“2020 unwritten … will this be the year you write your story?”
This quote came from one of my Facebook posts back in January 2020. Before the world began to use the words “lockdown” and “socially distanced” on a daily basis, I was ready for the new year – and ready to make it a good one.
Alongside my own writing, I had planned a children’s Easter workshop and several adult workshops later in the year. I was also excited to return to Shambellie House in the winter to repeat my Christmas writing workshops, which had been a huge success in 2019.
In March 2020, we went into lockdown. Initially I must admit to frustration that my recently-made workshop plans (including detailed plans for a June day of writing workshops for Lockerbie Writers) had to be cancelled … but then the sun came out, and we all got on with it as best we could!
I took on several online Lockerbie Writers’ projects – including collating new writing for Lockerbie Old School on the theme of the pandemic, judging for the annual children’s writing competition with Castle Loch, and a week of new writing on Lockerbie Writers’ blog.
I completed several novel-length editing projects for other writers.
I baked, set up the children’s paddling pool in the back garden, and booked a holiday.
Essentially, I kept myself busy, content in the knowledge that – by the summer – things would be back to normal. I would still get to Shambellie for those Christmas 2020 writing workshops; I was fairly certain of that.
(Insert laughter here! It goes without saying that my holiday was cancelled, and I did not get to Shambellie!)
It was amazing, however, how much could happen in the midst of a pandemic.
In the autumn, I gratefully received funding from DG Unlimited and Dumfries & Galloway Council to support my work towards the production of a book for children with autism spectrum disorder. I hope to finish this project in May/June 2021. (And I have a small Facebook group for anyone who is interested in helping with research and discussions about it – get in touch for details.)
I was also invited to take part in filming for the BBC Scotland television programme, ‘My Kind of Town’. What a thrill to be asked to read my own writing and poetry in front of a TV camera! Sadly, in the end I wound up on the cutting room, but I remain grateful to the BBC Scotland team for including me in filming, and to local writer Vivien Jones for recommending me in the first place. It was such a fun experience – and hopefully I’ll get another chance in the future!
In winter 2020, my sister-in-law Karen and her friend Sophie, who had been raising money for Dumfries and Galloway Paediatric Diabetic Service, asked whether I would like to be involved in fundraising. I began work on their request for “a couple of writing worksheets”, but enjoyed it so much that it quickly turned into a 16-page children’s Christmas activity book! I wrote, illustrated and typeset it all from scratch, and then had it printed locally. I sold copies myself, as well as gifting a large quantity to Karen and Sophie to include in the Christmas Eve boxes which they had for sale.
In total they raised over £120 for the paediatric diabetic service in the month of December 2020 – and as an extra little gift, I was thrilled to donate the remaining activity books to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, to be gifted to some of the children who found themselves in hospital over the Christmas period. I hope they brought smiles to a few faces.
And now the big question – after all of the excitement (and uncertainty) of 2020, what comes next?
When I became a self-employed writer back in October 2018, my main focus was writing workshops … but over the last ten months, things have changed so much. Although there have been times when restrictions eased enough to allow workshops to go ahead (and I did, in fact, have several in the pipeline towards the end of the year), they would have looked very different – face masks, hand sanitiser, no spare pens and paper for that one person at every workshop who forgets to bring any (you know who you are!) … but mostly, feeling unable to do what I love most at workshops, which is to spend time wandering around the group, chatting informally to participants about their writing, and getting to know everyone in a relaxed environment.
I have had a number of enquiries about online workshops, and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been in touch. Online teaching is difficult for me, mainly due to childcare and lack of child-free working hours at the moment. However, I know how much of a lifeline this type of resource has been to many throughout the pandemic (myself included), and I hope it is something which I might be able to look into in the future.
As we enter 2021, I hope the next few months will bring positive change and we will soon be back to in-person workshops.
However, for the moment, I have taken the decision to concentrate on the thing which got me started off in this line of work in the first place – my own writing.
I won’t be disappearing altogether though! I will continue to post on my business Facebook page and answer messages and emails, so please do keep in touch.
I have a number of editing projects for other writers already in progress, and I will continue to work on these as promised over the coming weeks.
I will also continue in my fulfilling voluntary role as Events Manager for Lockerbie Writers, with a couple of projects already on the horizon.
But mostly, in 2021, I will be writing!
The struggle has definitely been real this year – and my writing has unfortunately taken a hit, falling into the cracks between school closures, various family matters, and general COVID stress – but, here we go. My commitment to write!
My book for children with autism spectrum disorder is in its early stages, but beginning to form now.
Meanwhile my novel has grown this year by 20,000 words; it now measures at almost 67,000 words total, and is in good shape as it heads towards its climax.
2020 was certainly not my best writing year … but, when I think about what a year it’s been, I am pleased to have managed an average of 385 words per week. I often hear people saying “I can’t write a novel – I don’t have time,” or “I can’t write that many words,” or “I only get a few chapters into it and give up because it’s going nowhere”. I hope that my slow and steady progress over this last year provides hope that it IS possible to write a novel gradually, and it does NOT have to be something that happens over the course of a weekend or a month. If I continue at the same rate through the next 12 months, then by the end of 2021 I will be approaching 90K words and will almost certainly be at the end of the first completed draft … and that is definitely a good goal for the new year.
Happy new year, everyone! Thank you for supporting my writing and business, and for taking the time to read this. I wish you the best of luck with your writing in 2021.