April 15th, 2020

Writing in the Time of Coronavirus

I don’t know about you, but everything is taking me twice as long these days. Sometimes more than twice as long. When you throw a pandemic into the mix, once-simple things seem to take forever. This is the reality of writing and working in the time of coronavirus.

The Downs and the Ups

Everyday tasks like running to the store have been elevated to the level of a campaign – there’s planning and strategy, timing and cleanup. There’s store debriefing, for crying out loud.

Me, last week, after a two hour shopping trip to Target:

“They're still out of Jif and apple sauce, so I got SunButter and apples.”

“Everything on the right side of the table is sterilized, but I’m letting it rest for a few hours.”

“Don’t touch anything on the left until tomorrow.”

“Still no Softsoap or wipes. But I found toilet paper!!!”

All of us from developed countries are fortunate. We've never had to consider most of these challenges and frustrations. Although some people are rolling with the empty store shelves, many more are not. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is a hard philosophy to live by during a period in our lives when much of the small stuff feels large.

I still feel lucky (most of the time)...

With so many people being furloughed or laid off, I feel incredibly blessed that my husband and I are employed . Yes, I’ve added homeschooling and multiple child meals and extra dishes (So. Many. Dishes.) to my day, but I have a job.

I spent many years worrying about my next meal and wondering if I could pay my rent. I’ve worried through illness so dangerous I wondered if I’d see morning. I'm grateful I'm not re-visiting those fears during this pandemic.

Despite my profound gratitude, I still worry.

  • About furloughed friends, older relatives and immune-challenged neighbors.
  • About Italy and New York and the economy.
  • About whether my child will learn a damn thing for the rest of 4th grade.
  • Wondering when I'll get to write something (anything!) that isn’t corporate communications related to Covid-19.

I worry about whether I can survive another trip to Target where people shuffle around in their masks, staring at fellow shoppers who stray too close like they're the Unibomber.

And then I go back to being happy we are blessed with jobs. And thinking six feet seems awfully close...

It's a wonder if we get anything done with our brains this busy.

Life Lessons I Need to Revisit

Put on your own mask before assisting others.

We all need to give each other as much patience and grace as we possibly can right now. We need to begin by giving ourselves that same healthy dose of patience and grace.

Change is hard in the best of times. These are not the best of times, so I hope y'all are taking all the time and energy you need for the self-care that is so important right now.

Here's my favorite Facebook meme this week. Which number are you?


This too shall pass.

Grandma was right. These periods of crapola end. We know it, but we forget. We've all had breakups and layoffs and challenges, and times we were 100% sure life would never right itself.

I remember feeling annihilated when my mom died when I was 35, and terrified when I almost died of a bajillion pulmonary emboli at 37.

I remember worrying I’d never have my life together... get married... have a child... publish a book... fill in the blank.

And I remember the friend who listened to my woes and held my hand and told me, “You are exactly where you need to be. You have everything you need to have to get all those things you want. You just need to be patient, and keep working. Those things will come.

The worries pass if we let them. My friend was right, and so was Grandma. I need to revisit their advice. Perhaps you do too.

Perhaps you need someone to listen to your worries and virtually hold your hand.

Here is the advice I’d give my wonderful writing comrades today:

“Even if you don’t feel you’re where you need to be right now, and you have no energy or heart for your writing, you can do things for your mind and creativity that you might not allow yourself otherwise. Those things are important, because lifting your spirits is important.”

You can:

  • Read through your To-Be-Read pile without guilt.
  • Take a Master Class. (There’s a BOGO offer until April 19 if someone wants to share with me.)
  • Plan (and maybe even execute) a website.
  • Binge watch that show you never had time for.
  • Learn a skill you’ve dreamed of, like drawing or a new language.
  • Wallow in book research.
  • Take naps.

Final Thoughts

Research has proved both panic and calm are “catching.” If taking a nap or reading a book helps keep you calm and focused, DO IT. If nothing else, you can spread your newfound calm to someone else you love.

In the meantime, here is Some Good News from John Krasinski. (You might remember him from The Office or Jack Ryan.)


p.s. This is my 100th post here at Writers In the Storm. All of you make me thankful every day. Thank you for the time you spend with us here.

