Ahead of this week’s live book club event, author Phoebe Morgan tells us all about how writing is keeping her sane during lockdown.
Hello everyone, it’s lovely to be part of the HQ Book Club! I’m writing this at my kitchen table, where I basically spend 90 per cent of my time now that we’re in the great 2020 lockdown. My boyfriend is sat opposite me, working on something completely unfathomable (he’s a structural engineer) and outside, the sun is shining.
The lockdown period has been a tough one; there’s no getting around that. But one of the things I am so grateful for is writing. My third book, The Babysitter has just come out (it published on 28 May 2020) and my deadline for book four is rapidly approaching, so I’m spending lots of time promoting The Babysitter and frantically trying to get to the end of book four. I work full time, so weekends are so important for writing – and I have been so happy to be able to escape into my new book every Saturday and Sunday. Without the structure and routine of a working day, the weekends feel quite daunting – or at least they did three months ago at the beginning of the lockdown period. I felt lost without my colleagues’ friendly faces popping up on Microsoft Teams, and woke up with a sense of dread – I never thought I’d miss a 9 o’clock morning meeting so much! But then I realised that I could write – and I started being much more disciplined with myself, setting myself word counts that I had to get to by the end of Sunday. I wrote 7,000 words one weekend, and before I knew it the time had flown past, and Monday was on the horizon again.
Pre-lockdown, I loved weekends – I saw friends and family, as I’m sure everybody reading this did too. But now, those channels are cut off from us, and it’s scary, isolating, and panic inducing. I have always been quite an anxious person, but having a big, 80,000-word to focus my mind on the last few months has been a complete lifesaver. I make myself a coffee, set up my laptop, light a candle and get down to work – and honestly, it’s like magic! Book four is set in South Africa, so instead of being in a cramped London flat, I’m in a gorgeous luxury safari lodge in Zimbabwe with my characters, looking out across the wide-open plains, the sun beating down on my back. Books do have the amazing power to transport us all, and I think at the moment they are more important than ever for the world’s mental health. As my word count climbs, my anxiety lessens and I get a really strong sense of achievement if I hit my word count too. I know this won’t work for everyone, but if like me you are quite a goal-oriented person, I highly recommend setting yourself small weekend tasks like this that you can work towards and tick off – it really helps. I love having a deadline (I trained as a journalist so that might be why – it’s ingrained in me!) and being able to lose myself in my new book each weekend truly has kept me sane.
I hope you will all enjoy reading my books as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.