Writing in isolation can be a daunting task. How do you start the process alone?
Amelia Platt is a writer and student at Reepham Sixth Form. She has worked with NCW on numerous projects, including most recently joining our Lit from the Inside professional development programme for young people. Here, she lists her top tips for combatting writer’s block during isolation.
Allegedly, Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in isolation from the plague. As the number of submissions to agents and publishers spike during this lockdown period, an unexpected consequence of coronavirus may be a surge in creativity. Isolation has many benefits; giving people the space, time and quiet needed to create a bestseller!
However, in this blog, I want to explore the difficulties of writing in isolation and the ways in which we can combat it.
I believe there is a misconception about writing being a solitary activity. At many stages in the writing process, human connection is essential. Stories, poetry and even non-fiction are grounded in people. As readers and writers, we are deeply interested in the human condition and the questions and intrigues posed by human behaviour. Therefore, isolation poses a problem; how do we gain that elusive inspiration? Writing is also a continual process. Sharing ideas and criticism is a crucial part of writing and allowing work to develop. The very nature of writing is communal. All writers are influenced to some extent by other work they have read or the styles of authors they admire. Literature perhaps can be best described as a collage with work building on previous ideas and styles. Therefore, human interaction and communication are essential to the process of writing.
So, if writing is a social activity; where does this leave us as we try to cope with isolation?
Human connection is essential. Stories, poetry and even non-fiction are grounded in people
Uniting technology with the pen
One way is to experiment using apps such as Skype or Zoom. Virtual writing groups can be a great way to come with up ideas, share book recommendations and offer suggestions on writing. You can set group challenges. This is a great way to not only get the creative juices flowing but also to tackle loneliness.
If you’re isolating with your family then why not write together? The National Centre for Writing has a set of resources for young people including a great list of writing prompts. Writing together as a family may provide you with the perfect spark for the imagination!
Phone a friend
If you’re stuck for inspiration, then turning to your bookshelves may be the solution. During this period why not push yourself to read outside of your comfort zone and explore new genres and authors. If you don’t know where to start check out the regular Bibliotherapy blog from the National Centre for Writing – a weekly list of book recommendations – and while you’re at it, explore the whole of the NCW blog page which contains articles, interviews and podcasts…a guaranteed sure-fire way to improve your writing.
Time to explore
Isolation is providing many of us with more time so why not develop your talents within the sphere of writing. You could focus on a genre of writing or hone a skill. The National Centre for Writing offers a range of online writing courses to try.
If you want a completely different outlook why not explore poetry styles from around the world? I would recommend Rupinder Kaur, a Birmingham born Punjabi poet.
A goal to set your mind to can be helpful. There are loads of writing competitions to enter covering a wide of different genres, forms and audience. Here are a few to get you started.
- The King Lear Prize Committee recently launched the King Lear Prizes, a national arts competition for the over 70s
- The Bedford International Writing Competition – 2020 Short Story and Poetry Competition. This contains multiple categories
- The Young Norfolk Writing Competition for those aged 11-18 who live or go to school in Norfolk
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the blank page this is a useful exercise to try. Set the timer for five minutes and try to write solidly during this time. It can be on any topic. Afterwards read through your writing and select your three favourite words or phrases – these can them be used as story starters.
Finally, remember not to expect too much! These are difficult times and any writing should be seen as an achievement. It might not be King Lear, but it will be your work and that’s a masterpiece.
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