Lockdown Survival Tips from Martin Chatterton, writer of The Tell


I know you’re all dying to get online and order several copies of my new book (I mean, who wouldn’t?) but, before I get into the vital business of shamelessly spruiking The Tell, I thought it was almost as important to share some practical thoughts about the current Covid crisis.  

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the dawning realisation that Scott Morrison could do a lot worse than placing me in absolute control of DHTGTTIWGCB (the Department of How To Get Through This Insanity Without Going Completely Bonkers).   

That’s because, as a long-term (30-odd years, some of them very odd indeed) freelance writer and illustrator, I am possibly the planet’s foremost expert in lockdown survival. Why is that, I hear you say. Well, let me tell you. Most of my career has been spent in comparative isolation, working from home, having no routine imposed by someone else, worrying about money and, for the last twenty years working primarily online. When the C19 crisis became real (during a five week school tour which came to an abrupt end in Adelaide last month) and we went into social distancing/isolation mode, my first thought was: I know how to do this!  

So how do you survive the lockdown? Here are the five key ingredients: 

1. Get Dressed

This is a relatively simple one. Don’t hang out in those PJ’s you picked up from Best & Less six years ago and which make you resemble something that might be left outside Vinnies. Clothes maketh the man (and woman). I’m not saying you have to do the washing up in a Hugo Boss suit or slink round the joint in a little Alexander McQueen number, but at least wear something that if you are unlucky enough to catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror won’t make you lose the will to live. And you may be Zooming at any point so you definitely don’t want that creepy Barry from Finance seeing you in your daggy flannelette tracky daks.  Tracky daks, especially baggy marl grey ones, are a total fashion no-no at any time by the way, not just during the Apocalypse.  
2. Make A List

I cannot over-emphasise the importance of making a list for every day. I’m making one right now. List everything. List getting dressed as one item. ‘Brush teeth’ is another. Then gradually work up to include genuine tasks. ‘Make progress on Project B’ for example. ‘Call Barry from Finance’ might be another (remembering not to do that via Zoom). The pleasure you get from ticking off each item is crucial to feeling like you’ve ‘done something’. Here’s the thing you need to remember though: you don’t have to tick everything off! That’s right; the list isn’t the boss, you are! I ‘m not saying don’t make an effort. Try and tick at least fifty percent. That’s the reason you list small things like dressing and teeth brushing. It makes you feel productive.  

3. Get Out

This is a good one. If you’re able and allowed to get out of the house make sure you do. Go for the walk. Ride that bike. Obviously keep to all the social distancing guidelines currently in place, but get out if at all possible. Getting out and then coming back makes you feel less like a hamster. If you’re unable to get out then walk round the garden. If you don’t have a garden, have a cuppa on the balcony. If you don’t have a garden or balcony I can’t help you, I’m not a miracle worker.  
4. Work the 9 to 5

Office hours. Keep office hours. I keep office hours and I’ve never worked in a office in my life. Keep office hours even if you’re not working. That’s crucial. Freelancers are always working even if no-one’s paying us. ‘Downtime’ (or, in layman’s terms ‘unemployment)’ is when we do those projects we always wanted to do but couldn’t, due to the pesky requirements of eating and paying bills. Keep the TV and Xbox for after 5.  

5. Read Books

This is obviously The Big One. I write books and earn a living from books therefore I clearly think reading books is a good thing to do during the lockdown. Books use a part of your brain, the medulla oblongata (which I just invented) that would otherwise lay dormant if you confine yourself to Married At First Sight or Lego Masters Baking Challenge On Ice.  

And I’d also add that when I say ‘read books’ what I really mean is ‘read my books’ because I’m one of those people who are hopelessly addicted to the luxuries in life, like food and shelter. I’d highly recommend my latest offering, The Tell as the perfect book to help survive the Zombie Apocalypse Covid crisis.  

The beauty of The Tell is that your tween/teen can devour it, leaving Mum or Dad to read it several times to understand the incredibly nuanced thematic layers what I put in there (no, really, I did).  

So there you go; my tips for lockdown survival. In all seriousness, in times like this we need stories more than ever and The Tell is a story about hard choices. It’s a tough, exciting, thought-provoking read that will engage even the most reluctant reader. Did I mention The Tell enough?  

See a trailer for The Tell here

And another one here

Read Trisha Buckley’s review of The Tell (publ: Penguin, 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 ten 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 fourteen but with being born into a notorious crime family. 

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