Lockdown – How has it been for you?

This morning, the weather was lovely and my partner and I went for a bike ride. By the time we got home, I felt pretty good. In fact, I’ve been feeling okay for a while now. Which brings me to ask – how has lockdown been for you?   

I’ve been thinking about this since we bumped into a friend a few days ago on our daily walk – not literally, obviously, we kept our distance. She asked what we’d been doing with ourselves in lockdown. At the time we just shrugged and said something like ‘This and that. Not much,’ but the question stayed with me. When I thought about it properly I realised that I’ve actually done quite a lot.

If a lockdown experience can be described as good or bad, without being crass, then I’d say mine has been quite a good one. Don’t get me wrong, this situation is awful and horrifying. There are days when the sheer numbers of people dying, mostly alone and frightened, overwhelms me with sadness and anger. I miss my family and friends and I miss going out. So many things have been cancelled this year that mean a lot and that’s sad but not the end of the world. At least I, and the people I care about, have stayed healthy and safe.

But amongst the horror, some good things are happening. I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a house, a garden and some great places nearby to go to. I live close to some wonderful parks and canals and all of them fill me with joy and calm. So, in respect of outdoor spaces, I want for nothing and while I can’t do everything I want to, I find myself busier than I’ve ever been. I’m talking and sharing much more than I did pre-lockdown on all of the WhatsApp and Facebook groups that seem to have sprung up in lieu of physical contact.

My local spaces: sights that fill me with joy and calm.

My writer’s group normally meets twice a month with an occasional extra social but now that we’ve gone online, there seems to be a reason to meet up every week – workshops; writing prompts; beta read feedback sessions. It’s a great way of keeping ourselves connected and in touch with writing.

In fact, the wider writing community has been phenomenal in providing support for writers at all levels. There have been a staggering number of giveaways from those that normally make at least part of their living by providing a support service. To name a few – Jericho Writers gave away a free 14-day membership in April with access to a plethora of helpful masterclasses and webinars. Writers HQ continue to provide free masterclasses and writing retreats throughout lockdown. And my latest find, courtesy of indie author Rachel Mclean, is Mark Dawson, top selling author and self-publishing guru. Mark usually gives away a wide range of books to help other writers get on in their careers and an occasional course (I have just finished one on list building and Facebook ads which was eye-opening). Currently, he’s also giving free access to his Self-Publishing Formula University and it’s packed with all sorts of useful advice for those authors considering going indie. I, for one, will be making full use of it.

With the usual distractions unavailable to me, I’ve spent more time focussing on my writing. The first thing I did was take a good look at my draft novel. As a result, the book I thought I’d finished ended up with another, quite ruthless, edit. I changed the title, moved some of the chapters around and rewrote the ending, but I’m convinced I’ve ended up with a stronger story as a result.

Replanning Netta: Taking a good look at my novel

In April, it was NaPoWriMo and I managed to draft thirty poems without too much difficulty. Although, it has to be said, some of them will need a lot of rework before they see the light of day. With the benefit of reflection, a few of them felt more like flash fiction than poems but that’s okay. Whatever works. Here’s one that was published on Friday Flash Fiction that I’m particularly pleased with.

That’s the other thing I’ve been doing – submitting my work. A fellow writing group member has challenged herself to send off a hundred submissions this year in order to rid herself of the fear of rejection. Inspired by this I’ve set myself a target of fifty. So, I’ve been submitting my novel to agents and my poem and short stories to other outlets. As I’m quite impatient and can only wait so long for agents to find my book irresistible, next on the list will be publishers. And I’m not ruling out self-publishing at this stage. I like to keep my options open.

All in all, it’s been a productive lockdown for me. Surprisingly though, I haven’t read as much as I normally do. Maybe I’ve been too productive. Or maybe, I’ve found other things to occupy my evenings and weekends. Here are a few that might interest you too:

The Hay Festival Online

My Virtual Literary Festival

National Theatre at Home

Folk On Foot Front Room Festival

Jay’s Virtual Pub Quiz

So, that’s my lockdown to date. I’m just about keeping my head up and making the most of it. I guess I’m just happy to be here.

What about you? How are you doing?  Post a comment at the top of this post and share your thoughts. I’d love to know.

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