Writing, or not writing during Covid-19 is our topic this month and it’s a good one. I’m wondering how other writers are doing during this time, because to be honest, I’m struggling.
At first everything was fine. I liked not having to drop three different kids in four different places at five different times. I liked the fact that my husband was home instead of travelling. There was more sleep and less yelling in our house, and the constant pressure to be somewhere at a certain time was gone. At first it was like a forty-pound sack of potatoes fell from my shoulders and I was free, even though I was confined to my house.
That was back in April. What I feel now, all these months later, is a sense of loss. Last year at this time I was in New York city as a finalist in the Golden Heart contest. I had the pleasure of eating breakfast with fellow blogger Mary Strand, one of the most hysterically funny people on the planet, at the Day of YA. I went to workshops and met with my agent. I was with hundreds of other writers, the only people who really understand the ups and downs of the writing life, the disappointments and the pleasure of putting words on paper.
That’s all gone now.
Covid-19 has shown me that although writing is a solitary endeavor, I need a writing community to keep me motivated. Unfortunately, community is another casualty of the pandemic, so I have to find ways to re-create it. Some writers from my Golden Heart class are starting a Zoom accountability group, where I’ll be forced to make goals and speak them out loud to other people. It will also give me a reason to connect with other writers on a regular basis. It’s not the same as going to conferences, but it’s better than trying to do this alone.
The pandemic has also created practical problems, like less writing time. This is the first blog I’ve posted in months because I am interrupted. All. The. Time.
While attempting to proofread this I was interrupted to look at a loose tooth, to find a missing Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, and to mediate the fight over the missing Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. My train of thought has been de-railed so many times that my ideas have abandoned the platform and are now looking for a new form of transportation.
There are emotional problems, too. I’m lucky, because most people in my area wear masks. But some don’t, and this fills me with flashes of big, ugly, unusual-for-me-rage.
When I go to the grocery store and see a person without a mask, I grind my teeth, bite my tongue and hold my breath all at the same time. I have fantasies about a dystopia where the anti-maskers and the anti-vaxxers can live together in clueless harmony on a different planet, while the responsible people of the world work together to stop the spread so we can all leave our houses again. But I don’t want to walk through the world angry at other humans. I want my heart and mind to be clear, so I can write. But most days, it isn’t.
So, these are my challenges. Time. Community. Anger.
There’s one bright spot however, and that’s the writing itself, the actual act of sitting at my desk and putting words on the page.
I try to get up at 5 a.m. so I can write before my house wakes up. Those two or three hours alone at my laptop are the best part of my day. If I can do that as much as possible, and not beat myself up when I don’t, I might get through this with something resembling sanity and a new manuscript. Because at the end of the day, writing has always been and continues to be an escape for me, as it is for most writers.
And maybe that’s our purpose. Maybe our gift was endowed for times such as these—to craft an escape hatch for others when reality is way too real.
Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor/reporter and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion, or unloading the dishwasher.