Tag Archives: writing advice

Writing in the Time of Coronavirus

by Kitty Felde

I have to keep asking my husband which day of the week it is. When was the last time I went to a movie or a restaurant? February? We seem to measure time now by how fast our hair is growing with no hope of getting it cut properly. It’s a time we’ve been calling “the hiatus.” As opposed to “the busy time” that is our usual lives.

The husband is a writer, too and has been pounding away at his laptop, trying to finish the book proposal. I wish I was that productive.

I know I’m not the only one.

My writing group met online last week. More than an hour was spent “checking in” and most of the writers needed that human contact more than they needed their plays critiqued. Some reported real-life concerns: pre-existing health conditions, lost jobs, school-age children they suddenly were being asked to home school. Others struggled with anxiety, loneliness, and a writerly pressure to produce “something important” during this hiatus.

Intellectually, as writers we realize that this is a rare moment in history that should be captured, turned into art, preserved for future generations. But does anyone think an audience will want to go see a coronavirus play next year? (The answer is maybe, if it’s a really good one.)

Me? I know I don’t have the next “Love in the Time of Cholera” in me.

So what do we do? I have a few suggestions.

Find a way to be helpful to others.
o Shop for an elderly neighbor.
o Call or text that friend who lives alone.
o Send an advance to the cleaning lady, hair stylist, or anyone else you know who could use the cash.


Use your writing gifts. Be creative.

o Write a short play for a friend’s child.
o Invite actor friends to a Zoom reading of one of your plays – or a play by your favorite writer.
o All the world’s a stage: is there one in your living room? My writing pal Ellen Struve is writing and producing puppet plays from her front window for the neighborhood kids.
o Perform Instagram or Facebook live reading of your best monologue.


Feed your creative soul.

o Think of the haitus as the solo “play date” that Julia Cameron prescribes in “The Artist’s Way.” Do something fun that’s NOT writing. Bake, paint, garden, work on a jigsaw puzzle. Play. Love to sing? Check out the Facebook Group “Quarantine Sing-a-long.” Every day they take a vote on the song everyone will be singing.
o Binge that TV show you’ve always wanted to write for. Take notes if you want. (I can’t get enough of “Crash Landing on You,” a Korean romcom with the best plotting I’ve seen in a series.)

o Interview the people in your house. Story Corps has a free app you can download or just use the voice memo app on your smartphone. I interviewed my grandmother decades ago, but not my mother who died early. I will always regret that.
o Write letters. If your handwriting is semi-legible, handwrite them. A friend from grammar school has been writing to me from Washington state every week. It’s so much better than a phone call.
o Count your blessings. A friend in the mid-west has been posting her “Gratitude List” on Facebook every day, listing everything from pictures of spring flowers to discovering a jar of Trader Joe’s Thai Curry Simmer Sauce in the back of her pantry. We truly are blessed in ways that are easy to ignore during the “busy time.”

And so I close by being grateful for this writing community. Thank you.

Advice for Aspiring Playwrights

By Jen Huszcza

Recently, the LA Times reported about a meeting between a young novelist and Philip Roth in a deli. The novelist, John Tapper, had passed on his first novel to Roth and was looking for advice and inspiration.

Roth reportedly said:

Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say stop now.

Likewise, I would say to folks who dream of being playwrights, stop. If you gotta do it because of some fire in your belly or blinding light in your brain, well, you’re doomed. If you throw crap out into the world, you’ll feel like a sellout. If you work hard on something with all the best intentions, you will probably be ahead of your time.

Whatever you do, you will probably despise some aspect of your work or yourself. Sure, there’s drinking, drugs, facebook, and therapy, but none of those will put the words on the page for you.

Sure you might love language or love the theatre or love cinema. But at some point, you will hate all that, and you’ll only be left with yourself. And you’ll wonder, why the hell didn’t I become a rocket scientist? I had the grades. 

Still, the writing continues. It has to continue because you have no choice. You have to finish one play because there is something in it that will help you write the next play. You have to finish another play because you promised it to an actor friend of yours who is super talented. You have to think about that next play because it’s a thought that’s interesting. Then, when that is done, then you can stop. Of course, unless, something else has to be written.

Getting out of that funk

I’m calling upon my bag of tricks to try to break free of this current writing slump.

Step one: read something inspirational…or just plain fun. I picked up the latest Alexander McCall Smith Number One Ladies Detective Agency. Which takes me to Africa, reminds me of what I love about that place – a continent where making time for people is an important priority in life. And McCall Smith shares with us the wisdom of the imagined father of Mma Ramotswe, the “late” Obed Ramotswe. It’s wisdom appropriate this week for me:

“How to lead a good life:
Do not complain about your life. Do not blame others for things that you have brought upon yourself. Be content with who you are and where you are, and do whatever you can do to bring to others such contentment, joy, and understanding that you have managed to find yourself.”