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Open Thread

9.5 Lessons the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Writing

Medium writers share their Covid writing journeys

Photo: Tara Moore / Getty Images

In our latest open thread, we asked “How has the pandemic affected your writing?” In the responses, a common thread surfaced — for many, this time has been a surprising conduit for creativity. Despite all the constraints of our quieter lives, many writers have uncovered some pretty profound lessons about creativity — along with ingenious tricks for staying focused.

Here’s a few highlights. If you have something to share, add it to the responses of the discussion here!

1. Break big projects up into smaller bites

March 2021: I finally revisit my immature book from a different angle — write articles, share them on the internet to help others, and sharpen my writing along the way. Because you know what they say about eating elephants; one bite at a time.

-from Leo Sharp

2. Follow your curiosity

Most of the writing I’ve been doing has been in support of some inquiry. Like, what am I curious about right now? How can I support that curiosity? I found that if I feel curious and if I’m learning, I feel better about things in general. Writing (and reading) has been super helpful for that.

-from Kawandeep Virdee

3. Use writing as a (healthy) form of escapism

In part, I wrote in order to try making sense of things, to hold on to hope in trying times, to write about what I knew in the face of so much I did not. On the other hand, I also wrote as a form of escapism — coming up with fictional stories, short pieces, and poetry. The pandemic also definitely contributed to me diversifying — coming up with different ways to stay creative, writing different formats/for different intended audiences, or none at all… On a whole, writing in the pandemic has given me opportunities to express myself, understand my thoughts and try to make sense of world events while also loaning me a parallel universe/the chance to build stories and worlds.

-from Vanshika Randev

4. Remember that everything has a season

The pandemic was rough on my writing… My writing has picked up quite nicely this spring though. A moment that felt like turning a corner for me was getting vaccinated — feeling like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We have come through a period that has been so very difficult that writing suddenly seems rather easy by comparison, and I am making great progress on my book manuscript.

So, tl;dr: the pandemic didn’t help. At all. Getting through the pandemic helped.

-from L.D. Burnett

5. Connect with a community

Writing is what helped me survive lockdown in India in 2020 and now as India faces a brutal new Covid wave. Though I already maintained a process of writing 2,000 words a day, this daily commitment helped me as I quarantined in a hostel within a country I was visiting for the first time… As my movement was restricted, I joined a virtual writing collective (The Quarantine Train), and my ability to write, edit, and publish at heightened levels increased with the time, space, and community support. Over the course of the past year and a half, I have written two manuscripts (one in poetry and another in creative nonfiction) and am preparing to query them.

In addition to my personal writing projects, I have also dedicated myself to collaborating with an artist a month (three photographers, visual artist, financial advisor, etc.) while prioritizing collaborating with locals. These collaborations have been immensely rewarding as I am able to support my local communities, learn about other creative mediums, and challenge myself creatively.

-from Anesce Dremen

6. Expand your definition of creative work

I found it impossible to focus on writing my memoir, but every day I’d go for a walk that served as a treasure hunt. I’d come home with a trove of images snapped with my phone, and each night I’d edit the best images into “photopaintings.” This creativity saved my sanity and provided instant artistic gratification.

-from Aimee Liu

7. Use the past as a prompt

I also have incurable wanderlust, and not being able to travel or go out to my favorite coffee place to write also contributed to a slow down of productivity. However, it also pushed me to a new form of travel writing that I’ve started recently — writing micro-piece prose and poetry based on a photo from past travels.

-from John Harbour

8. Don’t count yourself out

Even after I started working as a part-time content writer, I used to tell myself, “Bruh, you can’t write for more than 15 minutes at a time. Who do you think you are, a Tolstoy?” It was only a few months back, February to be exact, when I joined full-time as a content writer, that I realized that I could write for the entire eight-hour work-period. A few weeks of this, and I realized that I could write even after getting back home from work.

-from Ijaz Ahmed

9. When all else fails, at least keep a journal

I started a pandemic diary as part of my regular blog last March. It’s helped me stay sane, forcing me to see things with a rational eye and avoid the deep end — okay, most of the time! It even gave me a chance to laugh a little, as in this letter to my pre-pandemic self: “Rent a warehouse and fill it to the rafters with toilet paper. You’ll thank me.”

-from David Swan

Bonus tip: Write on Medium (!)

I was screenwriting before but then the industry ground to a halt. Instead I found Medium and all the publications here and have written for several including you guys at Forge. Medium alone has let me step back from the film industry ready to go traveling and earn while I go, and finish my travel book, also half written during lockdown.

-from Alexander M. Combstrong



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Amy Shearn

Formerly: Editor of Creators Hub, Human Parts // Ongoingly: Novelist, Essayist, Person