About a week ago, you couldn’t go online without someone reminding you that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during quarantine so you have no excuse not to write that novel now!
And then somehow we’ve gone full circle from that to people saying that if you ARE being productive and writing right now, you’re a soulless ghoul without empathy for everyone who is suffering.
And, wild as a theory as it may be, I feel perhaps there is some middle ground between those two extremes?
Maybe writing is hard right now because you’re distracted by fear and uncertainty and caring (and in some cases educating!) loved ones all of which is completely reasonable.
Or maybe you’re writing a whole lot because you don’t have much else going on right now and need the distraction and writing is the only thing keeping your life from turning into this scene from Muppet Treasure Island which is completely reasonable too.
I’ll be honest, I’m struggling to write right now and I’m trying and failing to not to beat myself up over it. I overheard someone say “We should be savoring this! We’ll never get this time again!” and that’s haunting me, like it’s some profound failing of me as a human being that I haven’t turned this crisis into my own personal journey to self-fulfillment / writing retreat.
And every time someone says something about “all this free time” we allegedly have now that just crawls up inside of me and dies next to all the King Lears I’m not writing and it leaves me with this unsettled feeling that I alone of all humans am the only one Doing It Wrong that I just have to shelve alongside all the other stresses and fears of this particular moment in time.
*sighs for like 20 minutes long*
But I also know that, when I do actually drag myself away from the bad news to my writing, it’s a much needed escape. I rushed all last week to get four of my plays available electronically to help schools and other groups perform and study them digitally and having that deadline to keep me working instead of wallowing was absolutely a good thing in the big picture.
Which is why I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this April. I’ve only set a small goal, just enough to keep the pen moving, because that’s exactly what Camp NaNoWriMo is for. You can set a custom goal that’s as easy or challenging as you want. A goal that’s perfect if all you have the brain space for is writing 100 words total all month for an easy victory or you need a near impossible deadline over your head to keep you too busy to worry about the world burning around you.
Which is exactly what I personally need right now.
And I am honestly not sure which way I will go next month, whether I keep my aim low or just go on an all out writing binge to hide from the world. It could go either way, honestly.
And because I wasn’t kidding about that educating loved ones thing, my 1st Grader will be writing along with me as part of this whole homeschooling adventure. (Her goal is 5,000 words, 1k less than her last book. Yes, I have a 7 year old who has written multiple books, does this really surprise you?) I’m incredibly excited and also nervous about her first real NaNoWriMo challenge, especially because she’s so excited herself. So it will be an adventure to say the least!
One of the weirdest things about this whole thing is that it is, in theory, this is unifying. It’s something that’s effecting all of us, around the globe, it’s all we’re thinking about. We’re all going through something that we’ve never gone through anything like before.
And yet… we’re all going through it completely differently.
The experience of someone who is isolating alone is incredibly different than one with a house full of kids they suddenly have to homeschool while working from home.
Someone with a house big enough to have some space to themselves or a backyard to at least get out a bit is having a very different experience than someone in a one room apartment.
Even the mindset of someone who is working from home with a stable job is very different from someone who’s still out there working as essential personnel or someone who’s been laid off with no idea what the job market might even look like when this is all over.
Some people have loved ones that are already sick or are sick themselves while, for others, this is still a thought exercise that doesn’t quite feel real.
What is only a minor inconvenience for some people is a devastating situation for a zillion reasons related to everything from mental health to financial circumstances. It’s a moment that calls the inequality of our world into chilling focus and lays bare how desperately broken our systems are.
It’s a time when we’re all physically apart from each other, yes, but it’s also highlighting how we’re were all on such radically different footing to begin with.
Which is why, I think, it hurts so much when we see that supposedly universally relatable COVID post that is completely removed from our experience. When our common language of memes and jokes is painting a picture of what “everyone” is going through that bares no resemblance to your reality, it’s isolating in a way that has nothing to do with social distance.
I wish I had a pithy way to end this train of thought but it’s a lot like this moment itself: messy and unfinished. But hopefully, like this moment, we will all see the solution clearer when we are safe on the other side of it.
Stay safe and healthy, friends.