Let’s Give Ourselves A Break!

When the ‘lockdown’ started, a well-meaning friend of mine sent me a message. “It’s a great opportunity for you to write!” And my stomach plunged and I felt anxious.

Once this is all over (and it WILL be over!), it feels as though I’m going to have to justify how I’ve spent my time. If I haven’t made the most of this chance to finish that novel, or whatever, then I’ll have failed.

I think a lot of us are feeling that pressure: to have a ‘to do list’ (that includes things like learning Mandarin or finally cracking the ukulele) or to ‘improve ourselves’ in some way.

But what’s wrong with just getting through this, the best way we can? For most of us (I’m not including the people having BBQs on beaches), this isn’t exactly a holiday, is it? Our minds are full of all kinds of fears and worries. We might even be ill ourselves, or grieving or stressing about someone who is. And that’s not exactly conducive to writing.

I know that for some (lucky) people, writing is an escape and they can switch off from the real world and find solace in their imagination. And if that’s you, great. I’m hoping, this week, after a busy first two weeks of ‘lockdown’, to finally get into something of a routine and perhaps manage to put pen to paper myself (and do more than just my Morning Pages).

But if we can’t write, I don’t think we should beat ourselves up.

Tuna pasta bake, wot I made this week.

I am being productive. I’m sure you are, too. I’m cooking like a crazy person (and hoovering. Because I find both those things relaxing); I’m supporting (on-line) the seniors’ writing group that I run fortnightly in Stratford; I’m getting food for my mum and taking it to her (we can’t get home deliveries for love nor money) and of course, I’m having my daily walk.

Bonnie the dog has never been happier (see photo above). Pheasants in our vicinity – the super-duper ones that managed not to get shot during ‘the season’ – have never been more worried. She got daily walks before, of course but never for this long or with both of us at the same time.

So, here’s what I HAVEN’T done:

1. Everyone is saying what ‘wonderful homes and gardens’ we’re all going to have by the end of this. Apart from watering my pots, I can honestly say I have done NO gardening. Not a smidgen. I haven’t even pulled up a weed. But I have played lots of table tennis.

2. I tried to do Pilates from home (I usually go to a weekly class in the village). Our teacher has put a class on-line and I paid my money and had extravagant plans to do the video ‘every day’. I had visions of a lean and supple me… and the first time I tried it, I did something to my back – like pulled a muscle. It’s OK now but took about 5 days to stop hurting. So, that’s put me off that idea!

3. I haven’t even attempted Joe Wicks. (see above)

4. I haven’t panicked or tried to do anything about my hair. What is this obsession with hair and how we are all going to manage until we can get to a salon?

Wild hair

I’m just going to tie mine up, or stick it under a hat. I have one of those ‘sprays’ for my roots and if it gets bad enough, I’ll order a colour on-line and do it myself. I have NEVER had long hair in my life (when I was a child, everyone thought I was a boy because my hair was always so short. Thanks, Mum). So, this could be my chance to have a pony tail! Wheee. I’m excited now.

But equally, if you are looking for a distraction and you do want to do some writing, then don’t forget my free-to-enter Random Word competition, which closes on 16th April. All the details are here.

Retreat West have just launched their April micro fiction competition (closing 12th April). The prompt is a photograph and your entry has to be exactly 100 words. All the details are here.

And if you want more, then Cathy’s Comps and Calls for April is here.

One of the comps featured is the Spectator’s latest (but be quick – you’ve only got until 8th April), which is:

8th Apr Spectator competition No. 3144: alphabetical. ‘You are invited to submit a poem, six lines at the most, containing all the letters of the alphabet. Please email entries to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 8th April.

Take care of yourselves ’til next time! x

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16 Responses to Let’s Give Ourselves A Break!

  1. KathrinS says:

    You’re right, pressure isn’t helpful at a time like this. I’m trying my best to keep working as much as I can and do some productive things, but sometimes I just need a break. Also, it’s extra important to me to connect more often (virtually) with my family and friends, so that’s taking up a lot of time.

    In terms of exercise, maybe you can give a more gentle workout a go, or just go for walks (if allowed in your area)? I always feel so much better after exercising.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kathrin. I have been going for daily walks with the dog (did 9 hours last week)! but you’re right, about more gentle exercise. My Pilates teacher also does a stretch class, so I’m going to try that this week!

  2. Alex G says:

    Yes, “it’s a great opportunity for you to write” — because other times of the year are a great opportunity for you to thumb-twiddle, right?

  3. juliathorley says:

    Such wise words. I hope your back is OK. My yoga insurance only covers online classes if I teach via a controlled platform – i.e. not something like YouTube where just anyone could join in – and that it is for people whose health conditions I am aware of. I’ve decided not to bother. I’ve had a go at the Joe Wicks sessions and while they’re quite good fun – and tough for an old bird like me! – I haven’t heard him say anything about being not doing exercises that aren’t appropriate. For instance, he’s had us doing double leg lifts without mentioning care for your back. Hm. He does say things like, ‘If this is too hard for you…’ but that’s really throwing down the gauntlet, isn’t it? As for the writing, I had great plans to put together a short story collection, but for now it sits untouched and accusing. I reckon number one priority is simply to come out of all this with my sanity intact, and if I manage to achieve anything else, well, that will be a bonus. Hang in there!


    Having the time to write is one thing, but having the ideas is quite another and who doesn’t work better with a deadline. On the plus side, I’ve tackled tasks I would never have made time for, had a go at a writing exercise and encouraged at least one member of our writing group to give your competition a go. Now, if only I had a super sharp pair of scissors I could cut my fringe…

    • Ooh Margaret, if you DO cut your fringe, we need a before and after shot! (My friend was cutting her son’s hair – he’s about 22 – and she sent me a photo of him with a bowl on his head! But I think – and hope – it was a joke!)


    I hate having my photo taken at the best of times so can’t see it happening 😉

  6. Penelope Alexander says:

    Read somewhere we’ll all emerge from Lockdown with identical rounded haircuts! Mine has nearly always been that shape anyway 🙂 But there are some videos on YouTube on how best to cut your own locks… if brave enough.
    Gotta ukulele somewhere, too!

  7. I moved house on 13 March… oddly enough I’ve written precisely 0 words across all my fiction projects! Seriously, though, I think life is throwing up enough challenges at the moment without our imposing more on ourselves.

  8. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    Give ourselves a break? Definitely. I get very annoyed with those who say this is the time to do major writing. Me myself, I feel too anxious and upset and I would love to do something to HELP but all my applications to volunteer have dwindled into nothing.

    • Helen Yendall says:

      That’s a shame, Rosemary. I know that feeling of helplessness. It feels wrong, doesn’t it, lounging around at home when so many key workers are on the front line, battling to save or help people?

  9. Kate Hogan says:

    I haven’t written a word since lockdown, so it’s comforting to know I’m not alone. I’ve also done my back in doing all sorts of crazy gardening in a short space of time to ‘take my mind off’ all that’s going on in the world. I’ve also developed what I think are shin splints ( a very painful condition to do with the shins) due to the fast long distance walking I’ve been doing, to make the most of my freedom, in case we’re all told to stay at home! On the plus side I’m trying to help out with phone calls, and food deliveries to people self isolating and saying prayers for us all. Good thoughts and wishes to everyone. Kate Hogan.

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