Life in Lockdown: Judith Silverthorne, Canada

Judith Silverthorne

Caption: Judith Silverthorne

Life in Lockdown | Posted: Monday, May 11th, 2020 at 2:02 pm | return to news

Life in Lockdown: Canadian perspective on writing in lockdown

By Judith Silverthorne

Judith Silverthorne

Caption: Judith Silverthorne

From my Canadian literary arts perspective, I suspect writers may well be among the more experienced in knowing how to deal with lockdowns during this time of global crisis. Some of us have worked primarily from home for years and have adjusted to spending many days or longer in self-imposed full or partial seclusion. We thrive on being solitary. At least for a time. How long we will be able to manage these imposed stay-at-home isolating conditions beyond our norm will be one of our challenges. Perhaps our responses will be not much different than the general public, though I doubt we would ever be bored.

One major downside for writers, as is the same for the general populace, is the loss of income for basic survival from cancelled engagements and other presentation activities, and also our avenue for much-needed contact with others in between stretches of solitude. Fortunately our strong national advocate writing and arts groups like the Canadian Council for the Arts and The Writers Trust of Canada have rallied and are offering some emergency financial support to those who are most desperate.

As worrisome as the financial aspects are, writers have been among the first sectors rallying to engage and entertain people across the country. They’ve been volunteering their time and skills to live stream readings of their books and doing presentations on writing through Zoom, Skype and other social media platforms. The technology part not necessarily a strong quality for writers, this is an opportunity for writers to embrace what likely will become more part of our future practice. Besides individuals, local and national writing organizations have become involved in supporting or launching online initiatives, all hoping to help alleviate the tremendous stress, fear, and ‘cabin-fever’ experiences sweeping through the nation. A bonus is more awareness is happening of Canadian authors and books.

With the world on pause, many of us are also suddenly able to work on projects we hoped to do ‘one day.’ We have time to sort, rearrange, and cull paper and digital manuscript files and photographs, and to do research for future projects. For me, with no deadlines to deliver articles or to prepare for writing workshops and school presentations, and with my editing jobs declining, I have hardly any external writing-related projects in the offing. This gives me unprecedented time to work uninterrupted on current novels and create new material. I speculate this is an aspiration for most creative writers, who also juggle their creative side with the practicalities of earning a living through other work.

Although I can’t speak for most writers, I am among those who like to keep active and productive through personal external connections, Besides the revisions of my newest novel, like many of us without the benefits of outside contacts and activities, I soon discovered I needed an additional “purpose,” one preferably that might somehow help others get through these alarming restricting circumstances.

As a result, I found myself volunteering at our local community television channel to read books to kids stuck at home instead of attending school. The program manager snapped up the offer, assigned a camera operator to me, and I recruited another author friend to share her stories and those of others too. Before we could start choosing books, we learned the impromptu idea had morphed into a half-hour television series with eight weekly episodes. My friend and I became instant co-producers and the show got underway.

In a separate venture, I have offered to do virtual writing programs and workshops for adults and young people through our local library system. Several other writers are initiating additional creative contributions in their communities both within my home province of Saskatchewan and across the nation.

I imagine my writing weeks are similar to many—punctuated with shopping for necessities and dropping off groceries or meals to others, which in my case is for my 89-year-old mom, thankfully living in a relatively safe locked-down senior’s residence. As it is for us all, the fear and anxiety exuding from others are palpable each time we step our doors or into a grocery store. I am anxious too, not for myself, but for my son who works in the provincial laboratory building where the testing for COVID-19 is done in Saskatchewan, and for a young niece, a frontline doctor in her local hospital, and countless others like everyone has in their lives. Continuing to write helps, a coping strategy I’ve learned over the years.

Many writers like myself are encouraging people to give writing or journaling a whirl. Not only is writing a potential cathartic release from fears and an escape from the overwhelming daily barrage of dire news, for beginners it can provide a creative outlet and insights into an untapped talent or pleasurable pastime. The young people in particular seem to be embracing this activity. Now that they don’t have homework and extracurricular activities filling their schedules, many budding young authors are emerging and some of us are looking for online ways to nurture them.

Writing and authors reading books and doing literacy-related programs online is very much at the forefront in Canada as never before. Ideas for how to deliver additional writing and book-related activities surface every day, offering numerous choices for the literary minded-and the enjoyment of the general public. Writers write, but also love sharing our work.

Judith’s report was first published on 29 April in 4Dorset Magazine – Life in Lockdown issue. ‘Life in Lockdown’ aims to shine a light on how people’s lives have been affected by lockdown and how they are surviving.

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