2020’s Mandatory Stay-Cation

Today marks the anniversary of when I was furloughed for a month, nearly to the day. I remember March 29, 2020, I was told to work a half day on March 31st, and then to go home with no idea when we’d return to the office. Thus, began survival mode.

Some of us only had to be in survival mode for a few months, others are still in survival mode a year later. I think it’s important to note that there are a lot of factors that affected how individuals handled the strain—did you have to work from home? Did you have to assist children in distance learning? I discovered that I’m a terrible teacher. I’m fortunate to have only had the one toddler, but I had no idea how to teach her and what to expect, because she was taking her time speaking. It was basically a crash course in the art of communication. Luckily, she loves being quizzed, so I’d ask her “which one’s the red block?” or “point to the elephant?” and that was our classroom.

I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to help a child log onto Zoom school every day. Teachers and parents-with-slightly-older-kids, you guys are like superheroes. I think something to keep in mind is that everyone’s survival mode will look different, and it’s important to be kind to yourself.

When you think about pursuing creative endeavors like writing during a pandemic, where can you squeeze in those activities? Think about how your time adds up—full time job remotely, let’s say that’s about 8 hours per day. Helping child with Zoom, let’s give that about 6 hours on and off throughout the day. Hopefully you’re sleeping well, at least 6-8 hours. Don’t forget meals, so let’s allot about 1-2 hours per day. Then there’s the little miscellaneous things, like personal hygiene, exercise, the inevitable home-improvement bug, and you’re already looking at 24 hours. An entire day.

And at any time, you’re probably burned out. Finally, when you have a minute to sit in front of the computer, nothing happens. The last thing you want to do after a long, mind-numbing day with remote working and virtual learning is camp out in front of your laptop and try to figure out why your stupid characters aren’t doing what you want them to do. Or how to make a travel scene interesting. Or, God forbid, your voice seems flat and boring, because all you really want is to take a nap.

So take the nap.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Carve out a half hour for yourself, and do what you need. Some people can take that time and pound out 3000 words. Some can force out 200 words. Some can switch to short fiction, to have a story finished in a few sessions for that rush of accomplishment. Some can’t bear the thought of writing. So read instead. Study other works in your chosen genre, learn how other writers construct scenes and pacing under the guise of relaxing. Take a bubble bath for the first time in 10 years. Take the nap.

Since I had a toddler, I accepted that I just wasn’t going to get any work done—writing or otherwise—while she was awake. But. She took two naps a day (a moment of silence and a single glistening tear for that glorious time). So, I tried to have some structure in the day by having meals around the same time and then long walks, where I could listen to podcasts (Hello there, 14 seasons of Writing Excuses) and let story ideas percolate. Seriously, walked about 3 to 4 miles per day, and April in Florida is no joke. Then while the kiddo napped, I’d write, concentrating on redoing a shelved trunk novel so it actually had a plot. My best day was around 4500 words, but really it averaged anywhere from 400 to about 800. At the end of my month-long quarantine, I had about 45,000 words.

But I didn’t have to work remotely. I didn’t have to contend with Zoom school.

As an essential healthcare worker, I was back in the office after about four weeks (with appropriate safety measures in place). I like to joke with my patients that aside from the masks, my life hasn’t changed much. I drop of kiddo at daycare, go to the office, work through lunch, finish up the workday, pick up the kiddo from daycare, keep her entertained for an hour before her bedtime, and then pass out in my recliner in front of Netflix. My life is as close to normal as it’s going to be for a while.

I’d love to hear if your life has gone back to some semblance of normal. If you have any tips or tricks for making time or managing creativity, please share!

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