With more than 6.3 million people in the UK furloughed, and many more working reduced hours, you might expect writers to be getting more writing done than ever. But for many writers this isn't the case. Unprecedented disruption to daily routines and high levels of anxiety can make it difficult for some people to be creative.
So what can you do about it? With the prospect of lockdown extending into the foreseeable future, we spoke to Lynette Creswell, best-selling author of the Magic Trilogy, and award-winning writer Ted Stanley, who revealed some tips on how to keep writing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Go for a walk
With the government's restrictions on exercise lifted slightly, it's now possible to travel a little further afield for your daily exercise. Why not go for a long ramble through the countryside? Studies show that walking, even if it's simply on a treadmill in your living room, can drastically improve creative thinking and get those juices flowing. Next time you're stuck facing a blank page, why not give yourself permission to step away and go for a long stroll? You might just stumble across the blurb to your next bestselling novel.
Read a book In our fast-paced modern world, people often find it difficult to make the time to read. But now that the pace of life is significantly slower, this is the perfect chance to dust off all those classic novels you've been meaning to read. Ted Stanley has found reading to be of great benefit to him in the past. "Reading is an enjoyable escape from your own work, that can provide new ideas and inspiration," he says. "It not only expands your imagination, but your empathy and vocabulary. You really learn to recognise what works and what doesn't."
In fact many successful writers, such as Stephen King, also highly recommend the power of reading.
Author Lynette Creswell finds that visual images help stimulate her writing. "For example, I’ve opened a copy of a writing magazine and there’s a photograph of a woman on a harness and wearing a hard hat stood by huge crevice. My first thought is who is the woman and more importantly... what’s down the hole? Straight away there’s a story forming in my mind of a lost world with prehistoric animals, waiting to give her the adventure of a lifetime."
And even though many of us can no longer leave the house, there are a wealth of resources available for free online. "I use the website Pinterest," Lynette says. "You can find anything on there, from a wedding dress to the African Rainforest. Also, if you’re struggling to come up with ideas google funny stories that hit the headlines. Perhaps you can come up with a different spin on a story."
Free-writing is an ever popular way to generate new ideas, or to beat writers' block. Simply pick up a pen, or set up a blank word document – and write. You can use a random generated sentence to start you off if you like. Write whatever comes into your head first. Don't stop to think about it and don't worry about grammar or spelling – you can always come back to these things later. "You'll be amazed at how much better your writing flows after a period of free-writing," says Ted.
So why not give it a try? Watch out for our Free-Writing Challenge, coming to Hammond House very soon.
Use Idea Generation Techniques
There are hundreds of exercises out there that can help to kickstart your creativity. In a previous article we listed a number of our favourites, including using a Random Word Generator. Lynette suggests using a title as a prompt. Here are ten to help you get started:
1. The Candy Man
2. The Covid War
3. The Stepping Stone
4. The Hundred-Million Stake-Out
5. The Glass-Bottomed Boat
6. Philippa’s Garden
7. Death by Chocolate
8. The Bone Shaker
9. Dragons Blood
10. Tea With Mr Grey
Do you have any writing tips that have worked for you? Email your personal tips to firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to be featured in upcoming posts.
Our writing competitions are a great opportunity to put some of these tips into practise. Staying Home, our free competition, runs until the 8th June 2020, and our annual competition, with the theme of Survival, runs until the 30th September 2020.
Many of these tips were taken from the Secrets of Storytelling, an upcoming series of online writing workshops hosted by Ted Stanley. Stay tuned for more information on how to access these workshops.