CREATIVE SECRETS Lockdown Special 2


In the second of a two-part special feature about creativity in lockdown, Caroline Deacon revisits some of her interviewees to find out how the pandemic has affected their creative output, and to ask whether social distancing is something we’re all going to have to incorporate in our writing going forward.

The very first Creative Secrets column featured Carnegie winner Tanya Landman

I found it really hard to write or paint or do anything creative during lockdown (apart from baking and doing jigsaw puzzles – there is something very soothing about both!) At the beginning I was thinking I'd get loads done – all that uninterrupted time ahead! – but as it became more obvious that our government's handling of the situation was catastrophically inept, I was incapacitated by both rage and fear for my children (who were both in lockdown elsewhere). Now they're home again I've been able to write and am frantically trying to catch up with myself, setting the book in the past so I can escape from the pandemic!

Everyone was envious of the lovely studio space illustrator Kate Leiper rents in central Edinburgh.
I felt it prudent to move my work space back home and rearranged my living room to include a library and study, affectionately called 'the west wing', even though it's so tiny that tripping is a regular hazard. Years ago I used to work from home, so found the transition relatively straight forward. Having said that, my productivity was affected. I think my mind was preoccupied with the overwhelming sense of uncertainty and instability while also struggling to process the enormity of what was happening to the whole world. Time seemed to trickle through my fingers like sand. Regularly I would find myself at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, wondering what I'd achieved?

By the second week of lockdown, a definite sense of anxiety began to creep in as future work commitments fell like dominoes. Much of my income comes from presenting at book festivals and school workshops, all of which were cancelled. I was finishing off illustrations for a book I'd been working on but beyond that, there was a gaping void. Being self-employed, you're used to problem solving, but this was one almighty hurdle to overcome.

I oscillated between this gut-wrenching anxiety while also, almost guiltily, enjoying the slower pace of life. Gradually I became aware of there being more space in my mind.

I took part in the 100 Day Project: The aim is to do some sort of repetitive creative activity every day and record your progress, usually via Instagram. I based my project upon the Japanese concept of Ma, meaning space or pause. The Japanese don't consider space as being empty but instead view it as containing possibility and potential. Inspired by this idea, I looked at scenes I saw everyday, especially while on my daily walks, and searched for life and energy in views that could be considered drab, boring and maybe even lifeless. I’ve been amazed at how much inspiration I’ve found right on my doorstep!

We all loved the recent pictures of Moira McPartlin, author of the Sunsong Trilogy, writing in her campervan. 
Even before lockdown my creativity altered. Dystopian fiction seemed irrelevant in the dark days we were entering. I couldn’t focus on one thing so I decided to write a lockdown journal because I knew this was a historic moment and I wanted to document it. But I also gave myself permission not to write if I didn’t feel like it. I enrolled in a three week online poetry course so I was obliged to at least attempt some poems. The most beneficial for my creativity was a 21 day meditation challenge a friend invited me to join. Every morning I would listen to the guided meditation and complete the creative task set for the day. The challenge put me in my study at the same time every morning and once there I normally produced something. As the paint shops re-opened I took the opportunity to revamp my study. I cleaned out old folders and found exciting pieces of work in progress I had forgotten about. I stumbled upon my first camera, an old Kodak Box Brownie and I began a project to take analogue black and white photos while on my daily walk. And as lockdown dragged on I immersed myself in comic book writing, something I’d been hoping to do for a while and never found the time. I’m happy to say I completed the text for a full length comic book before lockdown eased. My creative output might not bring me immediate revenue but it gives me great satisfaction to know that from my initial lack of focus new forms have emerged.

So what will happen to fiction in the future? Keith Gray, author of Ostrich Boys, had this to say.
This pandemic has got to change a lot of fiction going forward – especially fiction for young people. It’s the younger generation we write for who will be the most affected by, and have the longest memories of, these times. But today’s crop of established authors can only observe what’s happening to young people. The truly interesting books and stories will appear a few years from now when the current aspiring writers have become the next generation of authors and are finding the words to express how it changed their lives.

* All photos by the contributors.

Caroline Deacon lives in Edinburgh and is the author of several childcare books. She now writes MG and YA and is agented by Lindsay Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates, Edinburgh. Find her on Twitter @writingdilemmas and at

The header image is by W&P Illustration Features Editor John Shelley. Find him at

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