Self-isolation for writers – what to do beyond “just write another book”

[This blog post appeared on LearnHowToWriteANovel.com in April 2020]

Time can sometimes feel like an enemy to a writer – you’re on deadline to finish, that proposal to Agent X was sent six weeks ago and you haven’t heard, it’s been a year since you last published …

… and now we’re all stuck at home watching time drip away while we’re unable to do anything about it.

If it helps, I share your pain. I’m launching my third novel in two months, and rethinking and reshaping my launch plans on an almost daily basis – especially considering we don’t have an end date for this yet.

But time is always a writer’s friend. Time gives us a chance to percolate our ideas rather than microwave them. Time allows us to craft rather than mass-produce, and our writing can be better for it.

Maybe this forced downtime is a time for you to work out how best to use time for your advantage, and not just power ahead. I’ve got to say, I’m starting to see the whole “you’ve got all this time on your hands now, go write another book” argument wearing thin. The writers I’m in contact with are also entertaining their families, having conversations with loved ones, playing board games, homeschooling, teaching life lessons to their kids or doing those jobs around the house that have been shoved aside for some time. And cleaning … endless cleaning. In fact, I’ve heard a number of people say (via posts or emails) that they’ve never been busier.

So how can you use time to your advantage during this time? What can you do beyond simply trying to smash out another novel?

  1. Read something unusual. I know we’ve all got our favorite genres or authors, but why not take time to read something outside your comfort zone? And read it as a writer – look at this new author’s craft, their storytelling or the way that they produce characters.
  2. Read writing craft books. Pick a topic you know you’d like to improve in, and read about it. But don’t then instantly write, just soak in it and allow it to challenge your thinking about writing as much as your writing.
  3. Build one part of your platform. I know the entire world seems to have moved into social media. So while you’re there connecting with everyone, why not focus on just one part of your platform and build it? Just focus on one, not the whole thing.
  4. Build relationships with others as a reader, not a writer. This is one I’ve challenged myself to do. When you’re running a platform, there can be a temptation to sell, sell, sell. But take this time to connect with people.
  5. Freeform blog post. If you do want to write, why not just write a blog post that comes from the heart? If you’re happy to publish it, it will help your readers get to know you as a person as well as an author.

So there are a few ideas … which ways have you identified are the best ways you can use this downtime as a writer?

One Reply to “Self-isolation for writers – what to do beyond “just write another book””

  1. David,
    Thanks for this article.
    Contrary to the writers you heard from, I’m still working, since the business I work at is retail grocery/department. Truthfully, I would like to be home all the time, introvert that I am! 🙂
    When home, I write blog posts and devotionals and do online writing courses. I bought a lot of online courses last year. Back in January, I set the goal of finishing all the courses this year. I set another goal of submitting more devotionals, short stories and magazine articles than I did before. Lord willing, I’ll get both those goals completed this year.

    Like

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