A few weeks into lockdown, I wrote an article on my blog called ‘Is it ok to not be writing?’ It felt like every other writer out there had taken lockdown as a creative opportunity. I was bombarded with social media statuses: ‘another thousand words down,’ ‘novel finished.’ Was I the only one who was struggling to put pen to paper?
As an aspiring author, I felt like I should be using the unexpected ‘free’ time productively. And then I felt guilty that I wasn’t. Rather than writing, I was seeking comfort by re-reading childhood favourites. I worked my way through three of the chunkier Harry Potter titles. My mind felt overwhelmed, swamped by the news. There was little space left in it for storytelling.
It wasn’t until I saw an advert from a local Somerset-based writing group that I had my first little sparkle of lockdown writing motivation. Weston Writer’s Nights were seeking submissions on the theme of hope. They wanted stories that responded to Covid-19 to feature in their new A Spot of Writing magazine. The magazine would then be distributed to key-workers, isolated individuals, and inspiring organisations, free of charge, to spread a little bit of hope in the community.
It was as if a switch had flicked. I realised that rather than trying to create stories during lockdown, I needed to write the story I was living. Lockdown itself provided a unique setting, and there were tales of bravery and kindness to be found everywhere.
I wrote a story which was inspired by the growing sense of community I witnessed on our streets. I’ve lived in cities for the past 10 years, and during these years I’m sad to say I’ve rarely spoken to my neighbours. As the character in my story ‘A Dog called Rupert’ says, “I’d only met the people on either side of me when they’d taken in one of my parcels.” But during lockdown, this changed. People started to say good morning and were checking in on one another.
I’m delighted to say that the short story was accepted and was published in Issue One of the Weston Writer’s Nights magazine. I’ve since written two more short stories, inspired by the kindness I’ve seen and people I’ve spoken to during lockdown.
I still have dreams of becoming a novelist and hope to get back to some big writing projects soon. But for now, I’m enjoying documenting lockdown by writing short stories, small snippets of everyday life, each interlaced with hope and positivity.
Sarah Hunter is an author based in Bath. She has had fiction published in Writers’ Forum, and A Spot of Writing magazines. You can find out more about her work on her blog, available at www.seahunterwords.wordpress.com