February 23, 2021

Novelists struggle with lack of inspiration in lockdown


The common household dishwasher is a surprisingly consistent agent of torment cited by writers suffering from lack of creativity under lockdown (source flickr/Jasperdo)

Your special correspondent for the inability to read, write, or otherwise function during the pandemic is back.

This time, it’s the writers of novels who are citing all sorts of new symptoms to Alison Flood at The Guardian, and it’s a frightening portrait of the state of prose writing.

But while the writers in the piece are suffering from brain fog, banal dreams, and the strange and new symptom of “not wanting to do anything but watch rubbish TV,” Flood managed to casually coin the phrase “writer’s blockdown” while reporting on it. So, despite the bleak outlook, let’s all keep in mind that every cloud has a silver lining.

In the spirit of culling something as inspired as Flood’s portmanteau from this undesirable situation, the rest of this blog post is going to be a found poem of all of the ways the writers in this piece describe their current hell.

Last night I had a dream about unloading the dishwasher
Stultified is the word
The problem with writing is it’s just another screen
processing, processing, processing
these shadowy people
It’s weird as all hell.
if only we could be locked away in a cave
26 five-year-olds also yelling their phonics
Trying to write a sex scene at 9am
Do you have any nouns on your desk, mummy?

We’re broken into hundreds of pieces.
one wants spaces, those moments when something opens up inside you – a pause, a breath
the constant drone
the clothes a stranger is wearing, the smell of their perfume, their body language, seeing a couple interact in a bar
there was no exterior
just a sort of sea of greyness, of timelessness.
I have realised that I magpie
the different noises the dishwasher makes.
Not even the second world war was the same, because men
and women were affected differently

Words by William Sutcliffe, Linda Grant, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Natasha Solomons, Holly Seddon, Gillian McAllister, and Holly Watt.

And if you don’t like what’s gone on here, I’ll have you know that I am allowed to do this by right of poetic liscensory deprivation. It’s where you can write and publish basically anything you want because you haven’t gone to a movie theater or house party in a full calendar year.



Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.