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CREATE: My Pandemic Story – Jamie

A photo of Jamie Hale sitting outside in front of a fountain

Jamie’s Pandemic Story

In this series of articles, we will shine a light on the creativity, productivity and positivity that has emerged in our communities during lockdown. In this first article, our CEO Jamie talks about their experiences of writing during lockdown

Black and White image of Jamie in a walled garden
Jamie CEO Pathfinders Neuromuscular Alliance

When lockdown started, I think I went into it in a better position than many other people. After spending six months in hospital the previous year, the idea of spending an extended period of time in my own home seemed wonderful. Whilst at times, certainly, my home did feel like a prison, I was able to compare it to the imprisonment of a hospital room and be very glad of the freedom to be in my own flat.

I knew that if I wasn’t careful I could easily sink into an unproductive depression, and I was very set that I wasn’t going to do that. Instead, I decided that I was lucky enough to be given a significant amount of time and space to have an extended creative retreat. Yes there was a global pandemic, but I tried to ignore that as much as possible, and focus on my creative retreat.

Having worked on an upcoming Netflix show for an extended period, I decided to turn my hand to writing a play or screenplay. Inspired by my own family, with an elderly grandfather, a father who was himself vulnerable to Covid 19, and myself, I decided to explore a play showing three generations of the same family, and how they came together and fractured around the pandemic. None of the characters in it were based on my family, although the idea germinated there.

It took me maybe five weeks to write and completely edit a two hour play. It was initially written as a play, before I turned it into a screenplay, when I had a producer interested. Later, I turned it back into play, to enter into various playwriting competitions.

Having never written a play before, I had a lot of difficulty with managing the formatting and structure. Pacing the story felt new to me, but developing characters was much the same as galloping them for fiction – they already existed, I just had to bring them to life. They were large characters in my head, and it was easy to do that, so I focused on sketching out as easily and gently as possible who they all were.

I was lucky enough to have a theatre company do a staged reading over zoom, which really helped me with editing and rewriting sections of it. Once I had drafted and redrafted the play, I started work on a series of sonnets, Shield, which will be published by Verve Press in January. They explore a multitude of different voices throughout the pandemic, using the structure of the sonnet to contain as wide a variety of people and experiences as possible.

After that it was getting started on two novels, although I am stuck about 20,000 words in with these. I just felt I had too much going on, and couldn’t give the novels the time they deserved at that point! I am sure that I will come back to them at some point in the future.

Writing definitely helps keep me stable during lockdown. If I hadn’t been working on a creative world that was different to the one in which I lived, I think I would find the world in which I was living far more constricting and unpleasant. I was able to go off and wander into new personalities and new worlds for a period, a type of travel that you can continue during the pandemic, but one many people are not familiar with.

I know not everyone has been able to have this approach to lockdown. I am very lucky to have been able to experience its positive force for creativity, as well as the horrendous and negative human cost, but for me, having a focus on creating, building and working towards a future made the worst of it far easier.

What is your pandemic story? Tell us about what you’ve created during Covid 19, and how it’s made you feel.

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