Writing While Furloughed: What Impact did Unemployment have on my Writing?

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, I spent the majority of April furloughed from my day job. This meant I “achieved” my dream of writing as my primary profession, right?

Not quite. I quickly learned that there was a big difference between voluntary being a full-time writer and being forced into the situation during an unprecedented global event. But since this wasn’t exactly an insignificant amount of time, I’d thought about I’d cover what I took away from it.

Do more hours in a day = more time to write?

Pre-pandemic, on an average day, I was able to put about an hour and a half toward my writing and other tasks that fall under the umbrella of my creative career. With more wiggle room on weekends, I put in roughly twelve and a half hours each week. And if you’re wondering why that number is so precise, it’s because I keep a detailed time-tracking spreadsheet (and highly recommend you do the same!).

So, according to that detailed spreadsheet, how much time did I put towards my creative career while furloughed? The answer is an average of twenty-eight hours a week. That is more than twice what I was doing before. And the impact was huge. I was able to bump up the publication date of my third novel, Silver and Gold, by a month. I finished a draft of a novella for Camp NaNoWriMo much faster than usual. And I completed a round of revisions of a future novel in the Red and Black series in record time.

So yeah, I got plenty of writing done.

Staying on top of things

But, as mentioned above, time spent towards my “creative career” isn’t always about writing fiction. It also includes blogging, podcasting, marketing, admin work like answering emails, etc.

Now, I enjoy quite a few of these tasks (especially the ones geared towards content creation), but some days, they just seem to take up valuable writing time. But not when I was furloughed. Writing time became this near-sacred chunk the morning. For the most part, everything else was pushed to the afternoon. As a result, I was much more on top of things. No scrambling to get in a blog post at the last minute. No taking a week to reply to a simple email. No stressing out when I’d be able to find a couple hours to edit a podcast. The time was right there in the afternoons.

But, as you may have noticed, I didn’t exactly end up putting forty-hours each week.

The impact of global stress and financial insecurity

Even if writing full time is an impossibility, it’s hard not to daydream about it. This was something I’d do, pre-pandemic, structuring imaginary workdays around relaxing walks. But those imaginary workdays never required me to be on lockdown.

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been a little more stressed than usual. Sometimes it’s a general feeling of stress, endlessly scrolling through the headlines of the day. Sometimes, it’s personal. This past April, I learned that a friend of mine had lost her husband, an incredibly kind man, to the virus. Even though we were not close, it hurt to learn that he had died.

Sometimes the stress was financial, which is something that impacted me, even though my partner and I are in a better position than many. When the unemployment checks didn’t come in, we could still feed ourselves and pay the bills. But it did make me worry about the future. We had prepared for a period of financial uncertainty, but how long of one?

Sometimes, it was nice to escape from this stress in creative work (especially podcasting), but other times, that wasn’t the best tool. So while I did more writing during this break, I also did more of other things. I spent more time reading, cooking, bonding with my partner, watching TV, and playing video games. And I think that’s perfectly okay. I was still getting the things accomplished that I wanted. Turning yourself into a content making machine isn’t going to be the best way for everyone to handle stressful times. And this level of productivity is what worked for me.

The difficulty of creating new patterns and habits

In those daydreams of hypothetical workdays, I imagined doing things like signing up for conventions, author fairs, and networking events, as well as starting ongoing projects like new podcasts. Basically, a lot of things that required being able to plan for the future, or interact with the outside world. Awful tricky do to during a pandemic.

As an obsessive list-maker, I’m constantly planning for the future, sometimes making and altering to-do lists months in advance. This was impossible during April because I didn’t know whether to plan on being employed or not. Oddly enough, once I learned that I was going back to work, it became a lot easier to look ahead, even though I had less time to work with. What I had was a better idea of where I stood.

I’ve watched writing vlogs and have listened to podcasts from people who have made the jump from writing part-time to full time (albeit, not during pandemic conditions), and a lot of them have mentioned that it takes a while to adjust. Some have said months. Others, more than a year. That’s clearly a lot different than four weeks out of a job.

Lessons Learned

So, did being furloughed turn me into a full-time writer? Obviously, the answer is no. But given the circumstances, I don’t think I did that bad of a job. I was able to bump up both of my projects this year (except to see more about Secret Project Tower, after Silver and Gold is published!), and put myself in a good position for future writing projects. And being able to have separate times for writing and other parts of my creative career really upped my productivity overall.

Part of me wonders if this whole experiment was a sign that maybe I’m not actually cut out to write full time. Still, another part of me thinks that, if given more time and less stressful circumstances, I would have been able to eventually adjust. While it’s impossible to tell, it’s been a crazy ride, regardless.

2 thoughts on “Writing While Furloughed: What Impact did Unemployment have on my Writing?

  1. Pingback: Publishing My Third Novel and Putting My Face on the Internet: May in Review | Nancy O'Toole Meservier

  2. Pingback: Inspiring Words from Authors to Authors During Difficult Times

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