I promised myself I wouldn’t write any more about the pandemic, figuring many of us are already on overload. And for people who’ve lost loved ones, the topic is particularly painful.
But it seemed the pandemic hadn’t finished with me. For years people have urged me to write my life story. The truth is, I didn’t know where to start. Attending a writers’ conference in Sydney gave me a surprising answer.
Walking around the city led me to the former head office of hardware chain, Nock & Kirby. As a copywriter in the company’s advertising department, this was where my writing life truly began. Instantly I knew the way into my story.
I also decided I would indie-publish the book. This was a far steeper learning curve than expected but also hugely satisfying. I went from manuscript to paperback and ebook in under three months, admittedly with a lot of expert guidance. Without the restrictions of the pandemic, the book may never have happened at all.
At the same time I knew it wasn’t enough to record my own writing journey. The other side of me is a teacher and mentor to emerging writers. I decided to address that side through a series of “writing takeaways” linked to my experience of being published for over forty years. The book would thus be part memoir, part writing guide.
Then a writer who was also planning a memoir asked me if she had to start with her childhood and continue in life order, which she’d didn’t want to do. Was it okay to write in episodes or chapters with related content? That was soon after I launched 34 Million Books, and was exactly how I’d chosen to tell my story.
Right now a lot of creative people are struggling, with no or limited audiences for books and movies, except when streamed at home; when libraries can only allow a few people through their doors, and books must be disinfected before being reissued. As I say in my book, helplessness and despair don’t make good writing companions. Yet somehow we have to keep going for ourselves and our readers.
American writer. Kristine Kathryn Rusch blogged about her feelings during 9/11, saying, “Writing didn’t matter when faced with the loss of life and the outpouring of grief. [Then] I realised that escape is rest. It’s important. It gets us away from the horrors, the terrible things, the stresses and upsetting moments of everyday life.”
Here’s an excerpt from 34 Millions Books about writing in times of crisis:
1. Don’t make light of what you do. Stories provide an important respite from the trials of real life.
2. Realise that there have always been pandemics, floods, fires and other life-changing events. If you can’t write for the time being, do what you can to help, whether donating in cash or kind, or volunteering your services.
3. Tell yourself it’s okay not to write. Give yourself time and space to deal with the crisis around you. The manuscript will still be there when things improve. And so will you.
4. Give yourself a break from the turmoil. For me that’s when news media repeat the same stories and images over and over. It’s okay to screen out the drama for a time and make stories. If email and social media alerts keep dragging you back, find ways to filter important messages so you can focus on your work.
5. Refuse to feel guilty for doing something you love, something valuable and needed. By making sense of your own world, you help readers to do the same, as long as you keep writing.
Have you written about some of your experiences to help others? How do you keep focused during troubled times? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but if you click on “sign me up” at right, your comments can appear right away. I don’t share your details with anyone.
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