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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

2020, The Plague Year Revisited by Martha Reed

As we near the turn of the year with a hopeful promise of a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, I wanted to stop and consider any writerly lessons I’ve learned from the quarantine isolation and social distancing experience since the experiences may eventually be used as grist in the fiction writing mill.

Fortunately for me, quarantine didn’t impact my daily writing output. I’ve followed the same routine I had pre-COVID, working on my WIP (e.g., Work in Progress) during the mornings and taking care of any marketing and promotion or other author business related chores in the afternoon.

I suspect this routine sameness directly correlates to the fact that I don’t have school age children quarantined at home.

 My complete and absolute sympathy goes out to those creative writers and parents who are home schooling their kids during this pandemic as they continue to develop their stories. I can see on Facebook that some folks are successfully doing it and they deserve a heartfelt salute. When I consider how much extra energy, time and focus home schooling must take, I’m in awe of their success. I believe I’d lose my damn mind if I had to do it, especially knowing that the little buggers would be expectantly crouched outside my home office door ready to ask: ‘What’s for dinner’?

 Virginia Woolf once said, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” To my mind, that room must include a door to firmly shut out such distractions and these days also include the ability to ruthlessly disconnect the internet, that great time sucking thief.

A surprising lockdown silver lining is the availability of online writer’s conferences. I love attending conferences and conventions. They’re my reward for doing the creative writing work. I’ve always had international conferences like St. Hilda’s Crime Fiction Weekend in Oxford, England and Bloody Scotland on my radar, but in 2020 everything went online and best of all, free. There were no more excuses for not setting aside the time to attend them and I joyfully signed up. I’ve now been introduced to an expansive brave new world of European crime fiction authors with distinctly non-American plots and writing styles. It’s been an eye-opening opportunity with lots of room for new personal writerly growth.

 The negative side of online conferences is that I miss the personal introductions, interactions, and new connections that I make, one of the greatest joys in my life. Crime fiction writers are my family. Sure, during Zoom calls everyone is friendly, but it’s not the same thing. Not to grumble, but I do feel that COVID-19 robbed my year of that. I’ve been doing the work without getting the full perks. Hopefully, this will change in 2021 and we can all raise a glass together again soon.

 The bottom line is please stay safe. How are you coping with quarantine and social distancing? Have you developed any new good writerly habits?




Margaret S. Hamilton said...

My daily writing schedule has been upended to accommodate the needs of the household, but I'm making it work. Zoom critique sessions, author events, and craft sessions are wonderful.

Art Taylor said...

Nice post, Martha — and agreed on online conferences too (both the good and the bad).
And you're right: I think there are generally some divisions here between writers with school-age children and often with day jobs as well and those who don't have one or both of those things in the mix. It's been a hard year... still.

Susan said...

The older I get, the more I realize timing is everything. I’m not trying to be self-centered, but this is what I mean. My parents are gone so I don’t have to worry about them catching this, and my brother and I are retired from jobs that meant daily contact with lots and lots of people. We are at an age when we can still live on our own. I miss my children and grands terribly, but they don’t want me to possibly catch this from them. And prior to it all, technology was invented that allows us to see each other. A sacrifice now means I may see them and my friends a year from now. I count my blessings and am grateful, and pray for those in difficulty. So stay safe, everyone. It eventually will end.

Jim Jackson said...

I've found it hard to focus this year and my productivity has suffered. But any complaints I have are of my own doing. My solution is to move forward. And when I do that and then look back, I can see I am still making progress.

Martha Reed said...

I agree it’s been a difficult time - I had a full day pity party when my family cancelled our Thanksgiving visit but I keep reminding myself of the lives we are saving - and working these deeper emotions into my work. Stay safe and strong everyone. I look forward to reading your work that comes out of this!

Kait said...

It's been a year. Like Jim, I had trouble concentrating at first and zeroing in on being a full time writer. Then I realized, this isn't the temporary normal, it's simply normal. The attitude shift was everything.

I join you in kudos to those writers balancing homeschooling and writing and/or home schooling/day job/writing.

Here's hoping that 2021 sees us able to hug again.

Martha Reed said...

Agreed! One of the things keeping me going is the idea of attending a conference in person again. I'm ridiculously excited about this opening up. I'll be satisfied if we can get to that level with the new 'normal.' My friends will need to brace themselves because I come from a long line of huggers.

KM Rockwood said...

I hope things will be much better next year, but I do have one rather morose character whose favorite saying is, "Things are never so bad they can't get worse."

Martha Reed said...

I'm an optimist so I'll hope along with you but there are those 'Eeyore' characters out there!

Jennifer J. Chow said...

It's been up and down for me in terms of concentration. I have read a ton of books this year, though!