Writing in Quarantine

A novice’s guide to finding the strength and motivation to actually get stuff done

By Lauren Ablondi-Olivo

If you’re anything like me, writing is hard enough as it is without a literal, global pandemic going on around us (creepily similar to the dystopian futures you read about in Station’s Eleven, or Life as We Knew It). Many creative people have shared on sites like Twitter and beyond that all of their creative energy has vanished and they’re getting nothing done. Even wildly popular author Casey McQuiston, who is writing her third book — which is due while still in quarantine — is having a tough time.

So when everything seems like a giant dumpster fire all around us, how are we supposed to log any words about our cutesy, cliche, YA rom-coms, or our action packed, hero-led dramas? Does it even matter anymore? Does any of it matter? *she shouts into the void*

It does. It does now more than ever. So here are some tips to get you out of your rut, if only for a fleeting twenty-five minutes: 

  1. Set a timer

This is basically my favorite rule for doing anything productive, whether it’s cleaning, studying, or, you guessed it, writing. I like to set my timer for twenty minutes. Within those twenty minutes, I try to be as productive as possible. So, for writing, I try to write as much as I can, even if it’s total garbage, because at least I’m getting something on the page. Then, after twenty minutes, I take a ten minute break so I can do all the things that were going to distract me before, like Googling whether or not Koala’s are lifetime mates, or doing some jumping jacks. Then, after ten minutes, I start the twenty minutes back up again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  1. Same place, same time?

Something else that has been instrumental in my writing process throughout all of this is writing in the same place at the same time. For me, that’s always in the morning in the same corner of my favorite couch in my living room. I try to dedicate at least half an hour to writing, but sometimes it’s two hours, and sometimes it’s five minutes. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you create a habit and a routine. Humans are simple; we love routine. Doing this for yourself will help the words flow better in time. 

  1. Track your word count!

As with anything you want to work on, keeping a record or a tally to document your progress is extremely helpful. If you don’t realize how much you’re writing, you might not realize how much you’re actually getting done. At the end of the day, make sure you check how many words you’ve written so you know how much to shoot for the next day. 

  1. Read, read, read!

One of the most important pieces of advice I have received from professional and published writers over the years is to read as much as possible, both in your genre and out! Reading gives you inspiration and can always teach you tricks and techniques to use in your own projects, too. Plus, it’s just dang fun, and what else do you have to do in quarantine?

Lauren Ablondi-Olivo is the Long River Review fiction panel editor. She can be reached lauren.ablondi@uconn.edu.

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