Too Upset to Write? Journal Instead.
As coronavirus ravages our country and the world, many are
comparing it to 9/11. During that crisis in 2001, I couldn’t write for weeks.
It seemed inconsequential to write about ordinary life when so many were
hurting. Now, during the pandemic, I think I should have tried harder.
Writing Tip for Today: How can we writers keep word counts
coming during the coronavirus pandemic?
Even if you’re on a deadline, during this time you may not
get as much work done as usual. You’re busy keeping children entertained or
homeschooled, checking on fragile neighbors, calling your mom in assisted
living. You are likely spending more time wiping things clean, washing your
hands, chasing down a pack of toilet paper.
Everyone must do their part, and all these things take time.
If you are typically isolated anyway when you write, the intrusion of
unanticipated needs or family members to care for may try to steal away your
Instead of becoming anxious or frustrated, accept this
reality. I’m so old, I have learned that things change. This won’t last
forever. Meanwhile, grab small writing opportunities as they arise. Carry a
notebook, record on your phone. Listen in on conversations to hone your
dialogue skills or write out plot points or character grids.
Journal the Day
As I think back to 9/11, I remember feeling paralyzed. I couldn’t write about eighty-nine-year-old Aunt Dot’s death because young healthy people died in the Twin Towers. Now, that logic doesn’t feel quite right. I’m determined to journal if nothing else.
I would love to read diaries of those in the Spanish Flu
pandemic of the early 1900s. And novels such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love
in the Time of Cholera or Jonathon Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and
Incredibly Close arose directly from country-wide crises. With those things
in mind, you can journal about COVID-19, if for no other reason than to let
your progeny know what happened. And who knows, you may have a wonderful story
to tell about such a dark time.
But don’t simply make laundry lists of events. Go beyond
chronicling. Ask what the virus and all the fallout mean for life as we know
it. Right now, cities are locked down, schools are closed and restaurants, bars
and other establishments have suspended operations. Talk to people you know who
hold jobs in service or hospitality—ask them how they feel, what are their
fears. Their answers will likely give you understanding of not only our present
crisis but also the human condition.
Lend a Hand
Life is so fragile. Let’s be kind, compassionate. Love one
another. I’m getting messages like these from family and friends, and I want to
extend my own prayers and hopes for all of you, my subscribers. I truly believe
that very few writers are the ones hoarding supplies or starting fights in the
store aisle. I have faith that as writers, we make it our business to not only
observe life, but to try to ease suffering and bring hope to the world.
If you can volunteer, do it with a writer’s eyes and ears.
Check on your elderly neighbor, but if possible, look deep into her eyes
(through the screen door!). Resist your urge to overreact in your purchases,
your attitudes and your dealings with others. Be safe and sane but don’t stop
Nobody knows where we’ll end up, but writers can use the time to get more word count. Maybe it’s a poem written on the back of the electric bill or a new story idea that pops up as you observe the fast moving shape of coronavirus outbreak. All of us may have to hunker down for the time being, but at some point, there will be wonderful things written by writers who kept writing during the pandemic.