I must admit the one thing the lockdown has done which I hadn’t expected has been to reduce my reading! You would expect the opposite, would you not?
I’ve found writing to be no problem at all but it is as if my subconscious is saying “you can do one creative activity, Madam, but you’re not doing two”.
Writers and the Lockdown
On chatting with other writers (via Zoom of course), I’ve found we seem to be split into two camps. There are those who have read so much more than normal but have struggled to write a thing. And then there are those like me who have written but not felt like reading.
If I can predict something with reasonable accuracy, it is that there will be lots of books and stories coming out about the lockdown and its effects. They’ll be excellent stories but I can’t bring myself to write about this at all.
I’m writing crime stories (and have just drafted a flash fiction piece on this), I’m sending in stories for markets and competitions, and have made my first video. More on that in a moment but everything has been on topics well away from the coronavirus.
Indeed this is the first and likely to be one of the few pieces where I mention it at all. I can see I might use it as a reference point (in terms of setting a time period for a story) at a later date but that I think will be all I will do with this fiction wise.
My Reaction to the Lockdown
My natural reaction when life is grim is turn to fiction’s lighter departments and go for a laugh where possible. For me, this means revisiting the works of P.G. Wodehouse, Jane Austen, and Terry Pratchett. Now there is a trio for you!
On the plus side, I am submitting more stories for consideration. I’ve always found writing to be therapeutic and never more so than now. It is my creative outlet and it is my belief that most people need at least one form of creativity. There is something about producing something for the love of it that is really special.
I’ve enjoyed seeing on Facebook (and walking around Chandler’s Ford with Lady) the various pictures and knitted items people have made for the bin men etc. I would take my hat off, if I ever wore one, to those who can knit, crochet, sew, paint etc., given I can do none of those things but it is the creative endeavour behind them as well as the results that I admire. And I very much hope the people behind them were cheered up by their own creative efforts here as well as by the positive responses to them.
Where writing is interesting for me is where I have to invent characters all the time. I also love mixing up flash fiction with short story writing with blogging. And making my first video this past week was huge fun and took me out of my comfort zone. Now I don’t actually mind doing that as long as it is related to writing in some way. I’m not about to go out of my comfort zone by bungee jumping or anything like that (and good luck to you if you do!).
Why the video?
I’m pleased to say my story Books and Barbarians is one of the winning entries to the Waterloo Arts Festival this year. I’ve been a winner in their last two competitions and I am particularly pleased with winning again. There were two ebooks produced for the previous two competitions – To Be… To Become and Transforming Being – and now there is a third one in the offing to be called Transforming Communities, there will be a paperback version of all three “ebooks”. A book has to have a certain physical size to be able to produce it as a paperback and now there are three lots of about 20,000 words in each compilation, this can be done. So I am looking forward to this year’s ebook due out in June and the paperback in due course.
Normally I would have gone to London for the Festival. The plan would have been meet up with writer pals for a wonderful pub lunch (we all so look forward to that!), go to the Festival, engage with readers, read from our stories, hopefully sell a few books, find out the latest news from Bridge House Publishing, and go home, having had a wonderful day out. Sadly, that of course is off for this year and the entire Festival will be online. So if there is to a pub lunch, it will have to be a virtual one!
The writing aspect of it will be taking place in mid June and I hope to share further details on that when I know a bit more. My video for this was taken with my smartphone and I had to introduce myself, read a short extract from my winning story (we want people to buy the ebook!), and recommend one book for others to read.
I nominated The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey which I’ve mentioned before as being the only novel ever to change my mind about something – in this case the reputation of King Richard III. I know I’m not the only one that book has done this to either! Anyway, the video was great fun to do and I shared it via Dropbox with Bridge House Publishing who are compiling videos and other material for the writing side of the Arts Festival. It will be interesting to see how that works out and I hope more people might engage with material online leading to more people actually coming to the Festival in 2021.
So this lockdown then? What do I make of it? Creativity wise, the writing is coming along fine but I wish the reading would pick up. I’m sure it will soon. Reading is the flip side to writing and I’m never away from it that long but it is a pain.
It is some comfort to know other writers are finding this too. I do wonder if in writing stories and posts like this which I hope will be entertaining and possibly useful, that is somehow more “worthy” than “just” reading given the latter will only give me a wonderful way to relax! There are times when the Protestant work ethic can be a pain and I say that as a Protestant!
I just need to convince myself reading is work and in many ways it is to a writer. You have to read well to know what it is you want to write and learn from those who’ve gone before and your contemporaries. But my inner critic (the one I tell harshly to shut up when I’m trying to get a first draft written) is having none of it at the moment.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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