In these unprecedented, largely awful times, it’s tempting to look toward the distant future as a time when things will return to normal. When there’s a vaccine or the virus mutates into something less deadly or there’s a miracle cure. It’s hard to avoid looking at this time we’re in as a nightmare that will pass.
I think this is dangerous.
Sure, the pandemic might pass, maybe even quickly. But it also might not.
Antibodies might be short-lived. The vaccines might not work. People might not take them in sufficient numbers. The virus could mutate to become even deadlier. Heck, there could be a second pandemic. This could be our new normal rather than an interlude.
I don’t say this to be pessimistic or to rub salt in anyone’s wounds. I do believe there will be a time after this one. But lately I’ve been telling myself not to live my life as if it depends on some distant, rosier future that might not come to pass.
I’m telling myself to live and write for the world as it is now.
If you’ll pardon the metaphor on a day it might hit 100 degrees in New York City, it’s like a huge, nasty blizzard just dumped ten feet of snow and ice outside, trapping us indoors and paralyzing everything.
We can wait for the sun to arrive to melt it all, or we can get on with it and start digging out now.
Much like wading through a deep snowdrift, it’s harder to do things than before. Even a simple road trip entails a disinfectant regime, restroom strategies, and a protocol for interacting with people. Everything feels fraught with peril.
Simple things have become daunting. Day to day tasks that we used to do in our sleep now require a carefully thought out plan. Every trip out of the house requires a risk/reward calculation. The things that bring relief are unavailable. It’s all totally exhausting.
And that’s if you’re lucky. The pandemic is not affecting us all equally, and even the idea of digging out, as opposed to merely surviving, is a total luxury.
But for many of the lucky ones I talk to, writing has become one of the casualties of the pandemic. It’s tempting, in the face of all this exhaustion, to want to just hunker down and wait for things to get better.
I’m sorry to remind you again that it might not get better.
You gotta find a way to un-paralyze yourself. Don’t wait for a thaw that might not come.
Make fresh tracks
It’s daunting. Everyone is exhausted. We don’t know what world we’re writing for. It’s hard to be creative under stress.
But in the aftermath of a blizzard, all that snow can also look like an untouched canvas.
It never made much sense to write for the market and chase trends, but it makes even less sense now. No one really knows what the industry is going to look like when all of this is finished. No one even knows what the world is going to look six months from now, or even six weeks from now.
So write that thing that you’ve always wanted to write. Write for you.
There’s still a world out there. Things are still possible. It all takes more energy to find than it used to and it feels more dangerous, but it’s there.
I’m reminding myself to push through and make fresh tracks.
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Art: Winter picture with cabin at a river by Wilhelm von Gegerfelt