It’s like a version of Groundhog Day every day, with no end in sight.
Yesterday is like today, and today is like tomorrow. Many of us wake up every day knowing we’re going to be staying put inside. Sure, there’s the occasional trip to the grocery store or the gas station, but all the mornings and afternoons and evenings are really starting to blend together, aren’t they?
Three things are getting me through. First of all, what a glorious streaming age to be living through, am I right? Just Netflix would be enough, but there’s also Amazon Prime and Hulu, and if you’re a movie buff like me, you might have Disney+ or Shudder or The Criterion Channel. There’s so much content to dig through I could probably stay indoors full time for another five years and not have watched ten percent of everything out there.
And then there’s going for a jog every day. With my gym closed, and no exercise equipment in my house, this is my way to work out a little and breathe in the air and get my heart racing for one hour a day. Outside of two days where I did a hike instead, I haven’t missed a single daily run since the beginning of March. I change up my routes here and there, but the whole idea of it is to step away from the house and get my blood pumping. I’m thankful to live in a neighborhood where I rarely bump into other runners or dog-walkers and so social distancing around here is pretty easy.
So yes, I have a few things. I love watching movies and television shows (I just finished Little Fires on Everywhere, highly recommended!), and I love going for long runs around my neighborhood.
But what’s getting me through this the most by far is writing.
I would be lost right now without writing. I would be in a dark, dark place these days if I didn’t have my writing projects, I really believe that. Writing has always been a necessary outlet for me my whole life, and now more than ever do I need it. Stepping into my latest short or novel even for just an hour a day transports me to another place, gets me away from all the fear and uncertainty of what’s going on in the world right now.
I’ve always been good about planning my weeks when it comes to my writing, and that’s been kicked into high gear these days. I developed that skill to always plan out my weeks well during my five years of graduate school, where if I didn’t do enough planning I’d get far behind writing papers for my classes or not getting that short story done before workshop on Monday. I had to plan to survive, and I’ve sort of translated that skill to my creative writing I currently do beyond the MA and MFA life.
In mid-March there was that feeling of hopelessness, like there was no possible way I could start a new writing project and continue working like everything was just the same out there. Could I really focus on my latest project day after day?
There has been talk of people being exhausted lately, even when they’re doing nothing, and trust me, I’ve felt that exhaustion, too. But usually I feel it when I’m not writing or revising. I usually feel it when I’m not being productive at all.
Instead of doing nothing I decided to take on two different writing projects in mid-March.
And I’m so happy I did, because these two projects have gotten me through. They’ve given me something to look forward to every day, even when I knew the day itself was pretty much going to be the same as yesterday and the same as tomorrow.
In mid-March I started the third draft of my newest young adult novel, Fear of Water, and instead of taking the usual four weeks to revise my latest project, I’ve spent six weeks working on it. I’ve really studied and considered and re-considered every scene of the novel, and I’ve taken a manuscript that was a 6 or a 7 and turned it into at least a 9. It gives me hope to see my fiction writing continues to improve year after year, and this, book twenty (!), is coming together in a way I’m super excited about.
I also in mid-March decided I wanted to write a new short story, so I’ve been slowly working away on something unique the past few weeks, writing just 200–300 words a day as I explore two pre-teen characters who seem so different from each other on the surface but who are actually more alike than they realize. I have one scene left to write in the story, and next week I start the second draft.
So find that outlet you love right now, whatever it may be, and do it every day!
Life has certainly changed, and we have no idea what the upcoming months will have in store. I take heart in knowing that my staying inside and practicing social distancing is helping flattening the curve, and I am grateful to all the essential workers out there — all the heroes— who are doing the real life saving and who are putting themselves in harm’s way.
For those of us who have the choice to stay home, we all need to find something that gives us our drive, that keeps us going. For me it’s writing. I’ve always enjoyed working on two or more writing projects at once, and having these projects in my life right now have definitely gotten me through. Writing has always been an outlet that gave me pleasure and purpose, and I genuinely feel I’d be lost right now without it.
It doesn’t have to be writing for you. It can be gardening, or making videos, or learning a new language, or practicing your baking skills. It can be whatever you want it to be, but find that thing that gives you joy and try to do it for part of your day in the weeks and months to come.
I know I will. You should, too.
I’m excited to announce my brand new craft book, Write Your Novel Now! 100 Tips & Strategies to Help You Draft, Revise, and Publish Your Book, coming April 28 and now available for pre-order on Amazon.
This is a book two years in the making, and I can’t wait to share it with you next week. Click here to pre-order my book for just $3.49!