Keep Calm, Shut Up, and Write—By Lea Beddia

One full-time teaching job (hybrid online teaching included), three school-aged children (complete with homework, lunches and the occasional emotional meltdown), and one pandemic (anxiety I never thought I’d have, a bonus). Add a house to help maintain, and there’s no time for a creative outlet. It’s enough to turn me into a Netflix zombie. You may be busy like me, but even if you’re not, you may find your creativity stifled, vacuum-packed, and freeze-dried during this whole soul-sucking, stay-at-home-and-don’t-come-out situation. The state of the world is so real, yet surreal and heart-breaking, that my aspirations for all my wonderful ideas and plots are twisted up with anxiety, sleeplessness, and an obsession with watching the news. Enter Shut Up and Write.

Shut up and Write: the name says it all. We really just shut up and write, for twenty-five minutes at a time followed by five-minute breaks. I don’t know about other writers, but in twenty-five minutes of absolute silence, with nothing but focus and my fingers tapping away, I’m more productive than during a full weekend in front of the television with my kids on my lap spilling popcorn all over me. It’s such a great stress-reliever to know I’m prioritizing myself ahead of my to-do list. I commit to be present when all my best-laid schemes have gone awry, and it’s the only chance for the stories swarming my head.

I myself never attended the in-person sessions. I live an hour out of the city, and taking a Saturday morning away from busy mom life was not feasible. But since the sessions have moved online, we’re only limited to the distance our laptop charges will allow us to roam. I started attending after my QWF mentorship ended last June. I was so close to finishing what I had started and needed a little extra push to get my manuscript done. The result, for me: a manuscript completed and queries written.

More importantly for my soul and morale, however, are these tenacious people, who like me, are ignoring real life for a little while to meet online and pursue personal or professional writing. Every time I sign up for a session, there’s this excitement: I’m going to see other people, and they’ll be writing, because their writing is important to them, too!

I miss meeting with my writing critique group: an ensemble of talented, funny women who I met during a workshop, now almost two years ago. We still keep in touch, but each of us admits to lacking the energy and/or time for our writing, because “How can I not place my family, health, work, fresh air, and rabbit hole of online shopping ahead of writing?”

SUAW is my antidote to isolation. I have something to look forward to in a time with no appointments or visits. I’ve found a community of writers willing to have my face in a two-inch square on their screen for two and a half hours a few Saturdays a month. Loneliness is at bay when I write during these sessions. There’s camaraderie in knowing we’re all struggling for time to be creative. I am grateful for the connections I’ve made.

In our five minutes off, we chat, and in a short time, we share what we’re working on, or talk about recipes and make each other laugh. We’re all starving for positive human connections to people with a common interest and here it is, at my fingertips! When those five minutes are up, I’m like a superhero, relinquishing the destructive powers of procrastination because I’ve got twenty-five minutes to make the rest of my story shine, or at least get it from my head to my screen. Good enough.

We may all be “Zoomed-out” and tired of hearing “You’re on mute” or “Can you mute yourself, please?” But to be honest, I kind of like it when someone forgets to turn off their mic and I can hear their keyboard clicking. It’s not a race, but it gets me going every time.

Lea Beddia is a high school teacher, writer for young adults, and mom of three. She grew up in Montreal and now lives in the woods, on top of a mountain. She’s published short stories for young and old and you can find her work @LeaBeddia or In her free time (those rare, glorious moments), you can find her with her nose in a book, tuning everything out.

Photo credits: Header banner is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Sarah Fortin Photographe (headshot)

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