Tag Archives: writer’s cat

Writing in Lockdown: challenges met, challenges missed

To begin with, I thought writing in lockdown was going to be a doddle. My normal working life was sitting alone for hours alone staring at a computer screen. Then there were those bursts of high energy word-cookery. What would change?

Actually, I was even crazier than that. Staying home and not seeing people, I thought, would give me oodles of time to complete the umpty-um projects on my 2020 schedule. Maybe this was the year I completed three books, cleared out the study, got to grips with social media and started exercising regularly.

Um – no.

The Big Freeze

snow in March 2016What actually happened was that I froze. Pretty much immediately. And completely. Could hardly do a thing.

It was a nasty shock. I was ashamed and a bit scared. At the time, I didn’t tell anyone.

The house got more and more of a tip. I started things I didn’t finish. But for a while I was self-isolating. So nobody knew.

That stage didn’t last. But struggling out of it took me time. And, from things I have been hearing, I’m not alone. Writing in lockdown can be harder than you’d think.

With the prospect of more lockdown-type stuff coming, I thought I’d chart my progress, for anyone in a similar condition.

There’s a load of Advice for Writers on the Internet. But they all set me tasks I couldn’t manage. What I needed was a bridge out of the Ice Palace. Then to travel at my own pace.

But first I had to work out what was holding me back.

Lockdown Challenge 1 – House Arrest?

At its simplest, staying indoors is quite different when someone makes you do it. I got incredibly restless. I prowled the house like something caged.

What’s more, caging an animal has always been one of my big horrors. I wept over the guinea pigs and hamsters my primary school friends loved. Taking me to a zoo was an experience nobody repeated, ever.

Essentially, when I write, I nest. Writing in lockdown, my subconscious was constantly trying to make a break for it. Instead of concentrating on the words, I spent hours staring out of the window. Into an empty street, for the most part.

Solution? I didn’t find one. Though staying away from caffeine reduced the symptoms a bit. Any advice gratefully received.

Lockdown Challenge 2 – Here Be Dragons

Oh, that overused word unprecedented. 

I’ve been in places and situations that were new to me before. But never one where nobody at all had a reliable map, at least in outline. Politicians and pundits bleating about how unprecedented it all was just made me want to kill.

And, of course, the old analytical brain kept sifting and analysing and synthesising every parallel I could think of. OK, it drew blank after blank. But I couldn’t distract it from its obsessive path seeking. Made me feel helpless.

Image by FotoRieth from Pixabay

Solution? Clearly a little therapeutic assassination was not on the cards. (Though maybe I could write that murder mystery now.)

Cutting the pundits and politicians out of my life definitely improved it. It also saved some of the crockery I might otherwise have flung at the radio. But it was very, very hard to do and even now I can’t give up the News completely.

Lockdown Challenge 3 – Creativity Struggles

The worst thing of all, from my point of view – that busy left brain crowded out every creative idea, I had. I tried. But I just couldn’t concentrate

I was writing a novella for our Libertà Beach Hut anthology and it was due imminently. Yet whenever I sat down to write, I would flip into thinking about something else the moment I sat back to take stock.

Even when my concentration improved a bit, I found myself writing short scenes, out of sequence. Some, enough, were for my Beach Hut story, Going Home? Phew! I had colleagues waiting for my story. Simply getting it done gave me the best feeling.

alchemy magic witchcraftI wasn’t concentrating on one single story, even then. One or two of those scenes pushing at me to come out of the fog and onto the page  were for the story after that. One other – a big one – was for a substantial long term project.

But some were about new people entirely. And yes, you’ve probably guessed it. They were in lockdown. Will I ever put that book together? Who knows!

Solution? Go with the flow. Writing in lockdown seems to have its own momentum.

Lockdown Challenge 4 – No ending

electronic benefitsLockdown had a terrible effect on my perception of time. I had no sense of sequence. The structure of my day was gone and, with it, all the priorities. Everything was equally urgent and could await mañana. Self-isolating, I drifted in hallucinatory stasis.

Yes, I knew it was barmy, even at the time. One of my first creative bursts was writing the diary of a man struggling to bounce himself out of that state, helped by a cat.

For the Companion Cat pretty swiftly imposed a structure on my day. Breakfast sachet at eight. Dreamies snack mid-morning. Top-up of kibble around one etc, etc. And reminded me pretty sharply to jump to it, when i began to drift.

