Last month I set myself the goal of writing the first draft of my second novel by the end of March. I’m very regimented with book writing – I have a spreadsheet which I update daily to track how many words I’ve written, what percentage of the book that equates to, and where my word count should be if I want to stay on track to reach my target.
I was doing really well. 50,000 words down, 20,000 to go, 70% done.
Then Coronavirus hit.
In the writing world, it’s generally accepted that you fit into one of two camps: planners, and pantsers. I am a pantser, which means I fly by the seat of my pants as I write. I know the general plot, where my characters begin, and where they end (potentially). Everything else, I figure out as I go.
When things got very real, very quickly rona-wise, I found myself lacking the head space required to imagine what happens next for my characters, and I freaked right out. If I couldn’t come up with ideas for what happened next, then I couldn’t write, and I couldn’t achieve my self-imposed deadline of the end of March.
Luke looked at me and kindly said “Abby, are you really putting pressure on yourself to finish your book? We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. You don’t need to worry about your book right now.”
And he’s right. I don’t. At some point, things will settle down and I’ll have the mental capacity to continue writing. For now though, it’s on the back burner, and I’m okay with that.
It can be tempting to view this time as an opportunity to achieve big things. And if you can, that’s great. But this time we’re in is weird. Our lives have been turned upside down abruptly, and the majority of us won’t have experienced this sort of global panic before.
I was thinking this morning about that time in 2018 when we had an unprecedented amount of sun and people were stressed because all of our grass turned to straw. Remember that? Ah, a simpler time.
If you’re putting pressure on yourself to maximise this downtime, I’d like to drop by with a little reminder:
It’s okay if:
- You don’t re-landscape the garden
- You don’t go for a run around the local park every day
- You don’t renovate your home
- You don’t write an award-winning screenplay
- You don’t become the next Mary Berry
- You don’t read all of the books
- You don’t set up a home gym
- You don’t learn how to cook
- You don’t de-clutter or finally shred the contents of that magazine file
- You don’t master latte art.
It’s okay if you don’t do anything other than sit on the sofa in your comfies watching boxsets or playing Animal Crossing.
If you are doing all of the above and finding joy in it, great. But if you’re seeing other people doing things and you’re feeling the pressure, please go easy on yourself. This time isn’t about thriving, it’s about surviving. The most important thing right now is that we stay safe, we protect others, and we make it out the other side. Which we will, by the way.
Do what you can to get through each day, and look after your mental health.
Full disclosure: I believe I have in fact mastered vegan chocolate chunk cookies. But I’m also sitting around in my pyjamas watching Disney+. And that’s okay too.