For this special edition of Inspirational Indie Authors, “Writing on Lockdown,” I’m going to do something a little different. I’ve asked the other AskALLi podcasters, and a few previous guests, to talk to us about how they’re coping during the COVID-19 crisis, how they are staying connected with other writers and with their readers, and to contribute some inspirational words on how to continue to write under this kind of stress.
Every week I interview a member of ALLi to talk about their writing and what inspires them, and why they are inspiring to other authors.
A few highlights:
Joanna Penn, on Rebooting Her Writing Soundtrack
I put on the Game of Thrones instrumental soundtrack, which is pretty epic, and I write. And the change of sound has worked well because I just found the rain and thunderstorms associated me with my old routine and I needed to reboot.
Sacha Black, on Mental Health
The important thing is that you look after your health, look after your mental health, and try and look for the silver linings in this experience—be it quality time with your family, the ability to get more words or just the ability to relax.
Dan Holloway, on the Indie Principle
There’s a lot of good advice floating around right now, a lot of people saying do it like this, and if you can’t do it like that, it can feel really alienating. So, I think it’s very important to remember the indie principle. You don’t have to do it someone else’s way. Do what works for you.
Listen to the Podcast: Writing on Lockdown
Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or Spotify.On this special podcast, @howard_lovy asked ALLi podcasters and previous guests to talk about how they continue to write under COVID-19 stress. Click To Tweet
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About the Host
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last six years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Read the Transcript: Writing on Lockdown
Howard Lovy: I’m Howard Lovy and you’re listening to Inspirational Indie Authors.
The other night I had one of those anxiety dreams where you accidentally show up for work in only your underwear. Under dream logic, though, I was not embarrassed that I was almost naked in the office. No, what bothered me more was that what I was typing on the keyboard bore no resemblance to what actually appeared on the screen.
I seemed to be unable to write a single coherent sentence. But something else was wrong too—like a tickle in the back of my brain.
It wasn’t until I woke up that I remembered that I was dreaming about a job and an office I haven’t been to in about two and a half years. In late 2017, The book review magazine where I was executive editor ran out of money to pay me, and so I was flung out into the work-from-home world, where I tried my luck as a freelancer.
In a way, I got a head start on what is happening to other writers around the world as a result of COVID-19, forced out of their day jobs to sit at home and try to write for food. It’s not easy, but it is important to conquer fear and anxiety, two debilitating emotions that were probably the basis for my strange dream.
The best thing for any writer to do to conquer fear is to focus on your strengths. For me, that strength was building on my 35 years as a journalist and interviewing indie authors for the Alliance of Independent Authors. And now, during the COVID-19 crisis, I’m grateful to ALLi for giving me this platform to do what I do best.
This show is not only about these author’s books, but also of their life stories. To me, how they came to indie writing, what they did before, is just as fascinating as their books.
So, for this special edition of Inspirational Indie Authors, I’m going to do something a little different. I’ve asked the other #AskALLi podcasters and a few previous guests to talk about how they’re coping during the COVID-19 crisis and how they are staying connected with other writers and with their readers, and to contribute some inspirational words on how to continue to write under this kind of stress.
First up is author Sacha Black, co-host of our #AskALLi Fiction and Nonfiction podcast.
Sacha Black: In these trying times, my best advice to you is to be kind to yourself.
I know it sounds easier said than done, but this is a crisis, and when you are in a crisis, you cannot expect to get as much work or as many productive things done as you would normally. It’s okay if you don’t get words.
It’s okay if you have to move your deadlines. The important thing is that you look after your health, look after your mental health, and try and look for the silver linings in this experience—be it quality time with your family, the ability to get more words or just the ability to relax, binge watch something or read that book you’ve been meaning to.
And if getting projects or writing done is one of your priorities right now, then my best advice to you would be to, if you have children, to take it in turns with your partner or to write in the twilight hours; the moments before and after the day when your kids are awake.
And I know that’s not ideal, many of us either struggle to write in the morning or struggle to write in the evening, but I suppose we have to take the time that we can, when we can and relish whatever we can get done.
