COVID Brain and the Writer #amwriting

The pandemic (and the politics surrounding it) has affected everyone differently, especially in how we go to work, or even if we have a job to go to. For those in my area of Washington State, we first became aware on February 29, 2020, when the first death from coronavirus in the U.S. was reported at Evergreen Health Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington. That was followed by two other confirmed cases in a nursing home in the same city.

Since that day, officials passed down a series of unprecedented orders. They closed down schools, businesses, and restaurants; only takeout and delivery were exempt.

Terrified, newly unemployed people made a run on grocery stores, buying everything they could lay their hands on and stockpiling it.

Stores quickly became large, empty warehouses. People who shopped as they normally did were unable to find such necessary items as soap or toilet paper.

Things have changed and restrictions have loosened a little, but life will never go back to the way it was. Residents are now trying to settle into what has become a new normal, following social distancing guidelines and staying at home as much as possible.

While shopping has returned to a new kind of normal and stores now have most of the basic necessities, life is not returning to what once was ordinary, nor will it ever. Wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing has become de rigueur. In my home state of Washington, these are mandatory.

No shoes, no shirt, no face-mask, no service.

Remote school was a struggle for many parents. Now, for many, their spouse is either laid off or working from home. During the spring, their kids were home-schooled, then summer happened. They ended up with a house full of bored kids and no place open to take them for entertainment.

For those who live in apartments, even most parks are closed. Going for an afternoon walk quickly loses its charm for the average four-year-old.

Unfortunately, in my state of Washington, schools will remain closed through the fall, and online classes will be the norm. This is a disaster for the poorest families, those without access to the internet. The schools provide your child with a Chromebook, but what do they connect it to? And in most really poor families, the parents have no idea how to hook up a computer or use one.

Even parents who are financially better off are trying to keep their children focused and entertained. This, while they attempt to work from home and are once again faced with also trying to educate them.

Zoom meetings are frequently interrupted by toddler tantrums and cats—the way business is done in our new world.

I know several prolific authors whose ability to write has gone out the window. Many people are only now getting back into some sort of schedule.

This is for a variety of reasons. First of all, if you are writing full time, you rely on those quiet hours of the day while the spouse is at work and kids are at school.

For those whose day jobs meant they scrambled to find time for writing, unemployment was a blessing as far as their writing went. They now had time to write and plenty of apocalyptic stories to tell.

However, we who write full time were thrown out of the normal routine and into a world where every day felt like Saturday, but no one would leave the house and just let you get on with your work.

We had what my Texas editor, Irene, calls “COVID Brain.”

If you are one of the many whose ability to think and write has been affected by the way our world has changed, you are not alone.

However, we are adaptable. All those hours of playing Stardew Valley when you should have been writing weren’t wasted. Your mind was resting, taking a break from the craziness.

I am so grateful for the tools that participating in National Novel Writing Month  (NaNoWriMo) every year has given me. If you are struggling to connect two sentences together, here are some thoughts for you:

Writing daily is easier once it becomes a behavioral habit. First, you must give yourself permission to write.

Your perception that it is selfish will be your biggest obstacle. Trust me, it is not asking too much of your family for you to have some time every day that is sacred and dedicated to writing.

You must decide what is more important, your dream of writing that novel, or watching a television show that is someone else’s dream.

Do you want to create, or do you want to be entertained?

Give up that 8:00 p.m. TV show. If you want to create, you must turn off the television or log out of your video game for a certain length of time every day because you’re not writing if you’re playing a game or watching a show.

Trust me about the six hours a day playing Stardew Valley thing.

But you don’t have to give up the things that keep you sane. Do this in baby steps.

You have the right to take an hour in the morning and the evening to use for your own creative outlet. Get up an hour early and write until the time you would usually get up. That will be the quietest time you will have all day.

Write for five minutes here and ten minutes there all day long if that is all you can do around the demands of educating your children and working from home.

Every word, every idea counts toward your finished manuscript. By writing in short bursts whenever you have the opportunity, you are redeveloping the discipline you once had.

Normal has changed. We have had to wrap our heads around this new way of life, but we are adaptable.

For those who are now faced with schooling their children at home, I offer you this YouTube video from Kathryn at Do it on a Dime, which has some useful tips for making their learning time productive and reducing your stress. Toward the end, Kathryn offers some excellent advice, words we all need to hear.

Remote Learning Made Easy

5 Comments

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5 responses to “COVID Brain and the Writer #amwriting

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I have been plagued with writer’s block not just during the pandemic but before it, too. This was a great reminder to simply find the time. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Johanna Flynn

    My covid brain thanks you for this blog post!

    Liked by 1 person