Guest Blog 1: Recession Expression - A Guide to Writing Through the Fear by Rebecca Woodhead

We’re in it Together

We’re all in the same boat: it’s sinking, but we’re all in it. This is the time to give thanks to your chosen deity that you are not a banker. You were born creative and with creativity comes inventiveness and resilience.

Your laptop is your life raft. As a writer, your job is not to stand on the sinking ship complaining that the brochure said it was ‘unsinkable.’ As a writer, your job is to chart the progress of the journey. The vessel may not be heading towards its intended shoreline – it may, in fact, be going down – but it is still on an historic journey and your fingers are the ones that can tap that journey out.

Why Write in a Recession?

Why not? This is a decisive moment in history and anything you write now will be valuable. Does that mean it will make you a millionaire? Probably not but it will certainly make you more wealthy. In a recession lots of bad things happen. People lose their jobs; creditors call in debts; houses are repossessed… none of this is good news. These external factors can affect you badly and make you feel trapped and fearful but none of them should stop you writing.

The things that trap us and make us feel truly hopeless are what William Blake called “mind forg’d manacles” and these, not the external factors, will have an effect on your ability to write. If you decide to write no matter what is thrown at you then, while other people are able merely to complain about what they have lost, you will be able to create new things: books; articles; blogs... Creation in the midst of destruction: that is true wealth.

Releasing the Mind Forg’d Manacles

Well, now we’re all fired up to write, and feeling great about our creativity and place in the scheme of things, it might be time to throw in a few practical tips.

The theory’s sound but if the manacles are clamping down or the raft has sprung a leak what then?

  1. Forget everything. Forget the money you hope to make from your writing; forget the collapse of the global economy; forget the endless to-do lists. Simply find a space to write and commit to doing so.
  2. Understand that the space doesn’t have to be a location, it can be a time. Give yourself a set period of time when you will not allow yourself to be disturbed. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a room on your own or a busy coffee shop. You have to decide that this moment is your writing space and it will not be disturbed. Once you’ve done that, write. Don’t edit it or criticise it. Let it flow. Let yourself write unutterable garbage. The point is to keep the pen moving or the fingers tapping. You can edit it later.
  3. Know that you are doing something important. I have read many letters from writers saying that they lack support. They frequently express a lack of confidence in their work because their friends or family members mock them for thinking they can be a writer. Tune it out. You know you are a writer. That is enough. If you act as though your work is important, your mind will pick up on it and make the time and space for you to write.
And Finally…

Even with the best intentions, it can be hard to focus on writing when you haven’t enough money for food or heating. You need to know that this is no excuse. It is perfectly possible to be living in subsistence level poverty, scraping by on benefits and still be creative. I have had two brushes with hypothermia over this winter and we can’t afford to go food shopping more often than once every two weeks, so I’m not writing from an ivory tower myself, but I’m in a far better position than many writers and I’m sure the same is true of most of us. Anne Frank was creative. What do we have to complain about? That said, here are a few tips to make the process easier.

Writing on a Budget – Tips

  1. Keep your food costs down by buying in bulk. If you buy unbranded sacks of rice and pasta and store them in airtight containers, you’ll save a fortune. They keep for ages so, if you find yourself with some spare pennies one week, stock up. Also, stock up on vitamin pills for the weeks when a food group or two goes astray.
  2. If you’re an omnivore, buy chicken but don’t buy chicken breasts. When you buy chicken breasts, you’re paying processing and packing costs you don’t pay when buying a whole chicken. You can get 16 meals out of a chicken (see my blog for more info on this obsession of mine!) Let none of it go to waste. Make stock from scratch and you’ll have soups, stews, pasta sauces etc for the week. I don’t choose to be a vegetarian, but I strongly believe in being an ethical omnivore. I don’t buy ‘battery’ chickens or eggs however poor we get. If I can’t afford free range, I don’t buy the chicken. If you scrape together the money to buy a free range chicken and you can get 16 meals out of it (or 20 as my husband managed the other week – don’t think I’ll beat that) then the food is way cheaper than the price of some breast meat from a battery-farmed animal.
  3. Make friends with your freezer. If you’re on a real budget, freeze everything you can. If you make meals from the chicken as soon as you get it home and freeze them, you can live on the food from the fridge in week 1 and the food from the freezer in week 2.
Now you’re equipped to thrive through the recession as a writer. If you have a shaky moment when The Fear grabs you, ask yourself one question:

‘If Shakespeare were alive today, would he complain because his television had been repossessed or his games console had been sold or his electricity had been switched off?’ Would he? Or would he pick up his pages, sit at his table, light up a candle and write?

To follow my writing journey and for more tips on writing through the recession, go to my blog:

Rebecca Woodhead 

Rebecca Woodhead  – (14 March 2009 at 12:14)  

this is up for newbies. For those of you with deja vu, see the previous post.


P.S. I'd love feedback from newbies but if you're and old hand and have already commented on this article you don't have to comment again :) More fresh content next week. Maybe we could have a nostalgia moment - go through old posts and put up comments here on anything that sets you thinking.

Angie Ledbetter  – (14 March 2009 at 14:14)  

Great tips here. I'll add that I've done every possible part time job on the planet while still freelancing and writing -- commercial/residential cleaning biz, catering, cooking from my house 3 days per week, teaching, substitute teaching, private investigation...and this around the needs of three young kids. Not being locked in to fulltime leaves time at the keyboard. :)

Rebecca Woodhead  – (14 March 2009 at 20:11)  

Crikey! That's pretty inspiring Angie. I'm tempted to make a comment about how great women are at being resourceful and multi-tasking but I fear a number of non-female followers might clip my metaphorical ear!

Thanks for the feedback and encouragement.

Eric  – (14 March 2009 at 22:54)  

Eh, I'd probably have to say you'd be right about women being resourceful at multitasking. If I get too many things going on, sometimes I feel like my head will explode. Whats the solution? Play a good male-oriented game like Medal Of Honor, where I can take out my frustration on virtual evil, heh heh. Anyway, even though its a repeat, still good info.

Rebecca Woodhead  – (15 March 2009 at 11:59)  

Thanks Eric. Everyone, Eric's been struggling with his muse but he's finally pinned her down - so to speak - and I'm sure he'd welcome some celebratory feedback at his place:


Unknown  – (15 March 2009 at 19:42)  

This is priceless : ) I have one completed novel and a second that's well on its way to being done, and the frustration at being the only person to read them is pretty intense sometimes.

Rebecca Woodhead  – (15 March 2009 at 20:31)  

right there with you KLo. Tricky to know at what point to share your work. Share it too soon and people start throwing their own ideas in - then it's their work.

Rainbowchaser27  – (23 November 2009 at 19:14)  

I'm not a writer, I'm a dancer and choreographer and though my creativity takes a different form I agree whole heartedly with the sentiments of this article. Especially the bit about pasta and vitamins, I got through my training on the stuff haha.

I think the key to dealing with bad times, like the recession, is to do something that leaves you feeling fulfilled. For me its dancing (though not at the moment because I am injured and its FRUSTRATING) for others it painting a picture, taking a photograph, writing something etc. Whatever it is you need a way to feed your soul and for creative types that means making new work. Its also important, I think, for the people who aren't in a position to get their soul food (like me at the moment) to know that work is being made and that soon they will get to see and experience it, whatever form it takes. So to e

Rebecca Woodhead  – (24 November 2009 at 15:36)  


This post seems to have spoken to a lot of people in a similar situation. I'm glad you identified with it. Hope you get well soon. A family member of mine is a choreographer and I know how frustrated he became when he was injured.

All the best


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