Life with The Grey

How does a writer survive lockdown?

Ups and downs – plenty of drama – laughter and sadness.

Suffering from writer's block? Going crazy in lockdown?

Here we are in our third lockdown in the UK and just about a year into this pandemic. A time to reflect and look back at how we have survived lockdown so far. Have you flourished as a writer in lockdown and gushed with creativity? Or is lockdown sending us quietly mad and giving us writer’s block?

For me, as a writer in lockdown, it has been a roller coaster of emotions and overall, I find confinement claustrophobic and slightly crazy making. Not sure why I said slightly, there? I have realised that I am a libertarian who loves to float free as a bird. I also love social contact – girly get togethers – visiting new places – country pubs – cafes; all the things we CANNOT do.

As a writer I work from a home office (smallest bedroom) overlooking my garden and a river which is not a bad view. So being a writer in lockdown in my own home doesn’t physically stop me writing. It just sends me doolally so that mentally it has been a strain. It is almost like your creative flow is restricted because you are physically confined.

The Long Marriage by Gill Buchanan

I completed my novel, The Long Marriage, early last summer and worked with my editor, Catriona Robb, to knock it into shape. This bit was structured and it was good to work with Catriona even if our conversations were in the edit margin of my novel.

Then came the publication bit which kept me busy and focussed. But by October I was floundering around, disillusioned with life and lacking direction.  

(Detour alert: Someone on Woman’s Hour was saying use AND, not BUT, as it is more positive. It won’t work here AND I’ll bear this pearl of wisdom in mind.)

So here I am, a duck with no water. Then Lockdown 3 came along.

Arrgh…. Eeeeekkk…. Surely not again!

It was about this time that I came across a Mindfulness group that meets in the Abbey gardens at Bury St Edmunds in Summer (and mainly on Zoom at this time) once a week and decided to give it a go. There is a meditation, a chance to say what we are grateful for and a discussion on the theme for the week which might be acceptance or forgiveness. I found this really helpful and started a daily meditation at home. I use the Calm app.

Then one day I was sat at my desk wondering which direction to take, what to get stuck into and decided to write down my values.

I wrote:

  • Being creative
  • Saving the planet – back to nature – out with plastic
  • Valuing our farmers and what they produce
  • Organic food – good for the planet and good for our health

It was then I had a light bulb moment. Ka-ching.

I would start a new writing project – I am happiest when being creative – and it would be about a farming family. It will cover the issues of using pesticides, developing more natural, organic ways of farming – all of this is of great interest to me.

Well, dear reader, my world changed. I had a wonderful reason to get out of bed in the morning. Quickly realising that I didn’t know that much about farming, (despite being an avid Archers fan!) I immersed myself into the world of Farming Today on Radio 4, Farmers Weekly on the internet and all things farming. One morning I managed to find a YouTube video of a farm where they produce eggs. It showed the whole process from the chickens laying through to the eggs being packed in trays. I was ridiculously happy!

The Montbéliarde dairy cows at Fen Farm Dairy

The culmination of my research has to be my visit to Fen Farm Dairy at milking time. I was fascinated to see that when the cows are milked the milk travels through pipes, is cooled to fridge temperature and then stored in a tank which feeds a tap in a self-service shop (think shed) from which customers can fill a container with milk to take home. Which, of course, I did. What does it taste like? Delicious milk!

I am now 5,000 words in to my next novel which has the working title: Wanda’s Tree. While I am really pushing myself with this tale, I am loving every minute. For more on how I galvanised myself into writing this Novel read my January Newsletter.

I am still looking forward to the freedoms afforded to us all by ‘normal’ and (not but):

with Spring in the air and the sun is shining the

writer’s life is good

The last book on Novel writing you will ever need: Save The Cat Writes a Novel

Read my January Newsletter to find out how this text: Save The Cat Writes a Novel helped me craft my current storyline.


  • Valerie Lewis

    Hello Gill, it looks like the mindfulness and daily meditations helped enormously in keeping your mind in the here and now, which in turn inspired you – I’m feeling your buzz! Wishing you all the best with your newest novel and enjoy spring when it comes (and hopefully eventual freedoms).

  • Ute

    I really enjoyed reading about how your life as a writer evolved in the pandemic and how this journey lead to discovering new activities as well as a brand-new new idea for a novel.
    Ps thanks for the And vs But tip 😊

  • Jean Wolfe

    What a gloriously positive look back at the pandemic. But of course as a good writer you took us to the other extreme as well. This was fun to read, and I can’t wait to read the novel!!

    • Gill Buchanan

      Thank you Jean. I am enjoying the process of writing. I am really challenging myself with this project which forces me to absorb myself in my character, Wanda’s world.

    • Gill Buchanan

      I would like to add that when you described what you had been through last year I thought you were very brave to get through it in the way you did. It takes a strong woman to cope with such adversity. Sending you lots of love for a much better 2021.

  • Shirley Anstis

    I love reading about your research for you new novel, sounds exciting. I also practice mindfulness and enjoy creativity. Wishing you success as you try to complete the novel going forward.

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