I had one of those wonderful, rare moments of inspiration several days ago.
A short story sprang into my mind, fully formed. All I had to do was go to the computer and take down what was playing in my head.
I read it through quickly, and decided it was brilliant! By my standards, anyway.
When I have written something, I always put it away at least overnight, and take a second look at it the next day.
By the next morning, it had deteriorated to dreadful.
The third morning, it seemed reasonably good again. I went through it and made a few changes, but left it substantially intact.
I ran a spelling and grammar check on it. All I got back was an instantaneous “Spelling and grammar check complete.” I took that to mean the writing was at least passible.
Since I had a possible venue for it, I decided to send it in before it turned back to dreadful. I know how these things work—the more I look at it, the more I see shortcomings and the less I see potential strengths. If I didn’t act quickly, it would be permanently relegated to my overflowing “never to see the light of day” drawer.
The story was grounded in the present pandemic, which is disrupting everybody’s lives.
Sometimes I can use tragedy and misfortune in my writing. Other times, especially if the situation has hit very close to home, I can’t. I’ve not been able incorporate anything about 9-11 in my writing. I have tried a few times, and hope the time will come when I can, but right now all I can think of is a relative who died in the World Trade Center. She was on the phone with her mother, in a panic searching for a stairway that wasn’t on fire, when the building went down. All that was ever recovered of her were some teeth. They were identified by a forensic anthropologist months later, and the ceremony held to bury them opened all the sorrows again.
Perhaps because no one I am close to has died of the coronavirus, I can deal with it in a more abstract manner, and express my thoughts in stories. One of my brothers, a police officer in New York, had some symptoms early on but couldn’t get a test. He’s fine now. A friend who works at Walmart recently felt ill, but she was able to get a test immediately and was given paid leave to quarantine until the test results came back. She tested negative.
I keep a small stockpile of greeting cards for various occasions, and I sent out my last two sympathy cards yesterday. One to a member of my book club, whose mother died of COVID-19 in a nursing home, and one to a cousin whose father-in-law passed away, not sure if it was COVID-19 or not.
This morning, I was out for a medical appointment, and stopped at a pharmacy on the way home. I went to restock my sympathy card collection—I anticipate needing more as the pandemic worsens—and to my shock, they were all sold out.
There’s a poignant story in there somewhere.
Can you deal with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Hamlet) by writing about them? Or are some things too tragic to write about?