Freelance writer and remote work veteran Maxine Roper shares her tips for remote working and adjusting to difficult times…
Accept you’re getting used to something different
Many of us are either adjusting to remote working for the first time, or trying to fit regular jobs around writing in a very different way than usual. Those of us who do write from home regularly are adjusting to it being the norm for everyone else. Whichever way you’re used to working, these times are new to anyone and you won’t know what works for you straight away.
Little and often is a good approach to any writing
It’s probably not realistic to expect your usual levels of productivity right now, so be patient with yourself and others. If you’re dealing with competing deadlines and responsibilities, work to a schedule based on what feels achievable at the moment, not what you would expect to on a good or normal day. If you’ve less time to write, allow yourself to keep whatever you’re working on in your thoughts, without putting pressure on yourself. If you have more time than usual, don’t feel you have to use it write more than you feel comfortable with. If you’re not up to writing thousands of words a day, taking some time at home to jot down ideas, or just to look forward to returning to a project, can be an enjoyable way to break up the day.
Make sure your work area is comfortable for regular working
Now probably isn’t the time to invest in the priciest ergonomic equipment, but if you don’t normally work at home it’s worth making your area as comfortable as you can. Check your screen height, use a stand for your laptop and take regular screen breaks. Even if you’ve worked at home for years, stressful times can bring into focus what’s working and what’s not. If you’ve always found it hard to take advice on getting fresh air once a day, your allowed daily exercise can help with this.
Get support with your writing online
If you work or write from home and live with others, it’s tempting to sound off about everything to them and look for reassurance from them, especially at the moment when you’ve nowhere else to escape to. If you find this is adding to stress, it may be good to do this somewhere more supportive. Being mentored as a writer can give you structure and motivation. Many creative industries also offer business mentors. Mentors often work online using email and video chat, so if now could be an ideal time to sign up.
Use your feelings to help you
Unless you’ve been writing about a global pandemic since before Christmas, current events probably aren’t close to anything you’re working on, and are probably unlike anything you’ve ever known in your life. It’s not true that you need to have had difficult experiences in order to write. But there might be ways you can work through your feelings and help your writing at the same time. Are there are passages in your work which deal with isolation, loss or adjusting to change? Use your experience of remote working to tap into this.
Think about which notifications you need and when
You’ve probably already been told to limit your daily news intake. Remote working often means more people trying to communicate with you in more ways, and lack of face-to-face contact with friends and colleagues can add to this. Pausing your inbox, restricting specific contact methods to specific times, and switching off notifications when you don’t need them can be helpful for productivity and managing anxiety.
Don’t be dictated to by social media
Social media is often useful for connecting with other writers. But writing advice that spreads this way can also be unhelpfully hostile and prescriptive. Despite what some Twitter posts may say, there is no ‘ideal’ time to write a novel; only whenever you want to. If someone’s advice makes you feel anxious or ashamed, it probably isn’t helpful at any time, particularly right now. It’s also fine to disregard advice which doesn’t relate to your situation. No-one should be expecting you to write an epic first novel if you’re trying to teach Year 5 Geography and work full-time at home.
Be sensitive to others’ situations
It’s great if you are managing to get more done than ever, or create wonderful new habits for yourself. But others might not be going through such positive changes. Equally, something which isn’t helpful to you might be just the right thing for someone else.
Keep in touch
There are lots of virtual events happening right now to support writers. Subscribe to mailing lists and keep an eye on social media feeds to stay connected.