Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Writing on-line during Covid by Helen Chambers


Covid has played havoc with creativity. Mine definitely, and probably yours. For a while, the only writing I managed was in my newly-named diary, Journal of the Plague Year (with apologies to Daniel Defoe). I dipped into his account for inspiration and was initially shocked by his reporting of daily death totals. Now of course, I’m obsessively familiar with graphs, charts and the R-number.

One positive aspect of being at home more has been the burgeoning number of author talks, courses and opportunities made available online at reasonable prices, or even better, for free.

Organisations like Moniack Mhor, the Scottish Writers’ Centre, were early finds for me. I’ve listened to Maggie O’Farrell on Hamnet (Maggie cradled a poorly cat whilst talking to us), Val McDermid on crime (at her garden table enjoying tea and cake) and most recently, AL Kennedy cleverly sharing highlighted parts of a ‘lockdown’ short story draft she’d written, whilst explaining her process.

At Arvon, I enjoyed an excellent Joanne Harris session (you can always tell a teacher) discussing structuring a novel from her shed - the magical shed in which she writes and tweets! A smaller writing group, MK Writers, made widely available a wonderful online talk by Tania Hershman and David Gaffney, short-form authors, who expounded their varying story creation process (she writes from word prompts, scientific discoveries and images, he writes from life - overhearings, signs, actual events).

A cancelled face-to-face event I’d booked months previously also went online. Stephanie Carty’s superb ‘Psychology of Character’ was converted from a day in London to a two-week period of emails and video-clips, which enabled time for reflection between activities.

Tania Hershman offered 5-consecutive days of emailed notes and prompts, at the end of which I had written a new story - and this was instrumental in finally getting me writing fiction once more.

The Scottish Book Trust expanded their once-a-month 50 word competition to weekly, and we at the Wivenhoe Writers all tried short-short-short writing (see our earlier blog) We also successfully moved our group meetings online, until we can meet properly once more.

With lockdowns and restrictions likely to continue into the New Year, let’s keep our eyes open and make the most of the available online opportunities. Happy Writing New Year!