WHEN we went into lockdown in March 2020, I decided to use my time stuck at home to try and write a novel.

Nearly 12 months on and the furthest I’ve got with that is scribbling down a few notes whenever an idea comes into my head.

Reading an interview with author Victoria Hislop about writing her latest best-seller in lockdown, I felt a rush of shame. Instead of cracking on at my laptop, I scoffed biscuits and watched Sex and the City re-runs.

Even if I had started writing something in March 2020, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be a best-selling author by now, but at least I’d have given it a go. We will look back on this as a period of creativity; with many artists, photographers, musicians and writers producing great legacies of work reflecting life in a pandemic. The rest of us binged on telly and take-outs.

Not only have I yet to start writing a novel, I haven’t baked a single sourdough loaf. Nor have I run a virtual marathon, mapped out my family tree or completed an online masterclass in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Other than working from home, which takes up much of my time, I don’t feel I’ve made much use of this weird period of isolation. I’ve done a few virtual quizzes, read a lot of books, cleared out my cupboards and taken muddy walks but, as we look ahead to coming out of what we hope will be the last lockdown, there’s a nagging feeling that I should have been taking on worthy side projects and life-changing challenges.

It seems I’m not alone - the pressure to be ‘lockdown well’ is actually a thing. And it’s time to stop beating ourselves up, says therapist and author Sally Baker. Unprecedented is a word that’s been used a lot over the past year, but Sally says it’s useful to remember what it actually means: this has been new territory, and none of us entered it clutching a ‘how to cope in a pandemic’ pocket guide. And we’ve had to dig even deeper with coping strategies in a bitterly cold winter lockdown.

There’s a lot to be said for keeping busy - I couldn’t do without my Saturday morning potter; a bit of light housework with the radio on - and it’s these routines that keep us anchored and motivated. But if we feel we should be constantly productive, Sally suggests taking a step back from ‘should’. Furthermore, she says that downtime, far from being lazy or a waste of time, can be a “bedrock of resilience”.

Good sleep, good nutrition, getting outdoors every day and moving about are among her other tips. And the rest, she says, is what works for you - so don’t feel bad about bingeing on Bridgerton (see below).

I’ve never really got the concept of life coaching, and I’d rather watch paint dry than read a self help book, but there’s something reassuring about Sally’s advice, so I’m trying to step away from the ‘shoulds’. And in taking stock I’ve realised that, although I haven’t written a novel in the past 12 months, I have been there for friends in times of crisis; started working with a children’s charity; sent handwritten letters to people I care for; discovered walks near my home; adapted to a new way of working; transformed my back bedroom into a lovely home office; painted my bathroom; and finally got around to switching car insurance. Not much to crow about on social media, but it’ll do for me.

Surely nobody is really ‘good’ at a pandemic, even if they start the day with a Joe Wicks workout, bake Insta-ready banana bread and host Zoom supper parties. I’d never do any of those things in ‘real life’ so why would I do them in lockdown?