Where I’m not writing in lockdown

My favourite place to write is in a bar with a beer. Or at a cafe… with a beer.

But during lockdown in the Philippines, this has proved to be difficult.

For a long time, all the bars and restaurants and cafes were closed. 

And even though technically, right now, many bars and restaurants are open – they’re not allowed to serve alcohol.

Yeah, I don’t understand either. Apparently having a glass of wine with your dinner will lead to Covid. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This post is not an attempt to make sense of the Philippines’ inconsistent and weird lockdown rules – that is beyond the scope of any mortal being. 

(I’m not ANTI lockdown, btw, but the approach here has been scattershot and incomprehensible. Which is probably true in a lot of places.)

But I have definitely found it hard to write during lockdown because my routine has been so rudely interrupted.

I couldn’t figure out why I wrote almost nothing last year. There were all the cats, and cat births, and cat deaths to deal with. There were some major work projects that nearly crushed me.

My ideal writing space. Photo by Nathan Boadle on Unsplash.

But mostly it was location. Without external input to stir my imagination, I find it hard to write.

I know some writers like to write in isolation. They turn off the music, shut the door and write in total silence. 

I’m the opposite. I need interruptions. They are what fuel my stories. Quite literally. 

If I’m pondering a plot point, my pen between my teeth, I’ll be thinking through lots of different iterations and scenarios – a bit like a chess player. 

If Character A does this, then what could happen as a result? If Character B goes down this path, what things can happen to him? And then I think those through until I start to see a glimmer of a path leading to an ending.

And as I’m churning through all those possibilities in my head, I’m also observing the world around me. Let’s say a spider crawls past on the table, or a Lou Reed song comes on the radio – BOOM! That’s it! She’s afraid of spiders! What’s why she can’t get on the spaceship! Or – BAM! He is trying to recreate a perfect day! This is the doomed project that will destroy him!

Etc.

A spider and a song are great (there’s a story in that somewhere) – but even better is when I can see people walking past, listen to them talking, overhear an argument, see a funny fumble, smell sewage, see someone cycle past in camo gear with a ghetto blaster blaring out Filipino military tunes (not made up), see steam rising from the asphalt or a dog take a turd, feel the breeze against my cheek, see leaves change colour, feel my eyes water with hayfever…

And on.

Lately, I’ve been a bit stuck on my work-in-progress, and I think it’s because I stand every day at my unchanging desk and I’m expecting to be inspired.

Well, I’m not. I’m not inspired by this view anymore. 

Time to get out for a bit. If only for a bit… 

How are your lockdown projects going?

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.

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