As this pandemic marches on, how is everyone doing? Are you well? Are you feeling motivated, or not so much? What (if any) Corona Life change is making you crazy? Tell me all about it in the comments!

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Jenny

By day, Jenny provides corporate communications for professional services firms. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Facebook at JennyHansenAuthor or at Writers In The Storm.

46 responses to “Writing in the Time of Coronavirus”

  1. LauraDrake says:

    I’m loving getting more time to read. Time slowing forces us to get out of our ‘gotta do’ mentality and really look around. I’m appreciating the changes of spring like I haven’t in years.

    That said, if they don’t let me out for ONE day to go fishing soon, you’re going to see my perp walk on national tv.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I'm so glad you are enjoying Spring. It's such a pretty season. And why can't you fish? Fishing is the ultimate social distancing activity. Don't they have a stream or a pond somewhere close to Midland?

    • Kris Maze says:

      Good point, Laura, reading is the best social distancing activity that is completely allowed! We too have many restrictions including shutting down all parks and hikes in our area (Pacific NW). It's kind of a thing that is all about being away from others, like fishing.

      I'll take solace that this is helping keep our germs at bay and from hurting others.

  2. lorispielman says:

    Happy one-hundredth post, Jenny! Love your advice, always. Please take care!

  3. Wonderful post with some great reminders! Congrats on #100!

  4. Gill Otto says:

    Thank you, Jenny. A WITS post is very much like getting an email from a friend. Good and wise advice. Loved the cat photos! Writing, what writing? I am keeping a Journal of a Virus Month for Camp NaNoWriMo but not beating myself up if I have nothing to say. i retired at the end of January and one plan was to lick my back yard into shape, and get the vegetable garden back into production. Whenever the weather allows, I am out there. A bit of leaf clearing, moss raking and pruning always did sort me out. Sunny weather also helps. We have had a very early spring in NJ and the trees are magnificent, My husband and daughter are working at home and able to enjoy it all. I took a lovely drive yesterday after mailing bills at the post office, a 35 minute run to recharge my car battery. I'll do the same route next week and see how the leaves are coming on.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      It's good that you're not hanging expectations on yourself about Camp NaNoWriMo. You will get some lovely writing out of that attitude! I've been buffing up my garden a bit - not as much as I want to, but dirt therapy helps a lot. Sunshine does too, so good for you.

  5. Gill Otto says:

    I should add that my daughter insists we eke out our food supplies for 2-3 weeks since the outbreak is at its height here and my husband has severe asthma. So the car run will be my only expedition this week..

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      The people I know with asthma right now are pretty nervous, to say the least. It's good that y'all are being so safe about your husband's lungs. Your daughter sounds marvelous. 🙂

  6. Terry Odell says:

    Life is very close to 'normal' here in the boonies. No day job, we rarely go anywhere anyway, so staying at home isn't a burden or a challenge. Maybe I'm spending more time than usual on Words With Friends, Candy Crush, and "Find the Hidden whatchamallit" FB posts.

    The writing has slowed, and part of it is due to not being able to concentrate as well, but part can be attributed to having less motivation to finish this book. It's a stand alone, totally unrelated to any of my series, so I don't have high hopes for it.

    The Hubster and I are in good health. I'm more stressed by the covidiots out there than actually coming down with the Virus.

  7. ecellenb says:

    Wow! Happy 100th posting.

    The kitty meme is adorable. I've been all of them at one time or another these last few weeks but am currently #9.

    It is unusually quiet in the party hearty, port city where we live. If I take a short media detox, between less doom and gloom and blessedly peaceful quiet, my creative side works pretty well.

    We're fairly certain that we already had Covid-19 in January, had most of the symptoms, but are still socially isolating as that is the sane and safe thing to do. Am looking forward to the antibody test. I don't wish it on anyone.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I alternate between 5, 6 and 7 on that kitty meme. Stress eating is real and there's going to be an upswing of fitness behind this pandemic. I unplug quite a bit too. It REALLY helps.

      You know, I'm hearing a lot of people say that about the virus, including my husband. I know so many people who were sick for weeks and weeks in December and January. It will be nice when the antibody screenings come out and we can all see whether we had it.

      Stay well, my friend!

