The importance of kindness in the #WritingCommunity

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In the last few months, we’ve all been affected by the global pandemic. Not one of us has escaped. Some have lost jobs or loved ones, some have faced the stress of exposure to the virus at work, and others are dealing with disrupted routines and the nightmare juggle of home schooling and working from home. We are all feeling isolated and missing contact with family and friends. And no matter how we spin it, Zoom meetings cannot replace face-to-face socialising.

Many friends, relatives and colleagues who have never had mental health problems tell me they are feeling overwhelmed, lacking concentration, teary. Unmoored. At times I’ve also felt extremely anxious and distressed. Which is why talk on writing Twitter of some literary magazines sending unnecessarily cruel rejections lately seems out of step with the fragility we are all feeling right now. I have to point out that most journals do not behave in this way, but I have seen several writers complain about receiving unkind rejections in the last week.

Those of us who submit our work to literary journals, agents and publishers expect rejections. We’re adults, we’re realistic. We know the odds. But editors, if you can’t say anything nice, please send a form rejection. Especially at the moment, when even resilient folk are feeling overwhelmed by life. I ask you to choose kindness, to put all your own stressors aside for a moment and think about how your cruel words might hit at this particular time. And make the effort to be kind.

This doesn’t just apply to the world of publishing. Kindness movements are becoming popular in the general community as we recognise the enormous need for emotional support within the population. In the writing community, I’ve noticed that writers are supporting each other more than ever. Authors and readers are connecting via social media, attending online book launches and festivals, buying each other’s books and sharing the love virtually. And we need to keep it up. The financial and psychological impact of coronavirus will be felt for years to come. The only way we’re all going to get through this is by making kindness our default mode. We’re all in this together.

Of course, this also applies to how you choose to treat yourself. Kindness needs to start with recognising your own needs, caring for your own mental health, and seeking help when you need it. Because none of us are immune to suffering, and the only way through this crisis is together.

How are you planning to practice kindness today?

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