And also, celebrate the small wins. Even if you get 500 words or a hundred words done, celebrate, be happy and keep going.
Adam Croft: Hello, it’s Adam Croft here. We’re all worried and anxious about the situation the world’s in right now, whether we’re writers, readers, neither or both. But as writers, we provide escapism, and that’s a word I’ve never heard as much as I have this past couple of weeks, and it shouldn’t be underestimated.
Light entertainment is at an absolute premium, and I’ve found this to be a fantastic way of connecting with readers and keeping their spirits bright through the pandemic. For instance, I’ve got my audiobook narrator to produce daily updates in the character of DCI Jack Culverhouse, the detective in my Knight and Culverhouse series, which I’m putting in the Adam Croft readers group on Facebook.
Readers love hearing from Jack in-person and it’s a novelty which keeps them entertained and amused. It’s a lot of work for both of us each day, but it’s gone down really well. Another thing I’ve done is to give my most expensive box set away for free. This has been hugely successful and has given me three storewide Amazon number ones in the past fortnight.
The sell-through has been fantastic, and readers have responded brilliantly to the gesture of goodwill, far better than they would have to an empty sales ad, which would have looked exploitative. Put yourself in their shoes, be human. Goodwill is huge right now and it will be rewarded. Readers and the general public can see who the good guys and the greedy guys are.
For other authors, I’ve also made my Productivity for Writers course completely free because I saw how many writers were struggling to get words down. It’s difficult when your head is taken up with death and destruction and anxiety. It’s difficult for all of us, but it will end. Things will get better.
Keep providing that escapism. Readers need you right now.
Joanna Penn: Hello creatives. I’m Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com and to be honest, I stopped working on my novel in progress on the 6th of March when things started to get serious here in the UK. A week later, we went into lockdown and I’ve been going through the various stages of grief that we are all going through.
So, that’s my first tip. Be gentle with yourself and let your emotions be what they are.
I’ve been journaling a lot and I wrote a piece on the importance of home for my books and travel podcast because I have a very international family. I’ve also been working on nonfiction and online courses because we all need to protect our income streams online if we can.
For my mental health, I’ve been reading a lot and walking in the lovely spring sunshine along the canal, listening to the birds. I’ve also been doing weight training at home over Skype with my trainer, which helps as I get a real endorphin rush after that.
Then, last week I realized that I was still in denial. I hadn’t touched my novel for a month and my usual writing routine was disrupted, not for the short term, but potentially for a long time. Even when this lockdown is lifted, it will likely be awhile until we can go back to the cafes and maybe my favorite independent coffee shop will be gone by the time I can return.
So, for years now, I’ve been a morning writer, going to the cafe first thing, listening to rain and thunderstorms. I’ve literally listened to the same album for a decade, and my home office has been for admin and podcasting and business stuff, but I realized I had to make a shift or I was never going to get back to writing my novel.
So now I have rebooted my process and I’m now an afternoon writer. The morning is for exercise and that is critical, plus admin and getting things out of the way. So, before lunch, I close everything down on my laptop, everything. And then I open Scrivener, so it’s sitting there on my desktop. And then I have my lunch and when I returned to my desk, I put on the Game of Thrones instrumental soundtrack, which is pretty epic, and I write. And the change of sound has worked well because I just found the rain and thunderstorms associated me with my old routine and I needed to reboot.
And this new process has resulted in getting back into my novel, Map of the Impossible, and I’ve written over 8,000 words this week, which just feels good to have something back under my control.
So, my tip is, check in with yourself. Are you still in denial that things have changed? And once you have accepted this new normal, how can you design a new routine? How can you shift things around so you can still create even in the midst of this crazy time?
So, stay safe, my friends. And for more tips, come on over to the Creative Penn podcast. Bye for now.
Michael La Ronn: My name is Michael La Ronn. I’m an author, podcaster and YouTuber, and I run the YouTube channel, authorlevelup.com and I also co-host the #AskALLi Member Q&A podcast with Orna Ross.
