Writing During Covid-19

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I thought I could do it.

And for about nine days I did. Consistently.

But then the fatigue set in and the stress from external pressures began to mount and so here I am, in the final week of National Novel Writing Month, 8000+ words behind where I should be. A few times the writing has been fun or enjoyable, but mostly its been a slog and I’ve used scraps of “author laments” to pad out the word count enough so that I am updating my word count every day, even if I don’t reach the goal.

Why has this been so hard?

Really, everything this year has been hard. I’ve had it far easier than many, but the mental strain of dealing with misinformation and people unwilling to follow health safety guidelines is wearing me out. Even though I’m an introvert, I do miss the few get-togethers that my friends and I normally have. I haven’t been able to let ideas percolate and steep because the moment I leave my mind disengaged it does into a spiral of nightmare scenarios. Any time spent on social media turns into doom-scrolling. And I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop that will close down work again, at least to patrons coming inside the building, although we hope to continue with curbside pickup. But with the pandemic spikes that too many people don’t seem to care about… who knows what the following weeks will bring?

Photo by Kate Trifo from Pexels

I don’t like feeling like I live on a different planet than others in my own family. We seem to live in completely different realities. It’s not like we are getting the same information and interpreting it differently. It’s like we’re getting two entirely different feeds of information. In my world, Covid-19 is a serious problem and we all need to do our part to mitigate it as much as possible. In their world, the threat is exaggerated so politicians can control our lives. While they begrudgingly take some precautions, it isn’t enough to alleviate my anxiety that they don’t take it seriously and we’ll all get sick. Or worse, that I’ll get infected and pass it on to my patrons without even realizing it. Because asymptomatic vectors are terrifying. And there are far too many others around the United States who seem to think that being told to wear a mask is not the government’s business, even in the midst of a health crisis. They don’t seem to understand that refusing to obey health safety guidelines out of a misguided sense of self-righteousness will only prolong this “new normal” they’re so opposed to. (For the record, none of us advocating for mask use and social distancing think that any of this is normal. We’re just trying to cope as best we can.)

With all this whirling around in my head, I guess it’s little wonder that I can’t seem to focus on writing. I’ve seen plenty of tweets and commentary from other artists who are experiencing similar issues with focus, creativity, energy, and the indulgence of familiar media narratives. DragonFriend is, apparently, not enough of an escape for me. Perhaps it’s too new, and simultaneously has its roots too deep in a time and psyche that I don’t have anymore. It’s hard to write a fun, carefree story when you feel anything but and there’s only so much “grit your teeth and do it” that can be done before the story itself breaks or warps into something it wasn’t supposed to be. I’m going to keep trying in the hopes that I’ll still have a decent amount of prose by next Monday when NaNoWriMo ends, but I highly doubt I’ll reach 50,000 words. And a chunk of that won’t even be prose for DragonFriend but ramblings similar to this and blog entries like this one.

In addition, I flubbed up in October. I was doing Inktober for work (another month-long challenge I was only able to sustain for about two weeks) and had so many other things going on that I either didn’t have the time or lacked the mental bandwidth to sit down and plan out what I was going to write. With Spells and Sepia last year, I made a deliberate decision to be a “Pantster” and just write whatever I felt like. But I lean more towards the “Planner” side of things (technically I am a “Plantser” which combines the two) and require an outline or some organization ahead of time. Normally October is my planning month, but I neglected to do that this year and I think my productivity with DragonFriend has suffered for it. I didn’t plan, I didn’t properly get into the headspace required, and I didn’t start looking over old notes and plot ideas until I was actually in the middle of writing. So, yeah, I kind of sabotaged myself from the start, even without the added external pressures.

Right now, it seems like 500 words or about a hour of work each day is the most I can handle. 1,667+ words or 2+ hours of work is just too much. I want to keep up the writing habit because it’s too easy to slip back into the somnolent self-indulgence of watching familiar TV shows and movies or rereading the same books. I’m hoping to reach the 40,000-word badge by the end of the month. Then I’m going to have to pause, look at my various works in progress, and take stock of where I should go, and decide how I should proceed from here.

On the flip side, the first Doctor Who episode, “An Unearthly Child” aired on November 23, 1963 and I found a DVD copy of that serial in with the donations at work, so I’m going to watch that today as a special treat.

Be kind, stay safe, and Happy Thanksgiving. 

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