  8. Lovely, inspiring post. Thank you. I'm at that dangerous age and health stage so have to be very careful and not leave the house. A lot of reading of books and people's blogs and emails and phone calls to friends fills my time, plus animal communication classes. It is my usual routine,so there is no change, I miss going to church with my friend on Sundays, but our Pastor holds services online. It's not the same as meeting and greeting other people, but it is welcome. I am praying for everyone and hope nature's lesson will teach us all to live with less selfishness and greed once this siege is over.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I'm glad you're staying home and safe, and that you're catching up on some reading! Thank you for your kind words.

      p.s. My church has gone online and they're doing a marvelous job with Facebook Live sermons and such. It's really fun to see church services like this when we're stuck at home. 🙂

  9. Justine says:

    Congratulations on 100!

    Here at Camp Covidton (haha, like "Covington," but Covid!), we're doing okay. Two kids to educate, multiple Zoom teacher sessions to participate in, virtual appointments with my kid's therapist, and a work-from-home husband who is REALLY loud when he's on conference calls.

    I was really struggling with concentration and motivation regarding my writing, but I think I figured out why...I wanted to be able to "control" things -- my writing environment, my children's interruptions, my husband's loud conference calls, and I wanted a definitive end-date for when this mess would end.

    Then I read this great story about a 100+ year old woman who was born just as Spanish Flu was taking off and who lived through both the Depression and WWII. She said what she realized during those hardships was that the feeling of losing control of one's life is what really messed people up, including her. Once she narrowed her sights to THE NEXT DAY, it made everything much easier to bear. So every night, she'd make a list of the things she was going to do the next day, because it was all she could control. Narrowing her scope and letting go of planning for the future got her through (in fact, she says she kept up the habit of making a to-do list for most of her life).

    So I've learned to let the future go. Now I lay in bed at night and think only about what I'm doing tomorrow. And that's it. Writing goes on the list most days. I'm guaranteed a 2-hour, uninterrupted window while my kids are playing video games, so I try to take advantage of it. Sure, what I'm writing is crap (oh BOY is it crap!), but it's words on the page, and I can fix those. You know...the next day. But that's for tomorrow's to-do list.

    Hang in there, everyone. This, too, shall pass. Oh, and I'm Cat #3 most days, but that's just because I can't ever seem to get warm. Even in Arizona.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I like the creativity of Covidton! And I feel your pain on homeschooling. It's very wearing - all our teachers deserve a raise, and a free wine club subscription. 🙂

      My guy does loud conference calls, but not REALLY loud. I shut his door and the hall door and that makes it bearable. It's when my girlie takes a TV break that I want to go out of my mind. I work in the living room these days and daytime TV makes me nuts. I finally had to ban it according to a schedule.

      Have you thought of investing in noise-cancelling headphones? That helped my Zen-o-meter stay on high. Your day-by-day attitude will help the Zen too, but the headphones are the shizz.

      • Kris Maze says:

        There have been some pretty funny memes and vines on this! As a teacher, this is definitely like building the airplane while flying and I'm sure families are absolutely exhausted with figuring it out too.
        The good news is what I hear from the state levels in education is that there will be a lot of grace as regarding to grades, learning, expectations for students, staff, colleges, and other transitions between one grade band and another. The main concerns at the forefront are whether families are safe and have resources. I'm glad that is the number one concern at this time.

        -Corona Crazy 2020

      • Justine says:

        I have two pairs of noise-cancelling headphones. They work. But the in-ear ones get irritating after awhile and the over-the-head ones give me a headache, so I just roll with it. The biggest issue is mitigating interruptions. I don't remember which Masterclass author said it, but at the beginning of the ad, she says, "The biggest detriment to creativity is interruption." Word, sister.

  10. Eldred Bird says:

    Wow...100 posts. That's quite a milestone! I think about the only thing keeping me sane right now are the writing related things in my life. Video chatting with the Wednesday night group is something that hasn't changed, thank the good lord. It's about the only normal left to cling to right now. John's Friday night Zoom cocktail parties are helping as well, and putting together the post for WITS last week was a nice distraction.

    One positive outcome from this experience is that I now have the basic plot and characters for my next book (not a James McCarthy novel). I've been hammering away on the plot points (yes, this hard core pantser is plotting...don't laugh). Don't worry, it will NOT be based on a pandemic. I'm sure we'll be flooded with those stories this fall.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I love that people have taken their social gatherings online. For all of us extroverts, it makes a world of difference.

