Things are tough right now: how do we make the best of a crisis while taking care of ourselves and others?
Part of the way I’m staying sane throughout this pandemic is by connecting frequently with friends and family over the phone and via Facetime, reading good books, going on walks, and trying to focus on work even in a time of crisis. (I am now in not one, not two, but THREE virtual writers’ groups right now.)
If you are social distancing or working from home, this downtime also offers us time to take a breather and see what speaks to us in solitude. Some of us might gravitate towards rest and all the unwatched items in our Netflix queue, some might veer towards getting immersed in our work, and others a mix of both.
You’re allowed to spend this time any way that heals you. Whether that’s doing the 100 baby challenge in the Sims or writing the next great American Novel, there’s no “wrong” way to spend your time social distancing.
Escapism vs. Art as Protest
For me, solitude has always presented answers, but I find those answers by working through my own fiction and writing about my experiences on here.
However, it can feel like art is a “deceitful luxury” if it isn’t addressing the times, as Albert Camus’ addresses in his essay/speech Create Dangerously which explores the responsibility of an artist.
“In the face of such misery, art–if it wishes to continue to be a luxury, must today accept that it is also deceitful,” Camus writes. “Art for art’s sake, which was merely a pleasant distraction for the solitary artist, was precisely the contrived art of an abstract, artificial society.”
The artist must be aware and informed in order to create art that goes beyond a “deceitful luxury” and spur real change.
But what about art as escapism? Art as healing so we can persevere?
I think we can have both: as writers, we can wrap our observations and commentary in symbolism. We can have grand stories with meaning. We can tell a sci-fi epic or spaghetti western while also telling stories about class struggles and corruption and greed. We can have our characters stand for something, and explore what sacrifices must be made in order to change the world.
Let your art be your thesis statement for your perspective on the world.
Twitter rants get lost in the ether, but great stories stand the test of time and inspire generations. What messages do you want to share? Why are you telling the stories you’re telling?
In the wake of injustices and corrupt governments profiting off of insider information and endangering their citizens, it can feel like everything is unraveling. As ICU units fill up and the coronavirus spreads, it’s evident the mistakes that were made– and how governments like ours also willfully endangered the population and will cause an untold number of avoidable deaths.
Take what you see in the world that’s wrong and write about it.
Whether you encase your observations in fiction or not is your choice: either way, make the words you write mean something.
Writing in Times of Crisis
We all have to work through our emotions in ways that make sense to us. I’ve always found that putting words on the page is the best exorcism of demons, the best way to untangle the knotted mess of emotions and information that gets thrown our way every day.
One thing I want to touch on before diving into some tips is the idea of structuring your days. Having a routine — writing routine or otherwise — could be helpful, especially if you’re used to structure of a day job. You don’t need to schedule your day down to the minute, but making sure you’re getting in time to exercise or get outside can help decrease the feeling of going stir-crazy that we’re bound to feel as the need to social distance drags on.
Giving yourself some sort of structure can also help if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the state of our world and glued to pandemic news. We’re all in need of reminders to step away from coronavirus content and take a breather.
Here are some tips that I’ve found useful in my own writing:
- Allow yourself time to journal and freewrite. Journaling or freewriting (writing without stopping to edit or second-guess yourself) can help be a catharsis for the conflicting emotions we’re facing right now.
- Be gentle with deadlines. Having a project to focus on can be a great way to channel your energy, but don’t force yourself into tough deadlines.
- Explore different forms. If you write scripts, you might find yourself being called to prose or poetry.
- Connect with other writers. Whether that’s swapping material with other writers or forming virtual writers’ groups, it can be helpful to have a community of artists in your orbit to stay inspired.
This is a marathon, so take it day-by-day.
Stay informed, stay connected, stay safe.
“To create today means to create dangerously. Every publication is a deliberate act, and that act makes us vulnerable to the passions of a century that forgives nothing.” -Albert Camus
xoxo but with plenty of social distance,