Spenser Secrest, Writing Consultant
One feeling that I deal with frequently during the ongoing pandemic is one of stasis. While there is certainly some optimism during this time, as COVID-19 vaccines continue to be distributed, there is still, for me, an overwhelming feeling of being stuck in one place, despite the fact that I am taking graduate courses and progressing through UofL’s English M.A. program. To be clear, I understand that being on lockdown and the precautions that are in place are for everyone’s good, including my own, but this does not mean that these preventive measures make life easy. For me, it feels as though life has been perpetually on hold. On the worst days, this static feeling can make it hard to do anything, whether it be schoolwork or something to relax, even something as simple as streaming something online. Needless to say, this feeling of stasis has led to writer’s block, both for my academic writing assignments, as well as for my own creative writing. As counterintuitive as it may seem, having little to do because of the pandemic has actually led to me having a reluctance to start academic assignments and any creative projects.
When people discuss writing, of any kind, you often hear phrases about only writing “when inspired.” For me, this has never been my own approach to writing. I’ve often found that actually starting the writing process leads to inspiration. However, with the feeling of stasis, it is easy to want to do nothing, rather than intellectually exert oneself by writing, whether that writing is for an academic assignment or for leisure. I’ve even found getting motivated to brainstorm ideas for a paper to be difficult, despite the fact that this phase of the writing process does not involve any actual writing.
I often reflect on, or else in some way, incorporate past experiences in my own creative writing. However, the pandemic has led, to me, to there being almost nothing that I would want to write about or include in my writing. I’ve found that I write best when I have reflected on something after it has happened, as events are often too difficult to process when they are actually happening. For me, it makes more sense to think about and analyze something thoroughly before writing before writing about it, as opposed to writing about something with your gut reaction immediately after something has happened. However, as the pandemic is still ongoing, any insight that can be found by reflecting on it is limited.
In terms of my writing for classes, this is something that will, obviously, have to get done, eventually. However, due to the pandemic, I’ve found myself procrastinating more than usual and not enjoying the writing process nearly as much as I had in the past. While every semester brings papers that are not enjoyable to write and that may make one more susceptible to procrastination, it seems as if every paper, even minor papers that are not graded as rigorously, take as long to begin writing as the more difficult and less enjoyable papers. I’m inclined to attribute this to the fact that the pandemic has led to there being less sense of accomplishment after writing something. For example, whether I finish writing one of the most difficult papers of the semester or the last minor assignment for the week, there will be little that I can do in my personal life afterwards, due to the pandemic limiting all of our usual activities.
Although the precautions that are in place, due to the pandemic, are for everyone’s health, they have not contributed to productivity, at least for me. While both academic and creative writing can be difficult to begin, it is worth noting that writing can be easy once the process has been started. While it can especially difficult to get motivated to brainstorm ideas for a paper, as there is no visible product after doing so. However, this part of process should not be discounted, as it may lead to enthusiasm for the writing project. Finally, if the outbreak of COVID-19 has led to other people experiencing writer’s block, perhaps there will be a plethora of written material produced once the pandemic ends, as going back to normal and the optimism that will come may inspire people to write.