I can tell you that this crisis has definitely taken its emotional toll on me, and I’ve had my ups and downs. And the one thing that has kept me going in this is the fact that, we as writers, have the best coping mechanism of all time, and that is that we have the ability to write. We can escape into the page and the written word and use that as therapy and use that as a coping mechanism.
And I take solace in the fact that I’m still able to write, even though anxiety is high and, it’s a great escape for me personally, and it takes me into a world that I can control, and I think that that’s a beautiful thing during this difficult time.
My message to you in this hard time is to remember why you’re doing this in the first place and reconnect with your why. We are so fortunate to have a coping mechanism as writers that is healthy and that can even make us money. And so, don’t lose sight of that during this difficult time.
I wish everyone well, stay healthy and take care.
Jules Horne: Hi, I’m Jules Horne. I live in the rural part of Scotland, so I’m very fortunate to have fields and hens round and I don’t need to go to the shops that often. Life is pretty isolated anyway here, and I’ve not had anything like the challenges faced by other people who are frontline workers. The main challenge is supporting parents who live remotely and having people around all the time, but I’ve still found it unsettling and hard to work.
It’s thrown different things into perspective and I’ve found myself doing short projects, things with immediacy, short films, poems, things that I can finish quickly and take more creative risks, try new things. It’s felt more like sketching than writing. I’ve also had more spontaneous catchups with friends, often old writing friends in different parts of the world, which has been great.
I’m not sure why, but it’s felt important to cut myself some slack about the work ethic. It’s felt more important to be playful and cheer each other up. So, following creative instincts rather than slogging away on a long project. It’s made me realize there’s another dimension, a stiller one, an instinctive and playful one, that I don’t often tap into when I’m in my usual routine or on the usual work treadmill.
So, it’s been a shakeup in that good way and renewing as well as having challenges. The other change has been doing things together with my partner. So, a small shared creative moment, even as simple as going for a walk and taking photos, appreciating those around and what’s here.
For writers struggling with their situation, I’d say, don’t be hard on yourself. Enjoy the small things, the moments and what’s close. The horizons feel different just now, the frame is different. Maybe small things include short forms of writing, letters, poems, fleeting sketches, and your notebook. Gathering and filling your creative well for later.
And if you can’t settle, that’s okay. It’s still writing.
Dan Holloway: Hi, it’s Dan Holloway here, your Self-Publishing News editor. It’s lovely to have this chance to say hello to everyone, so thank you to Howard and thank you to ALLi. I’ve got a couple of things I think it’s important to say at a time like this.
As many of you will know, one of the hats I wear is campaigning on mental health issues and I have more than 30 years of experience of living with bipolar as well as a life of ADHD and dyspraxia. I’m finding things really hard right now and I think it’s important for other people struggling to hear that they’re not alone.
For all my love of many things digital, I find remote spoken communication almost impossible, which means that I’m actually finding myself growing more distant from many of the communities I rely on for my wellbeing at a time when many are coming closer. Again, I think that’s important to say. I’m also noticing how many of my friends live in very different surroundings from mine. To have a garden, for example, or stairs in your home is something I could only begin to imagine.
But putting the news together for you all every week is giving my life essential structure and remains one of the things in life I truly love doing, and I’ve been surprised to find that I’m still able to write. I honestly thought I wouldn’t manage, and I want everyone who can’t to know that that’s okay too.
So, a final message, there’s a lot of good advice floating around right now, a lot of people saying do it like this, and if you can’t do it like that, it can feel really alienating. So, I think it’s very important to remember the indie principle. You don’t have to do it someone else’s way. Do what works for you.
Take care, everyone and do you make sure to check out the Self-Publishing News every Wednesday. Thank you.
Jude Lennon: Hi, this is Jude Lennon here. I am an author and storyteller based in Liverpool in the UK. I’m normally a half-full person anyway, but obviously, we’re in different times at the moment and it’s been a learning curve for us all. Some days, steeper learning curve than others. But I just wanted to share some of my thoughts with you really.
