Continuing her series, Lizzie Hubbard writes about studying a creative writing degree remotely during a pandemic.
Procrastination and Peer Pressure in a Pandemic
It’s Sunday morning and I’ve cleaned the whole house. I’ve already put my facemask on and braved big Sainsburys to get food for the week. I’ve even half-heartedly done a bit of online yoga, but I can’t enjoy the smug feeling of being productive. The truth is I’m procrastinating.
I sit at my desk and look up at all the good story ideas from this week, scribbled on multicoloured Postit Notes and stuck up above my desk ready for when I have time to write. But that time is now and none of my notes makes sense. I get up to make another cup of tea. It’s snowing outside and there’s a national lockdown. There is no excuse for leaving the house.
While the kettle boils, I get deeply involved with Twitter thread of restaurant horror-stories. I nod and smile remembering my days as a teenage waitress. Then notice that it’s nearly 2pm. I still haven’t opened the Word document yet.
Today is the day I earmarked in my diary to get some writing done. Something I’d been looking forward to all week. But now I’m here, in the hours cross-hatched with potential, I’m finding it hard to make myself sit down.
Luckily, I respond well to peer pressure. At 3pm, I’m meeting some friends from my MA course online – we have a date to write together. I don’t mind disappointing myself, but I can’t bring myself to stand up other people. These online writing sessions have been an anchor to my pandemic week and I’m so grateful to my super-organised classmates who arranged it. We log on, say hi, turn our cameras off and get cracking. Then after about 50 minutes we unmute and have a chat. I’m always surprised by how many words I get down, even if I’m in a bad mood.
Online writing sessions like ours have, understandably, been really popular during the pandemic. I image the lack of café chairs or library space has encouraged people to seek out a quasi-coffee shop experience. I’m sure that many people, like me, benefit from having a set event to show up for.
Hundreds of writers log on to the Writing Hour hosted by the London Writers’ Salon at 8am every weekday morning. Even though I optimistically set my alarm for this every morning, I’m probably more suited to tuning in to the US Pacific Time session at the more reasonable time of 4pm.
The bigger writing hours are great for feeling like there are people around the world sitting down to write together but our smaller MA group is much more personal. Normally three or four people will show up and we’re often working on similar projects. These writing sessions make me feel part of a Creative Writing community even though we haven’t met face-to-face.
A bit like reading, I’ve always thought of writing as a solo endeavour. I’ve always romanticised the image of writing in solitude (preferably with a quill by candlelight) but during this time of enforced social distancing, I’m learning to be a bit kinder to my inner extrovert.
It’s hard to put another video chat in the diary, especially when work-life and social-life is all online, but the writer hour has allowed me to transfer this blog from my Postits to the screen. So even when the world starts to open up again, and we can finally meet up in the pub, I hope these writing sessions continue in one way or another. Perhaps this is just the beginning of a group of writers who support each other through this MA and beyond, into our future lives as writers.
Lizzie is an MA Creative Writing student at Birkbeck, currently logging into her online classes from North London. She loves to play with language, both on the page and out loud. At the moment, she’s writing lots of short stories to distract herself from the world and to keep herself sane. You can find her tweeting about books, poetry cats and, sometimes, free Jazz here – @LizHub