Today’s “Creativity and COVID-19” check-in is with crime fiction author Neal Griffin. Neal’s a great writer and an even better person who I am proud to call a friend. He’s got a new book coming out soon as well.


Q1. How has the lockdown impacted you, and specifically your writing? Has it made you more or less creative, or had no impact at all?


It has made it more difficult to be a disciplined writer. The world is a very distracting place right now. It’s damn scary and it’s probably turning us all into ‘news junkies’ but unfortunately most of the news is bad.


On the other hand, writing fiction a few hours a day where I wall myself off from our current reality has allowed me a healthy perspective. My current project is a prequel to my novel Benefit of the Doubt and it takes place in the 1970’s. I’ve been doing a lot of research on that time period, talking with people who were young adults during the late 60’s. Giving thought to KIAs, MIAs, POW’s, campus unrest, political assassinations and on and on. I look back on those turbulence times and realize we had some pretty dark days back then too. But we got through it, right?


Q2. Do you have any suggestions to help writers who might be struggling with tearing themselves away from the news?


Nothing is more important in the creative writing process than personal discipline. To put it simply: When I demonstrate discipline as a writer, I am successful. When I don’t, I am not. Full stop.


That said, the current news of worldly affairs makes it much more difficult to a be a disciplined writer, so I just don’t listen. Or at least not when I’m working.


On a day where I demonstrate good writing discipline, I try to be ‘at work’ by 4:00 or 4:30 AM. And at work means I’m up making coffee and while it brews, I’m taking a look at my pages from the previous day or I read a bit from a favorite craft book. Just trying to get into the ‘write’ headspace. Then I turn on the computer, open my manuscript and dive in. No reading or writing email. No checking out the headlines and absolutely no surfing social media or favorite websites. If I do that, and then write straight thru until around 10:00 AM, with maybe a couple of breaks to stretch, I’ll typically have a daily word count that I can feel really good about. Then I might keep at it for a while longer and do some polishing of work from previous days. I’ll usually knock off around noon and that’s when I can torture myself with current events.


Not to belabor the point, but I think this is an issue unique to writing. There are plenty of jobs where you can commute into the office (well… not right now there aren’t), listening to the news, or spend some time checking in on social media, then just put it aside and get to work. I don’t think serious writers have that luxury. It is an immersion process and it requires, you guessed it: discipline.




Q3. Tell me about any new project you’re working on or have coming out soon.


I’m excited about the release of my next novel, The Burden of Truth, which Booklist calls, ‘one of the finest reading experiences of the year’ in a starred review.  Although it was originally scheduled for release on May 12th, that has been pushed out until July 7th. Care to venture a guess why? But when it does come out, I look forward to introducing readers to a wonderful character by the name of Omar Ortega. Omar is a young fella growing up in San Diego County, navigating that difficult road with cops on one side and local gangsters on the other. It’s what I call the middle lane of barrio street justice. I promise you, Omar is a character you will root for, but don’t take my word for it. You can read an excerpt at the Tor Forge blog site.


Be well everyone. This too shall pass.


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