Writing your novel is one quarantine away

When the Hope College student body was sent home in March, it felt like the screws keeping me in place were suddenly bouncing on the floor. In some respects, I felt some semblance of relief. That quickly crumbled into a creative crisis. As a Type A person, I thrive on having schedules. I do not take well to having nothing to do. 

When the semester came to a close in April, I had nothing lined up. I had no clue what I would fill my time with for the (un)foreseeable future. That was when I got a miraculous Instagram DM. It was my high school friend Sam, who is hands down the most creative writer I’ve ever met. 

He innocently suggested that during this quarantine from Hell, we banded together to be one another’s accountability partner. If you’ve ever taken a creative writing class at Hope, you know the importance of a writing habit. For those who are unaware, a writing habit is exactly what it sounds like: a daily consistency in writing anything. It doesn’t have to be perfect, polished or special. It just has to be.

So I thought sure, how fun! I dug through my archives and found a science-fiction idea I came up with in eighth grade. It was the tale of a woman named Kaura, a pirate who spent her days traveling between dimensions and adventuring (at the time, I was going through a bit of a “One Piece” phase, so you can imagine where I derived my inspiration from).

From there, I told Sam that my promise was to “release” a chapter on Wednesdays and Sundays every week. An important thing to note here is I detached my perfectionism from the project entirely. Chapters could be anywhere from 1,000 to 3,500 words, and I only ever edited enough to get rid of the wretched red squiggly lines. A first draft is a first draft, no overanalyzing or hard revision needed. Any and all ideas are game.

I’ve been writing stories my whole life. I always tell my writer friends that I am an expert at the beginning. Establishing personalities, relationships and building the world all felt so simple. By some miraculous long running strain of determination, I got to the story’s climax— the first and only climax I have ever written— at the end of July and ultimately finished the draft on August 20, 2020.

I might sound hypocritical when I say no one was expected to sit down and write a novel or record an album during quarantine summer. But, that’s not to say that it isn’t possible, given the right headspace. 

I am so proud of “Kaura” and the journey I had to go through to create it. It wasn’t all happy-go-lucky exploration and childhood wish fulfillment. There were many Tuesday and Saturday nights I spent pacing around the yard trying to make myself write. Idea block, lack of motivation and insecurity were definitely roadblocks that jumped into my path over and over again. 

Throughout our summer-break-long winter break two months ago, I attempted to begin writing the second draft of “Kaura.” I only got seven chapters in and was faced with all the roadblocks from before, and then some. 

It’s not easy to start and finish a large, long-term creative project like the first draft of “Kaura.” I know I’ll have to make 10, 20, 1,000 drafts and rewrites before it gets to where it needs to be. But if you put your mind to it and have supportive friends to keep you accountable along the way, maybe attacking that creative project you’ve had shelved for years is actually possible. 

Because I can assure you, it is. Not to be all, “Maybe it wasn’t the book I wrote, but the friends I made along the way,” on you faithful readers, but sometimes the moral is that simple. Either way, start a writing habit. Support your other writer friends. Force each other to write. You might end up with something pretty cool. 

Katy Smith (‘23) is a communications major, theatre and writing minor at Hope. Her passions lie in the arts, specifically playwriting, poetry, performing, and any music that makes you feel wanderlust. She is so honored to be the Anchor’s Arts Editor! She strives to give Hope’s wonderful arts programs the platform they deserve.

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