Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Can we Write Our Way out of This Pandemic?

by Sue Heavenrich & the GROG bloggers

A year ago I started a Pandemic Diary - an occupational hazard of being a journalist. I repurposed an old notebook, figuring the 70 remaining sheets of paper should see me through. By October I was out of pages ... scrounging a new notebook and realizing I wasn't going to write my way out of the pandemic. Beyond the Diary, I'd done little work on other writing projects. At some point I finally gave myself permission to “not write”. 

Instead of writing, I read MG and YA novels, vacuumed dust from bookshelves, made fudge and brownies. I took my camera on long walks. I scribbled notes on paper and stuffed them into a tin, and plugged the holiday lights in every night and on cloudy days. I watched re-runs of M*A*S*H, attended SCBWI webinars, zoomed with some writing buddies. The writing started to emerge in unexpected ways. Now, with the return of the sun, the urge to get back to those "projects" is pushing me back to my keyboard. 

Turns out I wasn't the only writer negotiating the bumps in the road. Here’s how my fellow GROGGERS met pandemic challenges:

I'm not the only one who turned to old TV series. Carol Coven Grannick did too. Back in September she had planned a book launch... and instead found herself doing different sorts of promotion. Like many of us, she is grateful for a safe living space and food, and deeply misses meeting friends and family in person. Connecting via zoom and the phone helps, she says, but it’s not the same. 

“The pandemic seems to have fine-tuned the need to live in the present,” says Carol. “Take one day at a time, watch them unfold differently and the same, trusting and hoping that we will be together with family and friends sometime soon, soon, soon.”

upstate NY ~ Sue H
Eileen Meyer discovered that doing mundane things, like shopping for groceries, became more difficult. What helped her get through the pandemic was getting outside.

“Taking breaks to breathe in fresh air and walk in nature is something that really makes me feel refreshed,” she says. To keep the rhythm of her writing routine she stayed involved with her critique group. Having deadlines motivated her to work on projects, she says, “But most importantly, it provides a bit of community in this desert of far-too-much alone time.” 

After losing a family member and then a longtime friend to COVID-19, Sherri Rivers found herself dwelling on dark thoughts. “I needed to remember that life was still good and better days were ahead.,” she says. “Watching cat and animal videos brightened my thinking and warmed my heart.”

On the writing front, Sherri researched funny picture books, and made a commitment for 2021 to write a new draft every month as part of  12 x 12. Online groups and posts help keep her connected and keep the writing fires glowing.

Wilmington, VT ~ Sue H
Chris Mihaly went through a series of Pandemic Phases. With a picture book released in March, she found all her bookstore events, school visits, and book festivals canceled. Thus began the “Disappointed but Zooming” phase filled with free webinars, the SCBWI Summer conference, and other virtual events. 

Next came the “Unable to Concentrate” phase. “It was impossible to summon any creativity at all,” Chris says. “Even in a normal year, it's rough when the days start getting shorter – and this is not a normal year.” But the vaccine roll-out has brought a new, positive phase. “I made a New Year Resolution to write a poem a day,” Chris says. “Each morning I pick a poetic form, then sit down to write a fresh poem in that form. This has sparked my writing energy ... it's definitely a great creativity boost.” Oh yes, and daily walks helped.

Suzy Leopold hoped that more time at home would offer more time to create, but her heart wasn’t in it. At least not at first. “After a few weeks, I finally took a few steps toward a new routine that included being safe, healthy, and creative,” she says. Step number one: revisit her SMART goals, though she made some adjustments.

Pandemic painting ~ Suzy L
She connected with the Springfield, Ill SCBWI Scribes group once a month for manuscript exchanges and critiques, and checked armloads of picture books out of the library to study as mentor texts. “ I also committed to painting every day for 100 days (the100DayProject). I painted my various creations on 4 X 4 cards using watercolors, acrylic paints, and mixed media, and posted them on Instagram.” Suzy also volunteered her time to the Macoupin Art Collective, teaching a class she called  ‘Drawing with Henri’s Scissors’. She also spent as much time as she could outdoors – in the garden or riding a bike. 

Wyoming ~ Leslie

Leslie Colin Tribble is another nature girl, though this past year she limited herself to exploring new areas closer to home and revisiting favorite spots. “I started being more intentional about incorporating things to bring me joy and to feel special. Some were bigger practices, like cooking something new, or dragging out old craft projects. Others were simple like using the good china for meals. The most spontaneous and joyful thing I did in the past year was get a puppy.” 

Leslie also started taking night walks – which open up a whole new word to explore. “Being out in nature at night is something that's so simple, yet so unique and rewarding,” she says. 

We might not be able to write or paint our way out of the pandemic, but as we move into the second year, Suzy shares this bit of wisdom: let's take the time to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and try not to criticize our lack of energy.


  1. How I love all the ways my GROGger buddies have found to stay creative and positive! You are my inspiration! I benefitted from Sue's fudge and always look forward to Leslie's amazing photoes!

  2. Great post! Sounds like you have all been busy in many wonderful ways!

  3. This sounds familiar in so many ways. But it feels like we now have some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not an oncoming train.

  4. Thanks for a great post, Sue. I started a journal practice where each morning, I write down three things I am grateful for and 3 things I want to accomplish that day. That, along with my critique groups and daily walks, has kept me on track during this strange year.

  5. Thank you Sue and GROGgers. 2020 was difficult to navigate. I can relate to all the ways y'all faced the challenge of Covid 19. I kept moving forward because of the inspiration and kindness shared by the kid lit community. Sending out positive vibes for all as we charge into 2021!

  6. I am so proud to be a part of this group and enjoyed reading the different ways we all coped. Sue, great idea for a post!

  7. Day by day - we're getting there and poems, art, and walks help. Thanks for sharing.

  8. It's so nice to read about everyone's strategies for remaining creative. I have struggled greatly with this, so I'm hoping some of your suggestions will shake some writing loose in me. Thank you, GROG team!