I am a different writer from the one I was before lockdown. I’m a different person honestly. Lockdown and the pandemic changed everything.
Like a lot of people, I spent the first few months of lockdown in a state of anxiety. I shut myself away and watched the news endlessly, memorising facts and figures, checking the Covid app, and dreaming about Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty chasing me with sticks. I heard a lot of people saying it was a good time to write a book; the public was on furlough, we were all stuck inside with nothing to do. Why not eh! But, in those traumatic early months, I couldn’t write a word. I couldn’t even persuade myself to get off the internet, never mind open a Word document.
Eventually I had to go cold turkey. Like a toxic ex-boyfriend whose Instagram I checked obsessively, I had to stop looking at the news altogether for a while. I felt guilty and angry with myself for avoiding reality. I felt under pressure to face things and acknowledge all the awfulness the world was enduring, but I also knew I had to stop. It was all too much.
And it helped.
Gradually, my own life and those around me came back into focus. I started spending more time with loved ones – albeit on Zoom. My family and I started doing the obligatory weekly online quizzes. I walked my dogs – and hugged them – endlessly. My partner and I began doing online yoga together. I took up running and hated it, then quite liked it, and then hated it again. I quit running.
And – most importantly – I was able to start writing again. I already had a plan for my fourth book: I wanted to write a love story about friendship, and I wanted to make it epic, spanning 20 years. I began my prologue about women crying in loos, and I couldn’t stop. For the next few months, I wrote constantly and joyously. The words poured out of me after not being able to work for so long. It helped so much to finally be thinking about something that wasn’t the pandemic or lockdown or death tolls. In fact, Bad Choices was one of my most fun experiences I’ve had of writing a book (some have been extremely painful) and I think – hope – it’s some of my best work ever.
I’ve come out the other side of lockdown – or almost the other side, ugh come on already! – a changed person. I am more grateful for my life than before. I am bendier than before. I hate running more. I love my family more, especially after losing two grandparents to Covid. I know now more than ever how important it is to hold everyone close and tell them as often as possible how much they matter. But I also learned that I matter, and putting myself and my mental health first is really important. Lockdown made me very grateful to be here and to be writing. And I’m super grateful I’ve stopped dreaming about certain Covid scientists at last…
Bad Choices by Lucy Vine is published in paperback by Orion, £8.99 and is out now.
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There’s something about bringing out your first novel that no one tells you; everyone wants to know if it’s based on your own life. The most common question I’ve had since I wrote Hot Mess is, ‘Are you Ellie?’ And I get it, it makes sense. My female heroine, Eleanor Knight is a single woman around the age of 30, coming under a lot of pressure to find herself a boyfriend. So far, so me. And I’ll admit to a certain amount of narcissism when I was writing. Her name, for example, is Ellie, which is a sort of in-joke nod to my own initials, LE for Lucy Elizabeth...