditional concept is of one person in a room, isolated from everyone else. In some circumstances this is true. Some people need solitude to concentrate. Others can write anywhere – trains, cafés, libraries, – and many prefer this. As J. L. Harland, we do all our planning in the pub so this current ‘social distancing’ is a challenge. There’s always Skype or FaceTime, email and the telephone, but the dynamics may not be quite the same. We’ll just have to see how it pans out. In the meantime, here are five things we thought about to help us, as readers and writers, to keep calm and keep writing. We hope they help you too.

  1. Read stories and poems that are uplifting. In times of doom we need to be enlightened. Reading the news is not good. All doom and gloom. So, find a story or book of poetry that absorbs you and makes you feel better. Start reading your pile of books TBR. We’ve all got them. If you don’t have a stockpile, then order from your local indie bookshop. Many of these will be struggling and are happy to post out your requests.
  2. Keep a journal and start each day with one positive thing. It could be something simple like seeing a primrose in the garden – communing with nature helps lift the spirits. Record your thoughts and fears. It helps.
  3. Write something uplifting or something humorous. We still need to be able to laugh and enjoy the world around us, even if we don’t find anything very funny at the moment. Make one of your characters the sort of person who gets everything wrong or who mishears something and then has to suffer the consequences. Remember Chinese whispers?
  4. Compile a list of positive quotations. Write them out on pretty paper or postcards and display them around your workspace to remind yourself that whatever else happens, we always have words. Words are a wonderful way of connecting. Words bring hope.
  5. Play music to help calm the nerves. If music can calm ‘the savage beast’ then it should help all of us. Maybe one of your characters has a particular song they like, or the lyrics of a song, or songs, gives you solace in dark times.

Keep calm. Keep safe. Keep writing.