Some authors have said to me that lockdown is business as usual for them. They’re used to seeing no one during the day. They are as productive as ever, perhaps more so without the distractions of popping out to the shops. Others are experiencing the opposite – now that everyone is having to be at home, they feel an added pressure to be even more productive which turns out to be, well, counterproductive.
And if I’m honest, it’s the same for me. Some days I’m firing on all cylinders. I’m at my desk (well, laptop balanced on a Monopoly set in our sitting room, which I share with Joe Wickes every morning) at 7.30am and I can work through to 5 or 6pm. That’s definitely more hours than I would do in a coronavirus-free world. But on other days I feel the pressure to be “productive” – to help my authors through this tough time, to find new and exciting fiction and non-fiction, to query a publisher’s decision about a particular book. I get to the end of the day and wonder what have I actually done?
Don’t listen to everyone
For the first couple of weeks, I got it wrong. I was starting at 7.30am, sometimes earlier and powering through to supper. I quickly found that that was unsustainable. Not least because I have two children of school age who also need my attention! Oh, and a cat and kitten who hate each other and must be physically prized apart. Now I’ve found a better routine. I still start early but I’m taking regular breaks and I’m finishing at a decent hour. Long term it’s more productive. And on some days when it all feels a bit much, I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, to step away from that Monopoly set and go for a long walk. And that’s my advice to authors. Don’t listen to everyone who tells you now is the perfect time to write your novel as there are no other distractions. That’s just too much pressure. You’ll dive in and chances are, you’ll run out of steam. You are in this for the long haul and you need to view it as such. You need to pace yourself. Chances are, you’ll end up with something much better than a rushed job. And be kind to yourself. It’s not written anywhere that creativity necessarily springs naturally from a time of stress. And a global pandemic is arguably pretty stressful.
What I’ve learned
- Routine is important (for me at least). Start and finish at the same time
- Don’t work in our kitchen – it’s freezing
- Don’t try and read after lunch in the chair next to the window that gets the most sun – 2 pages in and I’ve fallen asleep.
- Don’t zoom with just one other person. Especially if you haven’t met them before #awkward
- Remember to change out of shorts and tshirt for zoom meetings.
- Remember to brush hair for zoom meetings.
- Reading submissions is the best part of the day
Euan is a Literary Agent at A.M.Heath, London.
He has been involved with the Bridport Prize since the novel award was set up and also reads all the shortlisted short story entries.