What is the One Thing the Pandemic Has Taught You About Writing?
March 19, 2021 § 19 Comments
By Sweta Srivastava Vikram
When my mother passed away suddenly in the summer of 2014, I wrote a book of poems about her titled Saris and a Single Malt. I started to write the collection when we got the phone call that she (out of nowhere) was feeling unwell, and my father had to rush her to the hospital. I wrote as we boarded the plane to New Delhi. I wrote when I found out that the doctor had to put my mother on a ventilator. I wrote when we landed in India’s capital, and my brother hugged me tight, “I am sorry. She didn’t make it.” I wrote as a swarm of known and unknown faces cried and expressed their condolences. I wrote when we cremated her and completed the last rites. I wrote when we collected her ashes in the urn. I completed Saris and a Single Malt in less than a week’s time. That’s how intensely I was trying to cope and grieve. It wasn’t about documenting what was happening as much as it was about making sense of the senselessness around me. Saris and a Single Malt reiterated that sitting in the sea of my emotions, feeling every wave and turbulence, and swimming through words is how I get to the other side and eventually, heal.
In spring of 2020, when the pandemic hit New York, and we went on PAUSE, my pen found a mind of its own. I wasn’t surprised when I found myself writing daily. Not fiction, though. When the world around you seems to be in a disarray and you are concerned about the safety of your loved ones and your own well-being, creating an alternate reality through the world of fiction didn’t work for me. But I did complete my upcoming book of essays titled A Piece of Peace. I didn’t write for things to fit a certain style or magazine. I put things down without much deliberation. I wasn’t trying to reach a certain word count. The moment, the gush, the rush…that’s what I captured in my essays. The more I penned, the more grounded I felt in our new norm. Showing up to my daily practice of writing (much like yoga) helped me understand people, the pandemic, and the unprecedented times in a more compassionate way. It made me less fearful and more certain of my next steps. It took away my sorrows on days that felt heavy. It created space for my own self-care.
Anne Frank said,“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” The pandemic taught me that writing centers, heals, and humbles me. It helps me stay dedicated and disciplined and away from the unnecessary & mindless distractions that don’t always add meaning to life.
I asked 12 women writers what is the one thing that the pandemic has taught them about writing. Here is what they had to say:
“In order to give your creative mind a room of its own switch off from social media during the writing day.” ~ Cauvery Madhavan, Author of The Tainted
“Writing perseveres. Words are powerful, and they are powerful whether they come from a loud voice behind a public lectern or a quiet keyboard in quarantine, so we must keep at it.” ~ Jennifer Klepper, USA Today Bestselling author of Unbroken Threads
“I’ve learned that just as much as we require antibodies to fight off this terrible virus, we need stories that pull us up and out of depression by increasing our capacity for empathy and hope.” ~ Joyce Yarrow, author of Zahara and the Lost Books of Light
“As writers we find hope through the power of story. Our characters emerge from the darkest hours and that victory empowers us to keep the faith that we can succeed too.” ~ Anju Gattani, author of Duty and Desire
“The biggest lesson about my writing that the pandemic has taught me is that I like to write with friends. In the beginning I wasn’t getting any writing done. But then I got together with a group of women from WFWA, and I have been writing with them via zoom almost every day since May. I have made more progress than I did in the past so many years, finishing two books (edits on one and 1st draft of the second).” ~ Priya Gill, University Professor, Texas
“From overwhelming vulnerability unconstrained wonder has emerged, allowing me to draw from experience and possibility as never before.” ~ Mel Greenberg, Best-selling Author. Producer. Midlife Advocate. Speaker.
“As the pandemic has brought fear, uncertainty, and confusion to many parts of my life, writing included, having a strong community of trusted writer friends who understand not only the usual issues career-authors face, but also pandemic-related craft and business challenges, is invaluable.” ~ Jen Gilroy, writer of contemporary romance and women’s fiction with heart, home and hope
“I think the one thing that the pandemic has taught me about writing is how important it is to how I function in the world. In other words, how necessary it is to my overall feeling of productivity and well-being, and how it can provide insight into how I’m doing in general.” ~ Anita Kushwaha,Author of Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters
“I can’t expect hours of solitude to write—I work full-time, volunteer with the Gaithersburg Book Festival, live in a multi-generational home, and have a kid learning remotely/virtually—but I can expect myself to be patient and recognize when my writing moment is here.” ~ Serena Agusto-Cox, poet, editor, owner of Poetic Book Tours
“I can write with a house full of husband, teen, 91-year-old father-in-law, and two cats.”~ Catherine Prendergast, author of The Gilded Edge, forthcoming from Dutton press October 2021
“Those early days of sheltering in place, found me outlining a new manuscript–the hardest part of the writing process for me. The task required a level of keen focus and taught me that writing can be a sanctuary. My job wasn’t to wring my hands about the pandemic, but to get that book outlined.” ~ Elizabeth Wafler, Author & WFWA Director of Craft/Education Programs.
“The one thing pandemic has taught me is that writing helps me untangle my thoughts and release negative emotions.” ~ Sujata Parashar, Novelist
Has the pandemic taught you anything about your relationship with writing? Share in the comments below.
Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an international speaker, best-selling author of 12 books, and Ayurveda and mindset coach who is committed to helping people thrive on their own terms. As a trusted source on health and wellness, most recently appearing on NBC and Radio Lifeforce, Sweta has dedicated her career to writing about and teaching a more holistic approach to creativity, productivity, health, and nutrition. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Sweta is a trained yogi and certified Ayurveda health coach, is on the board of Fly Female Founders, and holds a Master’s in Strategic Communications from Columbia University. Voted as “One of the Most Influential Asians of Our Times” and winner of the “Voices of the Year” award (past recipients have been Chelsea Clinton), she lives in New York City with her husband and works with clients across the globe. She also teaches yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as well incarcerated men and women. Find her on: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.