The lockdown timetable lurched and frayed and dissolved and re-coalesced. Tom Kydd focused like iron. Bless him.

Jenny's Patio September 2020I usually plant seeds in the spring. This year was difficult because all garden centres had been closed. But I ordered on line, went a bit mad and planted morning glories, a forest of sweet peas, nasturtiums, night-scented stock and tobacco plants. Checking their minute growth  every morning well and truly fixed the progress of seasons.

And then writing in lockdown began to have, if not a timetable, a demonstrable measure of momentum. It was slowly moving forward and my writing with it.

By summer we calculated that I had 18 species of plants in possibly the smallest patio in England. It made me very happy.

Solution? Find markers of time that are outside your control. Cats work particularly well in this regard.

Writing in Lockdown to Come

Writing energy, happy writerAnd then there were friends. I might have been under house arrest for a while but I was never in solitary confinement.

The regular phone calls, the occasional updates, the surprise messages on social media, they all gave me steady orientation points when I needed them.

Whatever the coming Diktats from the government, I shall draw on these experiences to start me off writing in lockdown earlier and better.

But above all, I shall count on and be counted on by my friends. Blessings on their pointy little heads!


Sophie Weston Author

Sophie

Earwigging, Active and Passive. And James Bond

The Listening Servant, Hubertus van Hove,
image courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum

I hooted over Joanna’s post last week. It made me remember a couple of earwigs of my own.

In the first, I overheard a memorable exchange. It came out of the blue, in truly exceptional circumstances. I’d use it in a book, if I could write one good enough.

In the other I was, as it were, earwigged. But I bet the earwiggers remember it. Both cheered me up enormously.

So I thought I would share.

Setting 1: the Exotic Holiday

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Veronica the crafty companion : Guest blog by Judy Astley

Judy Astley authorThis month, we welcome another Libertà friend and much-loved author, Judy Astley, to the blog.

Like so many of our guest bloggers, Judy has a fascinating portfolio of skills. She spent several years as a dressmaker, painter and illustrator before writing her first book, Just For The Summer. She’s since written nineteen more. Phew! And now, after a two-year rest to refill the creative well, she’s working on book number twenty-one. Her many fans will be delighted.

Like many other writers, Judy has a furry friend — Veronica. And Veronica sounds to be quite a character, as Judy explains…

Veronica has her own ideas about what to wear…

Veronica the crafty Burmese cat (+ friend)

 

My cat’s collar was starting to look like a charm bracelet. From it dangled her metal tag with her address and phone number, a magnetic gadget that opened her catflap and then this new addition: a soft blue disc that held a new device — a tracker.

“I’m sorry, but you’ve brought it on yourself,” I told Veronica (a blue Burmese, sweet but crafty).

She gave me a look that clearly said, “You expect me to go out in this?” Continue reading

My Hairy-Chested Hero : Guest Blog by Christina Hollis

portrait of author Christina HollisToday, we welcome our first guest blogger of 2018, Christina Hollis, a writer with quite a pedigree.

Christina has written non-fiction, historical novels, and modern romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon and other publishers, selling nearly 3 million books in more than twenty languages.

But today, Christina is not talking about her writing.
Today her guest blog is about Alex, her beloved hairy-chested hero…

My Hero with the Hairy Chest…

Intelligent, a good listener, the perfect companion for long country walks—but that’s enough about my husband. I’m here to tell you about Alex, our retriever/labrador cross. Continue reading

The Writer’s Cat: Writers like Witches like Cats

Writers, like witches, seem to get on with cats. And not just slinky, sexy writers like Colette, of whom you might expect it, but grumpy old war-reportin’, game-fishin’, hard-drinkin’ Hemingway, of whom you certainly wouldn’t.

And me.

I’ve lived with several cats over the years. I can see that it’s not for everyone. But I find it fun. Basically, it takes negotiation.

My present feline companion, TK, arrived with a bad case of nerves and the hump. He hid behind the books in the bookcase, only emerging to throw up. Hid again. When I left the room in search of cleaning materials, he made a dive for some high ground and set up camp, prepared to repel all comers.

writer's cat - kitten on radio

His little face sprouted whiskers roughly comparable to five o’ clock shadow. He looked like a bottle brush. A fierce bottle brush.

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