Half the year is behind us, and I suspect by the time 2020 is over, we will look back and marvel at how different the twelve months turned out to be from what we might have expected. If the COVID19 pandemic, social distancing, and quarantines weren’t enough to shake us, police brutality and Black Lives Matter protests surely did.
Not surprising then that two members sent in similar questions referencing the pesky virus and our reactions to it. Responses are posted in alphabetical order.
How has living with social distancing affected your writing? Do you find it odd to write actions which are currently disallowed or socially frowned upon?
I’m semi-retired, work from home, and lead a nearly monastic life; being isolated should not have bothered me. But it has. Because most of my stories take place in the real world, and I’ve written into the near future, many of the things I described happening in 2020 could not have taken place. It took me a while to realize it was okay since I spin fiction. For now, I’m ignoring the virus. In my alternate universe the pandemic did not occur.
The events of 2020 do provide material for many a story in the future, though. For others and myself. Surprisingly, the murder of a black man in Minneapolis and the subsequent worldwide reaction have helped pull me out of my stupor. Barely able to write at first, I now have outlined several chapters in different stories dealing with the ensuing social unrest. There are countless tales out there waiting to be told but maybe we need a little distance before we can tackle them.
Thanks for the question. Remember the virus is still out there and we are all susceptible to it. Keep your distance, wash your hands, and wear a mask. It may just save your life.
I am an introverted person by nature, so I didn’t have much of an issue with social distancing. I work in healthcare (Physical Therapy) and our business was considered essential during the pandemic, so I worked with people all day and wanted to relax and write at home when I was off, which is how I am normally. I write to help escape stress (regardless of what my whiny status updates say) and like everyone, I had plenty of that to fuel me. However, when I was working on my Spring Anthology I recall writing a scene where one of my characters just hopped in his car and left on a trip out of state. It felt weird to be writing something like that when we were under stay at home orders and traveling was very discouraged and I remember thinking of how my character couldn’t do that if it was set during this time period. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about it.
That's easy. I have not addressed the virus in my writing at all. That's the nice thing about fiction: you don't need to confront reality if you don't need to. So far, I have not needed to.
The coronavirus is big now. But in a few years it will mostly be a bad memory. I don't really want this thing hanging around in my stories. Most readers have lived a lot of years virus-free before this outbreak, and will live a lot of years after it the same way. Why capture such an unpleasant moment and make it a factor people have to read about later?
The last story I posted on GA was written before the pandemic emerged. I have another written since then, not yet posted, and I am working on another for posting around July 4th. None mention the virus.
This isn't really just about avoidance, though. I live in the back of beyond, the Adirondack Park. We've had five cases of the virus in my whole county, and one death. There have been no real local horror stories. Social distancing is almost the norm here as a way of life. There are only a little more than 5000 people in the entire county, which comprises 1800 square miles. I was driving about 35 minutes to reach my office in the next county each day (I tend to drive fast, so this is not a good indicator of distance!).
What I have experienced is a hell of a contrast with what life has been like for people just a couple of hundred miles south of me, around New York City. I have not experienced the pain and distress that so many people have, so I am not qualified to write about it, other than tangentially. I own my business. My sole concession to the virus has been that I simply stopped going to my office in town at the start of March and have worked online from home since. I have one employee, who works on the office net with me each day from her own home. The remove from normal life for us has just not been so large as to see it sitting squarely in front of me like with so many others.
I know people in other parts of the country that have been ill, or lost people, and I absolutely feel that. But the pandemic is largely a remote event for me, and I don't feel I can legitimately write about this except as an observer, not having really experienced it other than in the news. It seems unfair to those that have been living with it daily, like posing. I'd much rather write something that can take readers away from this event, than serve to remind them of it.
So for now, I won't. I may, at some point. Maybe.
I've thought a lot about this question. The fact is this epidemic has gone on for a long time and how it affects me changes from day to day. Lately, I've been depressed. I suppose I should stop watching the news, but it's like a car crash that goes on and on, and the worldwide bungling is sucking the life from me. I miss my kids and grandkids and feel guilty about all the things my sons and daughters insist on doing for me.
Yet, I still try to write. I prepare to write for the day, open my document, but the words aren't coming. Instead, I get frustrated—and sometimes angry. I have had spurts earlier on, and even started a new, out of the blue story that is now stuck at chapter five, while another sits at chapter seven. I tell myself it's okay, and this will pass, but I'm not feeling it.
I have written some poetry, some of which is in the spring anthology, and I wrote a story as well for the same one—but I finished that seven weeks ago. Now when I sit at the computer I feel dread, so I busy myself with outside work like painting, mowing, gardening, and playing with my dog, while I pray for a vaccine.
Social distancing has me off balance. I feel lost, as I'm sure many of us do, but I'll keep trying to get out of this slump. As for the last part of the question, I don't feel odd writing about human interaction as it was before all this started. In fact, I hope to find solace in it. Thanks for the question. Cheers... Gary....
Thanks for the question. The act of social distancing hasn't stopped me writing or changed it, at least not yet. The pandemic affected me for awhile but i've been fine the last couple of months. Wayne Gray and i are writing well together. Our latest is currently at 48,000+ words.
I don't find it difficult to write things which are disallowed or frowned on. Writers shouldn't tiptoe around, they should write their story. If the site you post on asks you to put warnings on, use them, but authors/poets are meant to write.
I can see writing something about the pandemic and its effects on people. Then in that case i'd write about wearing masks, or staying two metres apart, but only if it's part of the story. People also don't always want to read about what is currently happening because they want to escape it.
If we start being afraid to write our story, and the character's truths, then we shouldn't bother writing anymore.
A reader from another site where i post e-mailed me. He said, please never stop taking these risks in your writing, because it makes it real and believable. I smiled at that, because that's how we should write and because i have always said; write bravely.
Social distancing has affected my writing because it has affected the ritual of the act itself. I used to do most of my writing sitting in the corner of a little coffee-shop a few blocks away. I had a steaming latte, a breakfast bagel or a scone, and a nice walk back home to look forward to after finishing. So now I try to reproduce the coffee-shop experience at home. I will set up in our back bedroom with my coffee, and away from the distraction of my powerful gaming desktop.
But I'd have to say the biggest impact has been adjusting to the new world we're in. I'm sure we all feel the interruption of our daily lives. Some will feel it more than others, and I'd love to think my case is extreme due to my work, and the shift to almost entirely dealing with COVID-19. But I know that we're all affected. Just the stress of dealing with "the different" is huge.
I don't find it odd to write about life before COVID-19 and social distancing. That is the baseline and social distancing is the oddity. Social distancing will end - there's far too much economic incentive for it to continue, so one way or another it will end. Plus, it's nice to write about the times before all this began, or to think about what it'll be like after.
Thanks for the question. 🙂
That’s it for this month. If you like this feature, if there are things you’d like to know about a specific author, or if you’re tired of the same authors being featured all the time, do something about it. Send me a question or two and I’ll do my best to get responses.