I am writing this piece based on my experiences during the lockdown anonymously partly because it makes me write more freely. Just like people become wilder when they turn on their VPN and go incognito, a writer feels relaxed when the weight of a name is lifted.
With the shackles gone, I can write without the judgement of my peers.
Last week, Binge Mad started a weekly guest post series and invited writers to participate in it. The Writer Confessions series (sorry guys, it’s is a bad name!) invites writers to share their professional experiences.
I decided to chime in this week and say something, partly because I have a big announcement for my large audience (two people if you count my cat and my roommate).
The lockdown has changed my writing forever.
Now I know the whole world is going through an existential crisis and a change in my writing is not really big news, even for my large audience.
And yet, it is big. I live in India where the lockdown began in the third week of March. It was then a three week lockdown. I thought this was a great time to finish the rom-com I was trying to finish since the final year of college. At the initial stage, I even thought of learning script writing, turning the novel into a TV show pilot, and try to sell it.
However, I was not ready for what the lockdown had in store.
Without any more dilly dallying, here’s what happened.
Why did the Lockdown change my writing?
The short answer – I wrote more than I ever have.
The long answer is as follows.
My problem with writing has always been a lack of motivation. I can always find a reason to waste time rather than write something.
I did the same when the lockdown began. I binged TV shows and movies for five straight days. I promised myself every night I would write the next day and never did.
After five days, I felt a lull. A realization began setting in. I didn’t want to write. The sight of a word document would make me sigh and shake my head.
Scared of this realization, I opened my WIP. I didn’t remember the last time I had worked on it. I read the piece from beginning to end.
In a moment on mindless inspiration, I deleted the file.
I didn’t stop there.
I went on to read all the things I had written during my college days. I deleted everything.
Why did I do it?
I don’t know. I don’t believe all actions have a good reason. The best explanation I have is this – those pieces of writing were like anchors dragging me to the bottom of the ocean. The act of deleting all of them was liberating.
The next step cemented the change in my writing. After deleting everything, I started writing a short story without any idea where I was going. Generally, I had only written romantic short stories and novellas.
However, as I wrote more and more, I realized I had never enjoyed writing romance. I only liked the idea of writing romance because of my love for Jane Austen.
My aimless writing continued for a three days. I was writing a short story about a three year old boy who wakes up one morning to find his parents dead. The best part was this – I was enjoying myself. I never felt the need to open Netflix or listen to a podcast or talk to a friend. All my waking hours were spent writing the short story.
Once I was done, I read the story. I read it again. This time, I felt no compulsion to delete the document.
In the next week, I wrote three more short stories. I could feel my quality of writing improving with each story I finished. At no point did I feel the urge to promote my stories or tell the world about my awesome run. It felt like a very personal time of my life.
After four short stories, I finally wanted to write a novel. This time, I planned the story a little because writing a novel is a much bigger undertaking. I took on this task three months back and I’m happy to tell you now I have finished the first draft. It’s done. Finished.
Lockdown Writing Lessons
The lockdown helped me truly enjoy writing. I can’t go to bed now without writing something every day. There are a lot of lessons I learned about writing during this lockdown.
A lot of them went against all conventional wisdom I used to believe, and many writers still do. Here are some of the lessons I learned.
People Underestimate the Act of Not Doing Anything Besides Writing
You may think this is extreme, but it is the only way.
Focusing solely on writing and ignoring everything else will bring you much closer to your craft.
You will start realizing who you are as a writer. It is questions like these that helped my writing during the lockdown. I was able to make better storytelling decisions and see things far more clearly than ever before.
Before the lockdown, writing was a side hobby. However, after giving myself the time and space to write every day, I am now a full-time writer. This is because I simply spent most of my time doing what I liked instead of just thinking about it.
Don’t be Afraid to Let Go
The best things in this experience happened to me only when I deleted all my previous work.
Many writers are hoarders. I know because I was also a hoarder. Keeping every little snippet of writing is attractive because it reminds writers who they are.
However, you are not a writer if you wrote something at some time in the past. You are a writer if you still write something. Deleting old snippets and letting them go is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it is the clean slate you need to start rethinking your approach to storytelling.
Ignore All Conventional Wisdom
For years, I have paid money for creative writing workshops and seminars, hoping to learn something new and find inspiration. I have tried to implement the rules I see writing gurus espouse in their premium blog posts and expensive writing manuals.
After finishing the first draft of my novel, I can safely say none of those rules matter. You have to find your own way.
The rules those gurus provide help you give structure to writing as a craft. However, writing is different for every person. One person might find a particular rule helpful. Another writer might think it is far too limiting.
The only rule you need to remember is that there are no rules. Find your own way. Build your own craft. Don’t depend on a snake-oil salesman to help you write. If you want to spend the money, go ahead.
However, try searching for the topics any paid course or seminar will cover on Google. There is a good chance you will find the same topics explained for free on a blog or a YouTube video.
Also read: What is Speculative Fiction?
Also read: Indian Fantasy Novels: The Best Fantasy Fiction From India
Note from Editor –
Thank you for coming on Binge Mad and trusting us to give you something worthwhile to read.
This piece is the second post of a new section on our website – Writer Confessions. We invite writers to share some of the professional challenges they face candidly in this section. For now, we plan on publishing a piece in this section every Friday.
If you are a writer and want to share some of your own thoughts, feel welcome to get in touch. You can get in touch by filling up the form here.