• Pandemic: Creativity During COVID-19

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in CoronaVirus     Comments 30 comments

    Discussion question: During this CoronaVirus pandemic and stay-at-home reality, are you finding new ways to be creative, or are the old ways still working? (Or both?) Let’s talk about it in the comments.


    Not to bang on about it, but these stay-at-home orders have really mucked with the routines and habits of lots of writers. Well, it’s mucked with the routines and habits of everyone. But we’re all writers here, so let’s talk about writers.

    I wasn’t in much of a writing routine before the pandemic struck, so I’ve had nothing really to fall out of. But I’m writing much less than I was before, and I haven’t yet found a way to overcome this. And judging by what I hear on writing Twitter and elsewhere, I am far, far from alone.

    So I wanted to ask some other writers how stay-at-home has affected their writing. Their responses are below.

    I want to know about you, too: Have you been able to stick to your writing routine? Have you found new/different ways to stay creative, or are the old ways still working? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


    Doing anything creative has been really difficult… I feel mentally and emotionally exhausted a lot of the time. I had planned to do the April poetry challenge and attempt to write 30 poems, but it’s now the middle of the month and I haven’t written a single word. I’m trying not to beat myself up about it. There will be other months.

    — Adriana Cloud, WBN coach/consultant


    Weirdly, my writing life hasn’t changed that much. I’ve doubled down on my routine because it feels like one of the only things I can control, and I feel like it’s important to maintain. I do feel sort of freed by this, like I’m not worried so much about the product as simply trying to maintain the habit of spending time doing the work, and not asking much more of myself.

    — Tom Andes, WBN coach/consultant


    Despite the sudden shift in work patterns (in-person classes to online classes) a lot of the things about teaching that kept me (or that I allowed to keep me) from getting deeper into individual creative work are intact — too much work to do, no sense that I can “indulge” in myself when there’s other things to be done. Once classes and grading are done and there’s a little bit more time and a lot less to do, I expect that I’ll find myself forming some new creative routines, some that involve writing and others that are more new, which is exciting.

    — Aaron Block, Yak Babies host


    I’ve started writing a new story on a typewriter, trying to add a few paragraphs each day. Using the typewriter means I have to keep going forward in the work. I can’t go back and idle and tinker, but just have to persist in the creation of some new part of the narrative, which has always been a struggle for me. I have to let go of the idea of perfection, which often creates so much paralysis and stands in the way of creativity. It’s a bit more freeing, and the actual typing is harder, so it feels like more work, even when the outputs are small.

    — Cecily Sailer


    My current project, begun before COVID-19 came to the US, is itself a new way for me to be creative, so it’s old (from the Before Time) and new simultaneously.

    — Elissa Malcohn


    Creativity seems irrelevant right now. I always thought in terms of trying to give back as a life purpose, and now I feel weighed in the balance and found… well…

    — Anonymous WriteByNighter


    While I’ve been writing a lot for Quora, I haven’t done any creative writing in the last several weeks. I’ve been spending too much time obsessing on the virus; the infection numbers and the deaths.

    — David Lemke


    To be honest, I don’t seem to have time to write. I’m retired, so you’d think I would; but the COVID-19 pandemic is making a lot of routine things take a lot of time.

    — Jerry Schwartz


    I can’t say that this lock-down has prompted me to adopt any new or alternate ways to work. After all, I am retired so I’m generally at home, anyway. What’s different is the wider world that throws new boundaries around my writing endeavors.

    What’s mostly changed for me is an acceleration of what I’ve tried to do in recent years — that is, learning to write creatively. I’ve learned so much about story craft that I can talk about it and apply principles to my fiction that make it readable. Feedback from my writers group helps much with this. And then there’s the confidence that allows me to, pretty much, sit down at the keyboard and bang out whatever I need to compose. I guess you reach that point through practice in any creative discipline.

    Without question, the biggest change in my writing life has been suspending our in-person writers’ group meetings. As I noted, we’ve moved to online critiques. Some of our writers are very uncomfortable with such Internet-based work, though, and others are too busy working remotely at regular jobs to make use of it. So it’s a reduction in our work, but it is still there. Using a newsletter and “status” emails, I’m trying to keep a thread of communication going. So far, the response has been positive.

    — Ray Foy


    Thank you for reading and contributing. We hope you’re staying healthy and staying safe.

    This post is part of a series collecting the experiences of WriteByNighters during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are links to the rest of these discussion posts:

    How will you change you as a writer? As a person?

    What’s making you smile and laugh

    What is giving you hope and encouragement

    What’s making you cry (happy & sad)

    What are you reading

    What are you writing

    How are you writing

    General discussion


    david blogWriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2020 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. If you have a manuscript that’s ready for some editorial care, check out our various critiquing, editorial, and proofing servicesJoin our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”


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    Charity Marie

    I have thrown myself into my writing in every way I can. For the first few weeks I binged on Netflix but found myself getting increasingly depressed and lethargic and knew I had to do something. I know that pattern and I refused to repeat over this pandemic. I realized I wanted to give back to others during this terrible time. So I hosted a virtual party for my writing friends on writing.com where I’ve been a member of for over a decade. We got together via my Zoom conference room and talked for six hours! It was amazing. I… Read more »

