Raise your hand if you’ve felt less productive than usual during lockdown.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you probably didn’t physically raise your hand, but you were thinking “yes”.
For many, despite having extra time on their hands, the repetitive cycle of eat, watch TV, procrastinate about doing the dishes, walk the dog, eat again and then sleep has had a detrimental effect on their productivity.
Whilst it is tempting to evolve into a couch potato and binge watch Netflix all day, long-term, it’s likely to lead to a decline in mental health. An active mind is a happy mind and I believe that learning – something that most of us do every day – is a source of purpose for our lives.
Some people, however, have flourished in isolation. Take, for example, nine-year-old Ellah Ramsey who became one of the youngest published authors in the world when her book, written during lockdown, was recently published.
Ellah found the inspiration to write in meeting author Frank English – to whom she sent the first few chapters of her book, The Magic Whistle and The Tiny Bag of Wishes, in its early stages.
Frank English emailed back and forth with the young writer over a period of months to help her create a finished draft before the two officially became co-authors and published the book. He said, “I really loved the book and wanted to publish it. I’ve worked with a few young authors and here was a youngster who obviously had talent, with the right support I knew she could go far.
“When she first sent the story she had written three chapters, each six pages, that is a lot for someone of her age, but it is her descriptions in particular, the characters she decided upon and the story line which really stand out as unusual”.
So, whilst we’ve been sitting around avoiding the pile of dishes in the sink, young Ellah Ramsey has sold more than 500 copies of her first published novel.
It got me thinking, should I write a book?
I started thinking about it. What would I write about? Is it realistic? How would I get it published? What if it ended up being terrible? What if I just couldn’t stop re-editing it and never ended up with a final draft?
I could already feel the procrastination setting in.
So, I turned to Google. “What are the benefits of writing a book”, I typed.
A couple of headlines read along the lines of, “why writing a novel makes you happy”. My interest peaked.
I entered a new search, “mental health benefits of writing a book” and began seeing phrases such as “improves communication”, “keeps you sharp”, “express feelings and emotions”, “closes your mental tabs”.
Thinking a little harder now, I realised that writing might be a sort-of therapy. You don’t have to be confined to the limits of a certain genre, a certain writing style, or even a certain format – such as a novel. My end goal wasn’t to get published, it’s worth noting.
What if I just wrote about what I felt? I could journal. I could express my feelings through storytelling. What if I wrote about my weird dreams? What if I wrote about my past experiences? What if I wrote about my lockdown experience?
Of course, like anything in this new age of pandemic procrastination, picking up the pen and forcing out the first few sentences took hours. I’d pick the pen up, put it down, check Instagram, take a quick picture of my dog who was doing something cute – he’s always doing something cute – and then finally pick the pen back up only to stare at a blank page.
Writer’s block was my new Everest. Personally, I found the best method for overcoming this was just to write anything. An anonymous author told Penguin Random House, “Write something you’d never allow anyone to read, then burn it—or eat it. Talk to yourself. Sit in two different chairs while you interrogate yourself. Try writing drunk if you usually write sober, or vice versa”.
Switch off the TV, flick the kettle on and find yourself a pen and some paper. Procrastinate no more.
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