After months of relative freedom in Western Australia, we’ve just entered a snap lockdown after a security guard tested positive to COVID-19. I’m staying positive at this stage, as it’s initially only for five day, but I know I’m fortunate enough to be able to continue much of my work and study from home with little disruption. Others are not so lucky. I’m also aware that in other parts of the world, periods of lockdown have been much longer and more challenging.
In challenging times, I’ve found writing both difficult and therapeutic. Difficult because I’m so close to what’s happening, but therapeutic because I do feel better when it’s out of my head and on the page.
I totally understand if you’re feeling distracted right now and finding it almost impossible to focus on anything; however, I’ve tried to put together a collection of prompts to help you either express your experiences or escape from them for a little while.
1. Lockdown Diaries
Keep a simple diary each day, even if it’s just a few scribbled notes.
When our lives were first impacted by COVID-19, my first reaction was that there was no point in writing about it. Imposter syndrome hit hard and I figured there would be a deluge of writing about COVID, by far greater writers than me, so I shouldn’t bother. But this time I am, after being reminded of of a quote by Charles de Lint:
2. Biography of an Object
Look around your house and select several objects that have some personal significance for you. Perhaps it’s the teddy bear your grandparents gave you when you were born, a teapot you inherited from a beloved relative, a favourite book or painting.
Write a biography of one or more of these objects. What is its history? How did you come to have it? Why does it have value to you?
3. Ten Tiny Things
If you are able to include an hour of exercise while in lockdown, head out and take photos of ten tiny (or not so tiny) things. Choose anything that interests you, especially those things you wouldn’t have noticed if you’d been racing past in the car.
When you return home, choose three that interest you.
Include these in a poem, story or piece of artwork.
[NB: this prompt is inspired by the picture book Ten Tiny Things by Meg McKinlay and illustrated by Kyle Hughes-Odgers.]
4. Favourite Stories
I’ve just seen an infographic outlining the reasons why people re-read (or re-watch) favourite stories, one of them being the ability of these stories to relieve anxiety and bring comfort.
Brainstorm a list of your favourite books, television shows and movies. What element of the story or its characters draw you back in?
5. Jump into a Story
If you could jump into the world of one of your favourite stories and meet the characters there, where would you end up?
Create the story of arriving in that world.
6. Create a Playlist
If you are in the middle of creating a story, whether that be fiction or non-fiction, create a playlist of songs for one or more characters.
Alternatively, create a playlist of songs that give you a lift or bring you comfort.
7. Gratitude Journal
One of the most challenging things to happen to me was finding out my daughter would be born with severe heart defects. In those days, her future seemed pretty uncertain and I existed in a world of limbo and uncertainty for an extended period of time. One of the things that made a difference to how I coped on any given day was gratitude.
It wasn’t about denying what was happening, and it didn’t have to be something huge. Some days it was simply the red rose flowering outside my front window or the wet nose of my dog, a song that lifted my spirit or my friend’s shoulder to cry on. These things didn’t change my situation, but consciously noticing and acknowledging these things did make a difference to my outlook for that day.
List, draw or photgraph three things you are grateful for.
Over to You
Which of the above prompts either grabs your attention or feels manageable today?
Spend some time writing, drawing or photographing.