Hello, I’m Joanna, a writer at Paper Nations, and I have a rare condition that affects my immune system. My condition is normally invisible and had a comparatively minor impact on my day-to-day life, until Covid-19.
Now I have to take extraordinary precautions and have been self-isolating for some time. Like many other vulnerable people, I am now facing months of total isolation. It is not safe to even see my partner. Meanwhile, I’m seeing many posts and well-meaning comments about making productive use of this time. I’ve felt pressured to read more, write more, yet when I sit at my desk I often find it hard to concentrate. In this piece, I hope to offer solace to others who may feel the same way.
Don’t pressure yourself to be ‘productive’ with your writing. Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t use this time to finish your Big Project. Yes, Shakespeare may have written great works of art while under isolation. But he didn’t have to cook or clean for himself, look after – or educate – children or vulnerable family members, cope with the constant stream of information from the media or manage any of the multitudinous tasks that come with modern living. In short, he had lots more time to write than you will.
As our Time to Write commission showed, time doesn’t just mean literal time, but also the headspace in which to be creative. It’s likely you won’t have that mental space with all the anxieties of the pandemic.
One of the things that has brightened my solitude immeasurably is the outpouring of support, creativity, and love with which the writing community has responded to Covid-19. So many of you are working to make our collective solitude less lonely, dull, and generally abhorrent.
I’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone who has come together to provide writing opportunities that people can access from their own homes, and that have been made more accessible by lowering or removing the cost. You have cheered everyone’s lives with your generosity.
As someone who is part of a team behind some of these efforts, I’d like to remind anyone taking part: no one is expecting you to write a certain number of words or come up with the Next Big Thing. Please feel free to simply use these opportunities to allow yourself the space and time to just think about or discover the magic of reading, words, and writing.