27 Nov 2020

10 Things Writers can do While Sheltering in Place During the Coronavirus Outbreak

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Guest post by Graham Salwell

Writers sheltering in placeAs the novel coronavirus, formally known as Covid-19, rips around the world, wreaking havoc on healthcare systems and dismantling economies, the vast majority of us who are fortunate enough to not get sick have been forced to take refuge within the confines of our own homes. For most people, this means lots of Netflix and video games. In other words, idle activities meant to help pass the time.

However, if you’re an aspiring writer, or a current one who has been forced to put certain projects on hold, this time spent “sheltering in place” can be super helpful for your career. But only if you make good use of it.

It’s so stressful it’s easy to give into writer’s block. So, to prevent this, keep busy and write.

To help you do this, here are some things you as a writer can do while self-isolating that will help you improve.

1. Establish a Writing Routine

The best way to improve as a writer is, well, to write. A lot. Really, you should be writing every single day. However, for many of us, it’s much easier to say we’ll write every day than it is to actually do it. But with all this time on our hands while sheltering in place, this is your chance to build writing into your routine.

A good thing to do is to set yourself a daily word goal. It doesn’t matter what it is, but make sure you hit it each day. Over time, during this period of self-isolation, writing will become a part of your daily life, and when things eventually return to normal, it will be much easier to stay disciplined and keep writing consistently.

2. Read

Next to writing every day, the best thing you can do to improve your writing is to read. Seeing what other writers do will help you better understand the language, grasp narrative techniques, get new ideas for your writing, and much more. But in our normal lives, most of us are lucky to get through a few books a year. Yet now that you have all this time on your hands, you’ve got a great chance to get some reading done and learn from fellow authors.

3. Start a Blog

Blogs have been giving writers the chance to express their views freely since the early days of the internet. They’re a great way for you to not only practice your writing but also to develop yourself as a trusted voice with a following. This way, when you go to publish something, or promote some sort of a product, you will have a platform upon which you can build.

If you’re already writing professionally, there’s a chance you’ve been creating content already for other blogs. But now that you’re forced to be home, it’s a great chance to finally dedicate the time needed to set up and maintain a blog.

4. Take a Writing Course

While writing constantly and reading a lot will help you improve, there’s still a lot of value in formal education. Working with established writers or other professionals will help you better understand what makes good writing and what you can be doing to improve.

These courses could involve you submitting your own work for review, or they could be based more on analyzing existing works to better understand the elements of quality writing. While sheltering in place, you can use virtual training instead of going to college or attending a group.

In many cases, you can find stuff for free, but it’s not a bad idea to spend some money. A small investment of a few hundred dollars can really help you get a lot better as a writer.

5. Connect with Other Writers

Working with other writers is a great way to improve while sheltering in place. They can read your work, provide suggestions, help you edit, and more. You may have some friends who are also writers, but it’s often best to work with other people who might be a bit more candid with their comments.

With all this time on your hands, this is a great chance to try and find some fellow writers to help you improve. Use Facebook, Meetup, Medium, or blog networks such as WordPress or Blogger to help you find people, and then you can use video chats, Google Docs, or any other online tool to collaborate and help one another improve.

6. Work from Prompts

Writing prompts are a fun way to help you as they force you to write about things you might not normally be interested in writing about. They are great for developing creativity and for helping you work out how to find motivation and inspiration even in moments where you don’t really feel like sitting down and writing.

7. Practice Vocabulary

Vocabulary is one of the most important tools in a writer’s arsenal. Being able to use words that more succinctly describe what it is your imagining will greatly strengthen your writing. Reading lots will help expose you to new words, but one thing you can do while you have no other choice but to remain home is to actively practice your vocabulary.

Do a Google search for vocabulary lists and make flashcards. It might feel like you’re back in school, but this is a great way to make the most of your time and learn something that will help you improve as a writer.

8. Revisit Old Work

As writers, we’re improving all the time. As a result, something we’ve written in the past, whether it be months or years ago, is not going to be up to our standards for today. A good way to improve your skills is to go back and look at some of your old work and edit it so that it’s reflective of who you are as a writer now. This will help you identify some of the common mistakes you commit, which will make it easier for you to avoid them moving forward and focus on other aspects you need to improve on to become a better writer.

Under normal circumstances, no one has time to do this. But now that we’re sheltering in place, why not do it now?

9. Record Yourself and Transcribe

No matter how much you love writing, it can, at times, be taxing. One way to overcome fatigue is to record yourself and then transcribe what you’ve spoken. This is something we rarely have time to do, but it can also help get your mind working in new ways so that you can extract new ideas and get better at what you do.

10. Write Poetry

Whether or not you’re interested in becoming a poet, writing poetry is a wonderfully beneficial activity. Since the goal of poetry is to capture emotions, moments, scenes, etc. using as few words as possible, writing it helps you learn how to use words in new ways, which you can then apply to your other writing projects to make them even better.

Don’t worry about writing “good” poetry, as this concept is rather subjective anyway. Plus, no one has to see it but you. But make a goal of writing one small poem a day, and during this period of self-isolation, this will help you become much better with words.

Make Every Moment Count

While you’re sheltering in place, there will of course be lots of time for Netflix, movie watching, game playing, and aimless walking around the neighborhood. But don’t let this unique time where the best thing you can do for society is staying home go to waste. Instead, seize it as an opportunity to hone your craft and become a better writer by doing some or all the things on this list.

What are you doing to keep yourself busy? Leave a comment telling us about your writing tips while stuck indoors.

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Yvette Williams

Excellent tips for more a productive writing experience!

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