Writers are known for self-isolation. We have carved out a space in our homes tailored especially for our creative work. Most writers have day jobs in another place and can usually leave the day job behind when they come home, separating it from their creative space.
In March 2020 the Covid 19 pandemic shut down most of our economy and drove people into their homes to work. The day job we used to leave behind at the office has suddenly penetrated our creative world. Some authors and artists are having difficulty reclaiming their art as a result of working from home. A friend of mine has said her creative side has been “sapped”; others feel no desire to indulge in their art due to the anxiety of adjusting to a new world. In fact, now that we are expected to stay at home, our creativity is being strangled with the struggle of making a living, and the uncertainty of day to day life.
The first couple of weeks working from home were rough. I couldn’t separate work from my writing, and as a result, my writing got absorbed into my day job. I lost the balance I worked so hard to establish. I was irritable and tired, and the thought of going back to the desk to write after working all day was unappealing. I knew I couldn’t go on like this so after a video chat with some fellow writers, I decided to make some changes.
Here’s what I learned working from home:
1) Get up at the same time every day
2) Start work the same time you would if you were going to the office.
3) Set an alert on your phone to remind you to get up and move every 25 minutes.
4) Take a lunch break. Eat lunch.
5) More alerts, more movement.
6) End your workday – really end it. That one last thing can wait until tomorrow.
7) Take your days off – if you wouldn’t normally work on the weekend, or on a Tuesday, take those days off.
8) At the end of your work time, take a walk or another break before moving on to your own thing.
It’s important to separate your work from your home and art. It can be difficult to rebuild that balance, but our creative life is worth the effort. Don’t allow your “work” hours and your “art” hours to intersect. Finding a routine will help you get back to the desk to continue your story.
The pandemic won’t stop our art, but it will force us to discover a new way to take back our creative life. The first day I got back to the desk was challenging, but it didn’t take long for me to immerse myself in the joy of writing again. I was rejuvenated. It took some time and a lot of patience, but I found a way to recharge my creative life in this new world.
Deep breath in, deep breath out – you can do this.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.