During these unprecedented times, even when writers like us are used to being stuck at home writing, it’s not easy to focus. We are worried about our family, our loved ones, whether our supply of chocolate will run out or even if we binge-watch too quickly will our favourite series end on Netflix.
I’m usually an indoors person. I can stay at home all day and not worry about going out. I can stay at home days on end. I have deadlines which will give me a routine and I have enough box-sets to keep me going. But still the first two weeks of staying in was weird.
First I was consuming way too much science about the virus. Words that wouldn’t have entered my vocabulary had come to stay. I was reading microbiology science research. I was looking at statistics, I was trying to pronounce complicated names of drugs including my asthma medication.
Then when I wandered into social media to distract myself, meet my friends and chat with fans – I got more anxious. People were sharing more and more dire news, deaths of families, the appalling inefficiencies of our government and rest of the world. I was watching videos of rules being flouted, maskless NHS staff wading into danger’s way. I panicked. I couldn’t see the woods for the trees anymore. I couldn’t even see the tunnel in the darkness, let alone the light at the end of it.
So I pulled back. I reduced my science reading and keeping track of news (of UK and India) to a 15-minute slot in the morning. I peeped in and out of social media – say 2-3 times a day, utmost 5 minutes at a time.
That wasn’t enough. My brain was full of this stuff. My heart was aching with anxiety and the grief for so many lives lost and mind was angry with the politics being played out, empty words printed as headlines. I couldn’t concentrate on my deadlines or the routine I usually followed.
So I sat down and wrote poems and stories and plays about our current situation. For a week, I put aside deadlines and just focussed on emptying my anxiety.
I wrote Farmer Falgu Stays at Home, a story about staying at home and its importance, explained to children, based on my existing series. My wonderful publisher Karadi Tales agreed to create an e-book and an audio-book for free.
I’m blessed to have a group of poet friends who joined hands. We created an e-book of poems about our current situation.
I created activities for young readers to use in their home-school.
Now my brain and heart was empty of the pain and anxiety. I had worked it all out in words. I had poured them out in to poems and sowed them into stories. I created something positive out of my panic.
Then my regular writing became regular. I now sit at my desk everyday and get on with work. I never worried about how long as long as I have made progress on my deadlines.
I gave myself little tasks to achieve every day – finish filing, clean the windows, sort out the jewelry cupboard, wash the linens. I now felt as if I’m not wasting time, watching TV. I was watching TV and getting things done.
So what I’m saying is – you can find a way through this. It’ll be in your own way. Give yourself time to process the panic and light a candle in the tunnel (if you find, give me a shout).