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March 17, 2020

Writing in the Time of Coronanxiety

Calm water on a New Zealand lake with text: Find Your Calm...

Everything in the news is currently all COVID-19 all the time. Not surprisingly, the endless updates from various countries along with the knowledge that the U.S. is vastly under-testing only increases our anxiety.

So while it might seem that all the cancellations mean that we have more time for writing, all that anxiety can make it hard to focus on our writing. (Believe me, I know. *she says as she starts writing this post far too late to get a good night’s sleep*)

(Also, if you’re not already, please stay home as much as your job and life allow. If you have to go out, stay about 6-10 feet away from others and thoroughly wash your hands often. Learn how the more people practice social distancing, the better our health care systems can keep up. It’s safest to assume you already have it—and are just asymptomatic and contagious—and think about protecting others.)

Give Yourself a Break

I’ve seen countless social media posts with the idea of “Woo hoo! Now is when we can focus on all the projects we mean to do.” But as a much-circulated post pointed out, this is not a “bonus” snow day scenario.

This is a pandemic.

The medical community is telling us to prepare for someone we know dying. Our homes might be more chaotic with kids, significant others, or others in our space. And so on.

The news is worrying enough to fill us with anxiety, which can make it hard to write. What can we do? Click To TweetIf we’re full-time writers, those facts alone would make it hard to concentrate. Add in suddenly needing to juggle taking care of kids out of shut-down schools and having to maintain a house when shopping is tricky, and we’ll have less time to write.

If we write on the side around a day job, we might need to learn all new skills to do our day job at home, increasing the difficulty of our work. Add in the same issues as above with others in our home and the complications of trying to balance caution with living, and any free time is likely to be filled with more distractions.

In other words, if we feel motivated and focused enough to be creative, great! But if we don’t, we shouldn’t get down on ourselves. Feeling anxiety in this situation is normal, and not being able to focus or feel creative when anxious is normal too.

Practice Self-Care

With all the anxiety that we might be feeling, we might an extra dose (or a hundred doses) of self-care. I’ve written before about what self-care for writers looks like, but let’s add some options to the list, given our current situation.

As writers, we often turn to books and stories for relaxation. If our local library has closed, many library systems offer ebooks. Or many authors have freebie ebooks available to keep us entertained.

However, even reading for pleasure might require more focus than we’re currently capable of. Sometimes we need to do something mindless or fun to let our brain’s worries fade. We might play games, scroll social media, do puzzles, etc.

Author Rebekah Weatherspoon shared a paint-by-numbers app called Dazzly that she found relaxing:

Above all, it might help our anxiety to try to maintain a sense of humor. *smile*

Learn and Explore

Even if we’re not learning anything “important,” the thought of learning something valuable might help our stress:

Find Resources of Fun or Interesting Things

  • Attend a book-reading with an author:

While Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is closed to the public, the staff is letting the penguins explore the building:

Try Various Options for Isolating with Kids

If we’re one of the many families suddenly at home with school-age kids, remember first that not every moment needs to be educational. A huge percentage of time that kids spend in school is taken up by learning to listen and follow directions and so on.

Each subject’s lesson is usually only 15-30 long, so feel free to fill time with edutainment, like with the links above. Or check out these suggestions, many from experienced homeschooling parents…

Work with Your Abilities

These ideas are just the start. Please add your ideas or links to resources you’ve found in the comments!

All that said, if you find you’re motivated enough to write, let me share one tip for how I’ve kept up with my blog through my years of health issues and my recent house flood:

Give yourself deadlines.

Every week through all my trials, I’ve managed to still publish two blog posts a week without fail and on time. How? The weekly deadlines for my every Tuesday and Thursday posts. It’s amazing what we can do when we feel like we have to do it. *smile*

Whatever we’re capable of, whether that’s writing a book or just wallowing in the news, that’s okay. Whatever we do to make it through these times, whether that’s helping family, friends, and neighbors or streaming mindless entertainment to distract the kids, that’s okay too. These are not normal times.

It’s important to keep yourself safe and healthy, both medically and mentally. So if that means you sleep all day to avoid the news and take long walks outside with no one else around in the middle of the night, that’s cool too. You’ll find a way. All the best to you all, and may we all stay healthy! *hugs*

Do you have any insights into how to manage anxiety? Or how to write through anxiety and distractions? Do you have any suggestions or resources to add to this list? How are you managing through this crazy time? Do you have any questions for me?

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Deborah Makarios

I am mostly staying home, and keeping my distance from others on the rare occasions when I do go out. But frankly, apart from church activities (which I’ve been missing for the last several days), that’s my normal. Writing work, housework, yardwork, handwork, correspondence – it’s all still there to do! But I am trying to rest up a bit more than usual as I have an annoying post-nasal drip thing going on.

Fortunately, I have a good cache of library books (mostly Carola Dunn mysteries) to keep me going for a while. After that, if the library closes down, I’m going to be working on my Pile of Books I’ve Had For Ages and Really Should Have Read By Now. Plus I think my blog sabbatical might be coming to an end…

Julia
Julia

I’m surprised this doesn’t have more comments yet!

I really appreciated this post. So calm and reassuring and realistic.

There’s not been enough discourse about doing what you can manage and being okay with that.

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