Lindsay Galvin: Writing behind the mask and productivity in a pandemic
Here, DARWIN'S DRAGONS author Lindsay Galvin explores what writing and publishing a novel in a global pandemic is all about. Over to you Lindsay ...
By the time the pandemic hit this year, my new book Darwin’s Dragons was already finished, printed and ready to fly. But only a month before launch my real dragons were grounded, a decision agreed by all, until 2021.
I’d never imagined anything like it. So what does a writer do in this situation?
Try to stay in the air
Darwin’s Dragons is the start of a new venture for me, into middle-grade historical fiction. I found this genre suited me by accident, when drafting a backstory for how dragons could be discovered, and it felt so natural that the story grew from there. I needed to keep going and write the next thing, but Covid was everywhere and nothing was the same. I was devastated at the tragedies happening daily. My whole family were at home, so I was home-schooling, snack-providing and generally unable to retreat to a fictional world. My brain wasn’t in a good place. Bombarded with news, I couldn’t get in the headspace. At first this was frustrating, but I knew I had to accept I needed to find a landing space and hibernate for a while before I crash-landed, just like a real dragon would.
What do you do when you can’t do it?
But I couldn’t just sleep! I need to give my mind activity otherwise it will find it elsewhere in anxiety thoughts. I went back to research and reading. I knew the basic direction for my next book and watched documentaries, researched, and listened to audiobooks. I read other unrelated books, because I’m always behind on those and reading helps everything. And I relaxed and cut myself some slack.
The only way out is through
When things were calmer, I started to write again but changed up my routine. The kids were still home so I wrote in bed in the morning before I got up. Usually I would never do this – I’m not a morning person – but it was my only quiet time. I just plodded along slowly with no pressure on myself, other than to get some words down each day. New characters and worlds took shape slowly, slowly. I wasn’t working at my normal speed but I made myself accept that was okay in a global pandemic, and I gradually started to look forward to it. I wrote half a new story draft that way – very gently – and where it felt like I’d never be able to take off … finally, it did.
Flamingos never look like they are going to be able to fly … but they do.
I think when tough times hit and your career is grounded for whatever reason, there are no easy answers. Creativity is an impetuous beast, a bit like my five-month-old puppy! You can’t force creativity to do as it’s told, you can only provide conditions (like giving yourself a treat!) so it might want to. Carve a little quiet time, be patient and trust. Creativity will come back to you, it always does.
If you've been inspired by Lindsay's words here, take a look at our Times Chicken House Children's Fiction competition for unagented/unpublished authors. Submissions are being accepted now!