    • Kris Maze says:

      Hey, Bob, I hear you on the online social aspect to keep one sane and with some sense of normalcy. I feel the Weds Night Writer Group was a little ahead of the curve (no need to flatten, thank you). ha ha

      I may have to join the virtual cocktail hour, too!

  11. dholcomb1 says:

    Congratulations on 100 posts!

    I'll trade you Clorox wipes for toilet paper.

    Denise

  12. Julie Glover says:

    Great advice and encouragement! Oh, and I'm kitty #3, the one under the blanket—though to be fair, I'm always that kitty. Not just in quarantine. In fact, since my life hasn't changed all that much, I'm starting to think I was living a pretty lame life already and need to get out more when this is all over! 😉

  13. crbwriter says:

    Congratulations on your 100th post! It's reassuring to know that writers all over are experiencing similar anxieties. We've chosen a solitary pursuit, but when isolation is an order, the muses rebel! I'm in Virginia, where recreation seekers going to natural areas have been reminded that it's turkey season--and fishing is allowed.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh man! Our Laura Drake is jealous right now she doesn't live closer to you. She's dying to go fishing. And thanks for your kind words! It was amazing to see that number on my dashboard. 🙂

  14. Piper Bayard says:

    Congratulations on your 100th post! Great article!

    I find I'm a bit scattered. More than usual, that is. With the extra cooking eating up my time and energy, it's difficult to get as much done as I would like to do. Motivation comes and goes, and I will confess it's a bit discouraging to see even top authors struggling to hold their place in the market at this time. That being said, it will all bounce, and this, too, shall pass. Great voices like yours help them pass more smoothly.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I think we're all scattered right now. Being able to roll with it and have a day-by-day attitude, as Justine mentioned, will help us all through. But my God, yes - the cooking and the dishes take up WAY more time than they used to. Since writers are typically not the primary breadwinners of the house, those jobs usually fall to us. All I say is, "Thank God for Door Dash and other delivery services!" When I just can't take any more at the end of a work day, I can call them. 🙂

      p.s. Thanks so much for your very sweet comment!

  15. Thanks for these wonderful resources and thoughts, Jenny, and congrats on your 100th post! Also, I clicked through to your blog about your illness - holy moly!--you are a survivor! (Also I'll leave you a comment there.)

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You sweet thing. That was a scary time. I'd been healthy my whole life to that point, not understanding that I was a blood clot waiting to happen (aka A Ticking Time Bomb). I am so damn lucky to be alive. It definitely gave me Zen for the other challenges in my life. They've been many, but at least I get to try another day to master them!

  16. Kris Maze says:

    100th post? Woo hoo, Jenny! Time to celebrate... which is what your post did for me. The gratefulness and pick-me-ups are just what the doctor ordered.(love the John K Good News videos too, I mean Jim from the office's) Thanks for your encouragement to writers and sensitivity to worries we all seem to share.

    While I have struggled to flow seamlessly from one essential job (online teacher) to another (feed me says the dog and three teens!), I have had break through moments in writing and fixing my website. WITS is a great resource for Writer Fuel and writers like you, Jenny, make this a reality!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You have many essential jobs! I can't imagine what it is like for the teachers who must juggle their kids with their students. Our 4th grade teacher has only a cat to manage.

      While I'm sure you're doing marvelous, that is a lot of mental balls to juggle. I hope you take time for yourself in there as well. 🙂

  17. Brad says:

    100! Congrats.

    I understand motivation to write going down to zero. How can anyone manage to concentrate these days? But I like that idea of writing about a foreign country and using a trip there as a tax write-off. I’ll definitely be talkIng to my accountant about that when we’re able to travel.

    I miss the gym so much. The only thing that keeps me sane is bike riding around the loop in Central Park and on the Hudson River bike path. The city is so empty I can ride any major street and be almost alone. Hardly any need for traffic lights. In Manhattan! Seems so weird.

    Hope you are all safe and well.
    Brad

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Wow, Brad! I can hardly fathom an empty Manhattan. Good for you, getting out on your bike and being active and embracing your city. I think many more people are venturing outside these days. Maintaining their distance, but being outside, because the sunshine is compelling in a new way with all this time in quarantine. I miss my boxing classes!

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