So, I’m staying connected with my readers in a few different ways. I am running a live storytelling session three times a week on my Little Lamb Tales storytelling page, and I’m also doing some live book readings two days a week on my author page, and I’ve actually had messages from schools and from parents to say how much the children are enjoying them, so that’s really great. It gives me a great feeling that in even in this time of stress, stories are reaching out to children and helping them cope with this very difficult situation.
I’m also connected with my readers every day on my author page. I do this on my personal page as well, actually, I do my three Ps. So, I talk about something positive from the day, something productive, and then I share a photo, whatever that photo might be.
And I’ve shared all kinds of things. In terms of just sorting out my writing room, reorganizing shelves could be the productive thing. Writing something from my WIP. There are all kinds of different things I’ve put in there just to engage people and I’ve found a lot of engagement with those posts actually. A lot of people have said they’ve enjoyed them and have taken a bit of heart from them, I suppose.
In terms of writing itself, that’s a funny one, I’m in quite a few writing groups and there’s quite few of us who meet up regularly, normally face to face, and we’ve been doing that through Zoom instead, and we’ve all said the same thing that we’ve never had so much time to devote to writing.
But equally, we’ve never had less inclination to do so, to put pen to paper. And I think that’s probably okay for the first couple of weeks. I think we all needed, time to adjust to this new kind of normal. And so, I have decided I’m not going to beat myself up about that and instead I am setting myself very, very reachable, doable tasks for the day. So, I write a list every day of the things I want to get done, and then I can tick them off. So, I’m actually not putting too much pressure on myself, and I think that’s a really, really important thing. We’ve got enough pressure to worry about the moment without putting additional pressure on ourselves.
So I’ve reduced the number of words that I am hoping to get done each day, and I think that’s probably a good thing because then by the end of it, whatever words I have achieved, whatever I have managed to do will be fine. You know, it is what it is, and I think that’s important to remember.
So, they’re the three things I really wanted to sort of just talk about. I’m still maintaining contact with my readership. I’m doing my three Ps a day and I’m not putting too much pressure on myself, and I think those are good things to remember. I hope you all stay safe and well, and if your creative pen decides to flow, then absolutely brilliant, but if it doesn’t, just let it go. It will come back. It will come back when it’s ready. Okay. Thanks ever so much for listening. I hope that’s given you some words of comfort or some food for thought. So that’s Jude Lennon, author and storyteller. Thanks very much.
Dianne Dotson: Hi everyone. I’m author J. Dianne Dotson. I’m also a science writer and I’m coming to you from San Diego and I hope that you are all doing as best you can during all this, staying healthy, staying safe, staying home if at all possible.
And I just want to say you all inspire me with all of your posts, and I wish I could go through every single one; I follow a lot of people. But I just want you to know that you’re really great, that we will make it through this. I know this is hard. It’s probably going to get harder before it gets easier, but just know that we really are all in it together and, you know, I’ve struggled with it for a while, but I think I’m kind of entering a plateau of just being more accepting of the situation and making it work.
I’ve actually found that it’s really hard to create right now. I can’t really do artwork or write fiction. I’m actually writing science related content for my jobs related to the current situation. But you know, you don’t have to make the loaf of bread, you don’t have to write the next great novel, or a bunch of sonnets, or do a bunch of art right now, unless that’s what you want to do.
You know, it’s okay to have a strange sleep schedule until your body adjusts. This is normal to adjust during a time of great stress, and I just want to encourage you to be kind to yourself and know that you’re not alone in feeling really disoriented by this because this is an unprecedented situation.
So, let’s live long and prosper on this First Contact Day, and I wish all of you good health, safety, and friendship. And all the things that you miss right now, I wish that all of us get them again soon. Take care.
Howard Lovy: I also want to acknowledge our leader, Orna Ross, director of the Alliance of Independent Authors, who contracted COVID-19 and I’m very happy to say, has recovered from the illness. Thank you again to Sacha Black, Jude Lennon, Jules Horne, Dan Holloway, Michael La Ronn, Joanna Penn, Adam Croft, and J. Dianne Dotson for their contributions to this show.