Most of the writers I follow on Twitter fall into two groups: I have so much time to stay home and write! and I can’t write because we’re all gonna die! And while I don’t subscribe to either of those extremes, I do think there’s a middle ground where we can all be miserable.
My Last Pass
As far as Brigham Plaza goes, I’m more than halfway through my last pass of the manuscript. This is basically a sanity check and one last opportunity to make (very small) changes. After this, the book goes to my editor and that’s it. My plan had been to complete the last pass by May 1, but thanks to a deadly global pandemic, I’m on track to beat that goal by a couple of weeks.
As I tear through the second half of the book, I’m feeling good about it in the way a parent feels good about dressing their kid up for school before sending them on their way. I’m doing what I can to make sure this book is good, but my part in it is coming to a close. This moment of calling it done is a mixture of pride, relief, and joy.
I love it.
Back to Twitter. Though the number has dropped off a bit, the first few days of the #stayathome campaign saw a proliferation of a meme about gamers who had been preparing for this my whole life. Similarly, some Twits were celebrating all the extra time they’d have at home to finally finish the novel or somesuch. Personally, I didn’t see a problem with staying at home for an extended period of time, but that was never the problem.
The problem is social distancing, the panic-buying at HEB and Target and Walgreens, and the collapse of an economy that needs people out and about buying stuff all the time. I haven’t seen toilet paper or soap at the store for more than a week, local restaurants changed their hours and then closed completely, and families are still letting their kids play together at the neighborhood parks.
With that weighing on a person, how can you expect them to write?
I was lucky enough to be at a non-creative stage of the book-writing process when all of this started. There’s nothing imaginative about combing through a manuscript looking for errors, and the roteness of it is certainly a distraction. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone just starting a new project, or hell, in the middle of drafting a new one.
I don’t know how you see your way through the stress and sense of impending doom to write something new, or worse, something hopeful. This past week has shown us how utterly fragile we are, and that as much as we joke about those clowns in Washington, we rely on them, or to put it another way, we’re at their mercy.
I think if I were to write something new right now, every sentence would drip with anger. Writing, for me, has always been about communicating emotion, making you feel what I feel so that we can have a connection. And I think there is a time and place to feel sadness or fear or excitement in the voyeuristic sense. But what about anger? Is that something that needs to be shared?
Anger at the president, the government, the hoarders, the people not staying home, the people spreading misinformation online… I’m wondering what the point would be of writing a story infused with that emotion.
Because really, you should already be angry.
My hope is that my novels distract you from that anger for a little while. But do remember: just because I’m still talking about my little cyberpunk hacker book doesn’t mean I don’t care about what’s happening in the world. I do care. I care to the point that I can taste the anger.
We all need to take breaks from that anger. If you’re trying to write, but can’t, don’t beat yourself up about it. Your creativity thrives under the right conditions. Under the wrong conditions, it may wilt a little, but it will not disappear. Be patient.
For the rest of you, here are a few things that have successfully distracted me from the Damoclean sword hanging above all our heads:
- Doom Eternal – You’re a full-sprint death-dealing marine taking on the forces of hell, and damn it feels good.
- Yesterday – This movie had bad buzz, but Dom and I found it fun and entertaining.
- Dark – Focus your brain on trying to figure out this Netflix series.
- Full House – Take a trip back to when life was simpler and mullets were plentiful.
Stay safe out there, friends.
Don’t let the anger consume you.