It was the best of times, it was the worst of times? Nope. Nationally there was no best of times. It was a dickens of a year? Nope. That merely echoes the quote above. Same caveat. It was an annus horribilis? Ah, that’s better. Thank you Queen Elizabeth II. By the time this blog appears we will have been through the 2020 election cycle and may know who was elected president. We may also know if COVID-19 thrives in cold weather and, if we are lucky, how close we are to a vaccine.
New Year’s articles are traditionally filled with hope and looking forward to good news. This year began with the threat that thieves were just waiting to backdate our legal documents and thwart our intentions if we didn’t use all four numerals of the year. We should have been warned. 2020 was not going to be a normal year.
As the New Year kicked off, we were aware of an outbreak of a coronavirus in China. In January, China seemed far away. By March, well, we all know where that went. Writers had an especially difficult problem with isolation and self-quarantining. Most writers are introverts. We like our own company. We also seem to prefer to have isolation optional. Once it became the law of the land, Facebook posts and message boards made it clear that writers were unable to write.
COVID-19 didn’t only sap energy from its victims. It sapped it from writers, too. Facebook and Twitter were full of posts about an inability of writers to be creative. Part of it may have been due to everyone isolating together. A writer used to solitude may not adapt well to isolation with spouse and children. I contend, with no evidence other than many discussions with other writers, that the paucity of energy and creativity sprang from a different source. Truth is always stranger than fiction, but in 2020 we were all parties to the same nightmarish story. How do you top current events?
Worse, with information, true and false, flying at the speed of the old Concorde jet, how is a writer supposed to have the energy to parse the information, separate the chaff from the wheat and write? Based on my unscientific survey of social media, it took writers the better part of five months to get back to their former stride.
Facebook writer groups filled with questions of addressing the pandemic. Should fiction writers acknowledge or ignore it? No one knows how long the pandemic will last or what the new normal will be on the other side. Will the failure of our characters to socially distance, be mindful of crowds, and/or have a face mask at the ready serve to date our work as pre-pandemic? Has writing scenes as we know it reached the end of an era?
Most of us, writers and readers alike, read to escape. We want to be drawn out of our everyday lives and entertained. Do readers want to read about pandemic issues or do they want to leave them behind? Hard choice, but one that must be answered.
Readers and writers, has the pandemic changed what you read? How? Writers, do you intend to incorporate pandemic mores into your books?
I wish you all peace, love, and rock and roll in 2021 and thank you readers for staying with us on the roller coaster ride that is known as 2020.
 Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.