2020 was supposed to be the year of many things.
For some, a shiny new decade symbolised a fresh start, a way to wipe the slate clean and start again. For others it was going to be a year of change, making resolutions to hit the gym, to finally land that dream job, or pick up an instrument. Back on January first, little did we know how much change we, as a society, would be faced with.
For myself, this year was the start of my VCE experience, signalling the beginning of the end of high school. I wasn’t alone in believing this year for us Year 11s would be a further development of our independence, the parental reigns being slackened a little bit further. There were parties planned, concerts scheduled, and holidays with friends to be had. However, that all changed of course when COVID-19 hit our shores.
All of a sudden, I was away from my friends, stuck at home, hiding away from a silent but deadly virus. When I found out that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while, I made a list of everything I wanted to get done whilst in quarantine.
At the top of this list was my main priority: to finish the first draft of my second novel, Lattes and Laneways. I have been working on this novel for over two years and thought that isolation was the perfect excuse to knuckle down and finally complete the first draft. Writing about a famous young actor with the world at her feet seemed like the escape from reality that I craved. Early on into our first lockdown in Victoria, I stayed true to my word and sat up for the first couple of nights with a cup of peppermint tea and some good quality music to keep me company, researching all I needed to know about the character I really wanted to create, as well as rewriting my prologue.*
But as the first week of quarantine flew by, I found I just didn’t feel up to tackling such a momentous project. Usually writing this novel was easy, almost an indulgence. But after hours staring at a computer screen for online school every day I just wasn’t interested in writing my novel. At first, this alarmed me, because it had been me who had created this story in the first place. I felt guilty for abandoning my characters and leaving their lives hanging in the balance.
But isolation had pushed pause on everybody’s lives, and I found that this included all of my creative projects. The usual stimulus and idea sources were no longer as accessible, and so the plans had stopped flowing.
Stuck with writers’ block, I instead began to do a lot of self-reflecting. I found myself going over memories and situations that had occurred months, even years ago. There were precious experiences that at the time I felt I had been getting the most out of, but looking back I had completely taken for granted; on the other hand, there were experiences that were difficult, complicated and painful that I had worked through (or so I thought) and then dismissed in my mind as ‘history’, were all now being reopened. I found new perspectives that I had never thought about before, and these perspectives were being projected onto all these situations. It was almost epiphany-like in its nature.
From this culmination of self-realisation and nostalgia, I found myself penning short poems to people or past moments in my life in which I was giving myself a second chance to stop, take a breath, and really explain how it had made me feel. Before Covid, I had never thought of myself as someone who could, or should, write poems. But writing short, sharp, powerful pieces was finally the closure I didn’t know I needed for certain moments in my life. Or, it was the needed continuation of a thought, feeling or emotion that had been triggered by a memory or experience. Sometimes I wrote an uplifting poem about somewhere I was glad I had been and where I wished I could’ve stayed forever in my little happy bubble. Other times, I penned a long-winded piece in which I would talk about complicated feelings and conflicting emotions.
I guess if someone asked me what my most important takeaway is from this pandemic, it’s not to be too hard on yourself. I started this quarantine journey with very specific goals, which have turned into entirely different end results. It’s as if I bought all the ingredients for a cake and started to make it, before deciding I wanted to bake something else instead. Yet the finished product I have now is even more beautiful than my original recipe.
I know that one day, I will come back to my manuscript for Lattes and Laneways, but right now I’m letting myself explore other paths of my creative journey.
* I’ve been encouraged by many creative people who are much wiser than my naive 16-year-old self to keep pushing on when writing a first or second draft because I can always come back to make my work shinier and more polished after the manuscript is complete. This, however, is a habit I am still working on. I constantly find myself skimming a sentence, thinking of how I can make it sound better, and then before long, I’m re-editing an entire passage!
Izzy attended her first Story Writing Club in 2015 and has since published one book and been published in several more Creative Write-it publications. We’re now proud to have her on board as a Workshop Assistant, and continue to support her in her writing endeavours!
Where young writers (and some older ones) write.