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Writing in the Time of Coronavirus

Those of us who write should see a thin silver lining in the pandemic. Being forced to stay home, we can write. Fewer interruptions, fewer reasons for excuses. But…we all know that’s not how it works.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about why I’m not knocking out my next magnum opus while in lock down. First, a lot of us are still working just as much; this is not a vacation. We may have more time if we aren’t commuting and if we aren’t spending our usual time in front of the mirror every morning. Working at home is not necessarily more efficient, and I’m not sure why anyone would think so.

My first barrier to writing now is that I’m sick of this computer. It’s my life line; it’s also an anchor. Tapping away on my Work in Progress is just more typing. So….I use pen and paper, the old fashioned way. That, however, just delays the inevitable. I’m going to have to type it up again, and if you saw my handwriting, you’d know that is not an easy task.

The debate over whether we write more creatively with our fingers tapping at a keyboard or with our whole hand engaged with a pen will be with us for a while. Some writing tasks are better by hand—brainstorming, mind-mapping, diagramming. Some are better by keyboard—when the inspiration hits and you just want to let it flow without a cramp or the possibility of running out of ink. And there are individual differences, perhaps age differences. I used to think I wrote better by hand, but I have also tried to retrain myself. We no longer have to be “ink-stained wretches” to be creative.

My second barrier, and one I’m sure I share, is distraction. It’s really odd to be distracted when you are living by yourself (I have an apartment near my office in another town where I’m staying for now). But because we holding on to our computer life lines, there is a world wide web of distractions to entrap us. How many cases in Georgia today? What’s going on with politics over this? What’s being posted on Facebook by my equally distracted “friends”? And what is there to eat in my cabinets? Who can I call to check on?

Distraction leads to the third, and worst barrier. Anxiety. Did I take my temperature today? Is that cough dry or mucus-y? Why do I have a sore throat? What’s this pressure in my chest I’ve had for three weeks? (Pollen, probably). In the county of 104,660 people where my apartment is located, there are 1.3 in 10,000 cases. In my home county, 6 in 100,000 (4 out of 66,550). Neither has had a death. The likelihood of exposure so far for me is infinitesimal. Why we are so lightly touched is a blessed mystery, although we all know the reported cases number is suspect.

Do not take this to mean the frightening numbers are irrelevant. They are. Thankfully supplies are getting where they need to be, despite lack of preparation for the crisis. And Thank the Father mostly for dedicated health care workers. I have a good friend whose daughter became a nurse last month and was thrown into the fire of COVID-19 before going through all the hospital orientation training and before feeling ready. No time to waste. It’s been hard on her, as one would imagine—on her and her multitude of committed colleagues.

Anxiety is plaguing all of us, with good reasons I don’t need to recount here. I can only finish with the promise that Someone is bigger than COVID-19 and our writing projects and our temporary boredom. That Someone says reach out as best you can to be a neighbor who is inconvenienced; that Someone says read something Scriptural rather than watching another episode of Tiger King on Netflix. That Someone says trust Him and let Him calm our anxious beings. I Timothy 1:7- for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

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