Lockdown Opportunities for Writers
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Charles Dickens was an interesting man whose words are as relevant today as they were when he wrote A Tale of Two Cities. While chronicling the problems and dangers of Victorian London, he was an example of what a person could achieve in that environment if they seized the available opportunities. And there’s no doubt that he would have written about lockdown with a similar view if he were alive today. He would have acknowledged the fear of the virus, the arguments, the money worries and the scandals that go on behind closed doors. But also, the hope.
As writers, we aren’t immune to negativity. Even those of us who have been running online businesses for years, and haven’t seen a dip in sales, have been affected in other ways. Suddenly we’ve had to home-school children or collect food for elderly neighbours. Or we’ve experienced the loss of someone close to us. And while some of us might be used to chatting online, others will have struggled with the tech and missed friends who don’t use computers.
Lockdown has been tougher for some than others, but we have all learned how quickly our lives can pivot. For some, lockdown is now over, at least for a few weeks, and they are already returning to normality. However, for many it will continue for another few months. And although the news would have you focus on the darkness, lockdown has provided some bright opportunities and will continue to do so. You just have to look for them. So, in the true spirit of Dickens, here is a series of them to show you how to make the best of the situation.
Everyone’s lifestyle is different. Some households cook a lot while others go out to eat. Some have kids while their neighbours are just adults. Many people commute for their day jobs while others are self-employed and work from home. That means that everyone’s opportunities have arisen in different places. However, this is a good time for us all to reassess how we’re spending our time and identify new ways in which we can maximise our daily word counts.
For example, if you used to commute then you could spend that time writing at your desk at home. Or if you’re a night owl who could never usually write late into the night because of early work or school-run commitments, you can now change your sleeping pattern to stretch out your most creative hours. Even if you’ve found yourself with less time to write because of kids and newfound house-cleaning duties, something we’ve all given up to some degree is social time. Whole nights at a local bar or a restaurant with friends have been replaced by an hour or two on Skype or Zoom. Travel time and minutes spent queueing have practically vanished, opening up a void that’s prime writing real estate.
If you haven’t found your word count opportunities yet then then try deconstructing your life. What did you used to do on the weekends that swallowed your time? Where did your mornings go? How much TV have you watched since lockdown started that you could have converted into writing space?
Advertising can be an intimidating prospect at the best of times. Platforms like Facebook, Amazon and BookBub guzzle cash with no guaranteed return on investment, and the point at which the process becomes profitable is uncertain. Some people never make online ads profitable. However, those who write great books to hungry audiences and who learn to advertise effectively do experience a breakthrough.
Now, it’s understandable if you don’t want to try again while the economy is in flux. Giant companies are laying off staff every day, markets are changing overnight and not everyone has a war chest to weather the storm. If you do, however, then now is the perfect opportunity. With so many companies out of action, online advertising is cheaper than it’s been in a long time. Not only that but the general public are more open to buying ebooks and other online products, not wanting to venture into brick-and-mortar bookstores for their reading fix.
Here in the UK, lockdown is lifting slowly but the government still advises against making unnecessary trips to friends or travelling long distances in your car. On top of that, the gyms are still closed. As a result, many people have found themselves alone a few extra hours every week, which they’ve spent hiking to stay healthy and pass the time. As you can imagine, this is a fantastic time to learn dictation. At the very least, it’s safer than testing it out while driving.
Early dictation adopters have seen a dramatic increase in the amount they can write each day, sometimes even tripling their usual output without seeing a drop in quality. As a result, the initial learning curve, which can be frustrating, is definitely worth the slog. There are plenty of companies that provide text-to-speech software but by far the most popular is Dragon by Nuance. If you’re looking to reduce your screen time, increase your word count and exercise while you write then this might be the perfect solution to get into during lockdown.
In the past, many authors have shied away from appearing as a guest on podcasts despite it costing nothing but an hour of their time. Typical reasons they mention for avoiding this strategy include that they hate to see themselves on camera or hear their voice, or that they haven’t grasped the tech needed to do it. This is a missed opportunity because a single appearance can seriously enhance your sales figures, particularly if the show’s listeners are well-targeted for your books.
Thanks to lockdown, however, many of us have gotten over our on-camera insecurities and have learned how to set up meetings on Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and other similar apps. The first few attempts were full of all the usual teething problems, of course, but many people have since gotten over those early qualms and have settled into weekly or even daily virtual meetups with friends. It’s been a revelation for almost everyone, from toddlers to octogenarians.
Believe it or not, many professional podcasters use the same software to record their episodes as you have been using to conduct your lockdown pub quiz. The process is no different. And now that you have lost your commute or been furloughed altogether, and you have more time to organise recordings, podcasting has become an easy opportunity to boost your author platform.
Shifting from a system where you get paid a flat rate per hour to one where your income is scalable and your results matter more than the effort you put in requires a mental adjustment, especially if you’ve been governed by the rules of the former for decades. That change affects people differently. While some creatives find “busy work” to pad their day, not realising that they can get the same results for less effort if they chose to work smarter, others work far too little, unaware that they could explode their annual income to lottery-win proportions if they just worked the normal 40-hour work week.
Beware both scenarios if you’re usually shackled to a day job and have recently found yourself cut adrift. Awarded so much freedom, it’s easy to squander your writing window and not work consistently if you’re not used to it. That’s why now is the perfect time for you to learn some time management skills.
What you decide to start with – whether it be the fundamentals of the miracle morning, the Pomodoro technique, the Pareto Principle or Parkinson’s Law – doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you use this time to work out how to maximise the potential of your author business without burning out. Consider it a test run for the future and a way to give yourself the dream career you’ve always wanted in a way you can easily sustain for the rest of your life.
These are just a few cherrypicked opportunities that have arisen during lockdown. No doubt there are many more. Start with these and you will soon see a shift if your perspective and results. It doesn’t matter if you see the glass half-full or half-empty right now. What matters most is that you know that even an empty glass is full of potential and that you use that information to keep learning and building momentum.
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