    David M Inverso

    My best wishes to Cecily for using a typewriter. I wrote on one when I was a yute. I hated it because of all the messy work involved with having to line out and retype paragraphs because a better sentence had occurred to me. Trying to read a jumbled collection of marked up and typed over pages was like reading a novel edited by a puppy. I still have a typewriter (somewhere – I think as an anchor for a tarp). Still, best wishes to Cecily. Whatever gets the creative juices flowing. As for creativity and productivity during this (adjective)… Read more »

    david lemke

    I am slowly reading Artists Way and have been writing a little bit for morning pages; a few paragraphs to a few pages mostly rant about how I hate it and expect nothing to come of it. I tried to write with a pen, but I can’t read my bad penmanship so I switched to the computer and that was better. At least I could read it and If I write anything useful, I can move it instead of transposing and translating unreadable squiggles. Yesterday I called a meeting of four main characters from three novel start and asked them… Read more »

    david lemke

    I wasn’t planning on it, but if I could read what I write, then what’s the point of writing it. I think it said in the book that we should at some point in time read or MPs Be that as it may. There is important story stuff coming out that I will use in the novels. If I hand wrote it, it would be basically lost. part of the GROUP CHARACTER INTERVIEW: Savvy- “Well there is that. Gadzooks, I’m a writer too, a damn successful one. Do you want any help?” Me- “Every bit you can do, each of… Read more »

    david lemke

    My interview labels are Me- and whom ever else is speaking. I have not before had action in them. I decided just to use me as if it was a name. Since this is in my MPs and is not meant for anyone else especially the inner critic or any other, I decided to leave it as a thumbing of the nose at my inner critic or anyone, everyone in the universe who would notice. Thank you for noticing, David!

    Cheryl Guillot Jones

    I have found that being creative outside of writing helps me stay in a creative mode; crocheting, dancing, drawing, as well as baking. I challenged myself to do a writing prompt or exercise instead of watching reruns of Bones. Creative lesson plans for my grandchildren has given some relief to my daughter. Last week we checked into the Delaware Hudson Railroad virtual museum, as their great-great grandfather worked for this railroad from the time he was 13 until he retired. This also helped me with some research for a novel based on my grandfather’s relationship with a European ballerina whom… Read more »

    Cheryl Guillot Jones

    While you are watching TV, if it is a show with which you are familiar, start observing the surroundings rather than the characters. As silly as it sounds, you may find an interesting piece of furniture or art that would fit nicely with a character or a scene for what you are writing. My friend and I who both worked for Bed, Bath and Beyond, were able to find 27 BBBY products in Sheldon’s apartment on the Big Bang Theory. May your Monday be less mundane!


    A LITTLE PARABLE: Near my house is a beautiful old building that used to be a hospital but is no longer. Adjacent to it is a new, modern cancer treatment center where patients go during the day for chemo, then home or back to their hospital. The grounds behind the building are enclosed by a big, black iron fence. For nearly nine years, whenever I walked past the fenced-in grounds with my dog, I’d look at the big, green, grassy field behind the fence and think with longing, “If only we could go in there and play.” One day the… Read more »


    The building is now administrative offices for the new hospital that was built to replace it. For nine years every time I walked by the gate was closed, and it has a lock on it, so I just assumed it was locked. One day it was opened just a crack, and curiosity got the beter of me.Thereafter I found out that when it looks locked it actually isn’t. They may leave it open on purpose so cancer patients and family members can go there whenever they want and enjoy the healing garden.


    Okay, David, but if my dog and I walk in there one day and see you wading among the lily pads, tomato sauce drizzling from the corner of your mouth, muttering “Naah-vuhl, thickly, and so it goes….” I will disavow all knowledge. Or maybe I would call John Zaffiro. Since we’ve been dropping Milwaukee names, although this is not nearly as impressive as living next door to Paul Molitor, I met John Zaffiro a couple times when I worked at the Jazz Gallery, he would sometimes play jazz guitar with various combos.


    You could try “una no-VAYL-la” and say that you’re Italian.

    Jennifer Pommer

    I have increased my writing in an unthought of way. I have been writing more in my journal though not as much as I had planned on, but, unexpectedly, I have written a few poems. One about having to live within four walls within the foreseeable future and the wonders of Nature, probably sparked by not being in it as much as I am used to. I have also started looking through some past journals for other bits of poetry. I’m going with my flow at the moment, and the short lines of poems seem to fit my mood though… Read more »


    Just a further note on why creativity is the antidote to pain, and writing is essential. Here’s Mary Oliver on how books saved her. https://getpocket.com/explore/item/staying-alive-mary-oliver-on-how-books-saved-her-life-and-why-the-passion-for-work-is-the-greatest?utm_source=pocket-newtab


    Ok, thanks for this, Susan.

    adrien leslie

    I thought I enjoyed researching, now that information and I have nowhere to go all day, we’ve coupled. But my researching isn’t only ‘let me delve into this article.’ It’s watching a Korean drama scene and asking, what’s in his face that says, I love her, and how can I put it in words. It’s stopping to listen to the sounds of morning and trying to put it in a scene. Even when I’m pissed off at hubby asking me the same question 3X, I stop to ask how can I best write about frustration or life in close quarters… Read more »

    David Duhr

    “When the doors to the world reopen.” I like that. “Will I continue?” Meaning, will you continue to try to look at things the way you’re looking at things now?

    Jennifer Pommer

    I have been working on my writing more or less full time from home since January, anyway, so there hasn’t been a great leap to a different situation as with many people. I haven’t written as much as I was hoping due to the COVID-19, but I have been able to come up with a few new ideas. One was to write one brand new poem and resurrect two older ideas into one or two. This time has perhaps helped me go back to the very many journals I’ve written and start to explore the information there. I’m still working… Read more »

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