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Survival tips from an expert in lockdown survival

Survival tips from an expert in lockdown survival by Martin Ed Chatterton, author of The Tell and many other fine books.

I knew things had crossed a line when I read an article by Benjamin Law about his efforts baking sourdough bread. What is the deal with the lockdown and sourdough bread?

I know Ben and, as far I’m aware, he’s never eaten a slice of bread in his life but somehow, in lockdown, there he is suddenly baking freakin’ sourdough. Which just goes to show how even the most seasoned pro can lose their minds during the crisis. Even an ice-cool cat like Ben who should know better.

Because Ben, like me, is a long-time freelance writer and us freelance writers are, in my view, the ultimate global experts in surviving lockdown situations.

Look at the evidence. Our income rises and falls without warning. We are faced with long periods alone at home, wondering what’s the point of it all. We don’t have anyone telling us what to do and we have to decide for ourselves how every day is going to pan out. We have to plan ahead and take care of ourselves without any kind of infrastructure. Our kids are often right there in our workplace at exactly the moment we need them not to be. And, in my case, I’ve been living this way for 30 years.

So here are my top 5 tips for surviving the lockdown:

1. Panic is normal; get used to it, snowflake.

You’ve probably had that fluttery feeling in the pit of your stomach, nausea, a sense that you might burst into tears at any time because everything has gone wrong and nothing’s ever going to work out ever, ever again. This is fine: that’s what freelancers feel like all the time. The key to it is realising that, since you do feel like this all the time, you might as well get used to it. Your regular state will be a state of panic.

But, just like no-one can sprint flat out forever, you can’t sustain panic too long. It’ll always be there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to smack you in the chops when you least expect it, but you can, with effort, learn to adjust to its presence. Think of it as sort of like living with a grizzly bear you’ve raised from birth but who now weighs 300 kilos and has early onset dementia.

2. No tracky daks. No PJ’s.

I don’t seriously have to argue this one do I? Regardless of the COVID-19 crisis, no-one should ever, for any reason, ever wear tracky daks (especially those baggy grey ones) and if you stay in your PJ’s all day, it is only a very short step to eating cornflakes in the evening and talking to yourself.

If you are lucky enough to be still working during ‘The Plague Times’, then getting dressed for that Zoom conference call is probably A Jolly Good Idea. Tales of at-home workers who reveal more than they should during Zoom calls (naked husbands wandering around in the background, arguments, tracky daks, inappropriate T-shirts) are all over the internet. Don’t be like them. Get dressed at getting dressed time (before 9am in case you were wondering).

3. Make a big list.

I can’t stress this one too much. Making a list of everything you need to do that day is vital.

I’m actually making a list right now in this article. Not only does it make you feel like you’ve actually done something, even making the list can count as a task! That’s right, item one on the list should be ‘1. Make a list’! And then tick it off straight away! You’ve only just begun and there you are ticking items off your list. You’re killing this ‘at home’ thing and it’s only 8.12am! I mean, don’t go crazy. Don’t list ‘breathing’ as an achievement unless you’re a trombonist doing their exercises or something.

Seriously though, do make a list but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t tick ‘em all. No-one really ticks them all and, if they do, they’re probably not people you want to know anyway.

4. No social media in office hours.

OK, this is much more a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ kind of deal because I regularly break this one. But, then again, I’m a writer; an artist who needs validation on a far more frequent basis than civilians.

But, between 9-5, even a raging, out-of-control egomaniac like myself (and, by the way, ALL other writers fall into this category, no exceptions) tries to avoid binge-watching YouTube clips of Home Improvement Fails, or posting a 2,000 word hostile response on Facebook to a dude in Minnesota who disagrees with my views on vaccination protocols, or slapping a pouty pic of my new self-waxed eyebrows up on Insta.

Trust me, it’s just not good for you.

5. You’re not the boss of me.

One of the reasons I became a freelancer was because (a) that’s how publishing works and (b) I prefer not having to answer to anyone other than clients and (c) I like being able to drop everything and go to the beach/shops/gallery/wherever whenever I choose. And, for some of you, this lockdown might be the only chance you get of experiencing life without a boss of some kind.

Enjoy it because, before you know it, you’ll be back in the office, or back on-site, or school, or wherever your ‘normal’ life might be and you’ll be reminiscing about the good old Coronavirus days.


The Tell by Martin Chatterton is published by Penguin Random House Australia ($16.99).

The Tell (published by Penguin, 28 April 2020)

Fourteen year-old Raze Tanic is the youngest son of Dejan Tanic, the self-styled ‘King of Sydney’, a ruthless and much-feared crime boss, currently serving 10 years in the secure unit at Deep Cut Correctional Centre. It is expected of Raze that he will soon join his elder brother, Solo, in the family business. However, Raze has other plans and, during a visit to his father in prison, tells him exactly that. To Raze’s surprise, his father doesn’t react. That’s because Dejan knows something big is about to happen and, when it does, it turns Raze’s world upside down.

The Tell is a gritty, fast-paced teen thriller about the tough choices and intense pressures that come with not only being 14 but with being born into a notorious crime family.

The Tell by Martin Chatterton is published by Penguin Random House Australia ($16.99).

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