You, like the rest of us, are stuck inside, due to what the park near my house refers to, in deliciously euphemistic terms, as “current circumstances.” We are fortunate(?) to live inside an abyss, wide without measure and deep without bottom, of ways to amuse ourselves. Aldous Huxley would be so proud of himself. But the key to keeping yourself afloat in these difficult times is not to plumb the plumbing-less depths of Netflix (there is some amazingly wretched filth on Netflix), but to add variety to your daily activities, just as we would spice up our sentences by varying their length and style. Speaking of which, why not spend some of your quarantine time working on your writing?
One thing I will definitely not tell you to do, for the record, is follow the standard “how to write more” advice: start keeping a journal. I, a semi-professional Writing Tips Person, have never successfully kept a journal, because autobiographical writing just isn’t something I like to do. If you aren’t already the sort of person who writes things down in a journal, the pandemic isn’t going to suddenly make you that kind of person. And if you are, you don’t need me or anyone else to tell you to do it.
But if you’re interested in honing this skill or teaching yourself this craft while the opportunity is still knocking, here are a few ways to add writing to your new routine:
- Respond to one of the billion weekly, daily, or hourly writing prompt generators available on the Internet. You can find genre-specific writing prompts, poetry prompts, political and persuasive prompts, deeply upsetting prompts, and prompts about Kanye West. Something for everybody! My favorite, for its general goofiness and broad applicability, is the Twitter account @howboutyouwrite.
- Write directions. I’ve used this as a writing assignment before, and it’s wonderful for teaching students about the universal necessity of clear communication. Write down a recipe that you love so that somebody else could make it. Write out directions for changing a tire that a car-challenged person could follow. Write a guide to your houseplants and how to care for them. Contribute to wikiHow. You might find that having these written documents around comes in handy someday, and you’ll work on your skill with strong nouns!
- Write a letter. Compose a thoughtful, handwritten letter to a friend or relative in another state – or even a friend or relative down the block, since they might as well be the same thing in March in the Year of Our Lord Twenty Twenty! The art of the friendly letter has gone the way of the dodo and Gothic Miniscule, but there’s no time like this weird time to bring it back. If you would like to practice writing and help people, you can write an anonymous letter to an elderly person in a nursing home or hospice and have it delivered through a service like this one. Use your writing skills to bring everyone closer together.
- Write reviews. Have you watched everything you can stand on Netflix and Disney+? Go on Letterboxd and write some movie reviews! Video games more your down time activity? The newer GGApp is for you. Gotten into board games with your spouse or kids? Join the community over at BoardGameGeek! Whatever your quarantine hobby is, there’s a place for you to write about it. Your reviews don’t have to be long or detailed or of a quality that would put Roger Ebert to shame. They just have to exist. The idea is to write, and writing is like exercise: the more you do it, the more you’ll keep doing it. (PS: you can follow me on Letterboxd here.)
Enjoy your writing time, stay healthy, and stay sane.
If you have lost or expect to lose your job and you need help with your résumé and/or cover letters, drop me a note via the Ask Me Stuff! form. I’ll be waiving fees for those in need until we are allowed to go outside again.