CREATIVITY DURING CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN
17th June 2020
Us writers are not always the most sociable of creatures. Many of us confess to a worrying ability to spend scary amounts of time on our lonesome, stuck indoors and (hopefully!) writing, or if not writing then at least thinking about writing (or as is more commonly known, procrastinating!)
But the Coronavirus lockdown has put even the sturdiest lone wolves amongst us to a test. And while the isolation endurance challenge continues, we thought we’d ask our colleagues how they’ve been coping and if their creativity has flourished like germs on the handle of a supermarket trolley, or crumpled like an overused tissue….
Here is what Dr Bea Hitchman, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, told us about her lockdown experience……
Writing in Captivity
Like most people, I’ve been spending lockdown making cups of teas and phoning my friends to say over and over how horrible it all is. Because I don’t know what’s good for me, I’ve also been depressively scrolling through all the Tweets which let us know that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while he was locked down in plague-stricken London.
I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it really hard to write during COVID. I tell myself that Shakespeare succeeded because, well, he was Shakespeare, but I think there’s something more existential going on. He didn’t have access to BBC News telling him 345 soulles loste to the pestilence this daye to put him off his stride. I mean, perhaps the town criers patrolled the streets screaming the bad news, but it’s hard to imagine he found himself in that weird space of being connected and disconnected that we’ve landed in today. We’re constantly Facetiming our friends and family, but, as Philippa Perry observes, a Zoom call or waving at someone through a window doesn’t feed your brain in the same way as an authentic, face-to-face connection. Rather, it may leave us feeling discombobulated and uneasy. In the similar way, the coronavirus is cognitive dissonance writ large — unknowable, invisible, intangible — until suddenly it isn’t, and it intrudes on our lives in a real and horrible way.
For me, writing feeds on connection: little inspirational links between things said and felt; what if questions that spiral out and up. When the collective psychic burden increases and squeezes out these meaningful connections, what to do? How to write?
Well, you could try my brilliant third-year student’s idea (thanks, Lauren!), which is to not allow yourself to write for more than twenty minutes a day. You might find that writing being proscribed rather than prescribed makes it seem more desirable. Or, you might try a different topic or genre from your usual stuff. With so much collective angst, it would make sense that what we write might change, as we try to process our new normal.
But what I suggest is simpler: take the pressure off. Make tea. Be kind to yourself. Know that if there is a connection between us right now, it’s that we’re all struggling for words. As Edgar in King Lear says: The weight of this sad time we must obey/ Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. If you have things to say, if the stories are flowing, I wish you good hunting; if not, come and join me on Twitter, where I’ll be thinking up some choice insults for the Bard for his insane productivity…
Thank you Bea, for sharing your thoughts with us! And how about you, the writer reading this….? Tell us your lockdown story! We look forward to reading your comments.