I know why you’re here. You’re a writer, like me. This blog doesn’t shy away from talking about the difficulties in writing (both the act and the life of being a writer), and right now, we are under siege by a big scary-ass monster: The COVID-19 pandemic. This frothing beast, this greasy hell-creature, is a period of time one might say is “not that fun” or “like being boiled alive in a pot of distilled liquid anxiety.” Or, if you’re a science-denier, you might describe it as, “a hoax created by the lib-turds to sell vaccines from Bill Gates that will put a Tom Hanks-branded microchip up your butt that will destroy God’s midichlorians inside you.” To-may-toe, to-mah-toe.
Either way, I think it’s fair to say that it’s very hard right now to be creative.
To be productive.
And you have two competing schools of thought here — one that is
BE GENTLE TO YOURSELF, AND ENROBE YOURSELF IN A PILLOW OF COMFORT IN THIS DIFFICULT TIME, IT’S OKAY THAT YOU’RE NOT WRITING
And another that is
WELL YOU GOT A LOT OF FREE TIME AND OTHER WRITERS CHURNED OUT THEIR MASTERWORKS UNDER WORSE CONDITIONS, SO GET CHURNIN’, WORD DONKEY.
Whereas, with so many things, the truth is in the middle.
As such, I present you with an easy-to-follow path to writing your novel during the Quarantimes.
7:30AM. GET PUMPED
You’re doing it. You’re finally doing it. The times may be bad, but you’re going to put all your word eggs into this book basket. You’re going to use stories to get away from this world and go to another one. This is your time. You’re the god of this place. Jetpack on. Pen in hand. Blast off!
Wait, how did you get on Twitter already? You don’t really remember clicking over to Twitter, but there you are. Well. Okay. Since you’re here, you might as well just see what’s g
Congratulations, you’ve been doomscrolling for six hours. That’s probably fine. Somebody was wrong on the internet. Then someone was mad on the internet. Then you were mad on the internet. Then you were wrong on the internet. And someone was talking about demon sex and alien DNA? And you learned so much about *checks notes* how everything is bad. It’s fine. Your heart rate is elevated and now there’s a tickle in your throat and you feel hot and sweaty and
1:31PM. OH GOD YOU HAVE THE COVE
Well it was bound to happen eventually, you’ve got the virus, the corona, the cove, the vid, and it’ll be fine, probably, you might just be one of the people who die or who lose their smell forever or who have an alien burst out of their chest at dinnertime or wait was that a movie? Fuck fuck fuck fuck
2:15 PM. CASUAL REMINDER
You have allergies and anxiety, not COVID-19. I mean, probably.
2:16 PM. CASUAL REMINDER PART TWO
You haven’t written any words. Tomorrow! Tomorrow you’ll write words. It’s fine. It’s fine.
7:30 AM. GET JACKED
Yes. Yes! Now is the time! You’re, as my father used to say, rip-roarin’ — time to rip some roars, whatever the fuck that means. You’ve got coffee, an outline, a Word processor whose blank page is as pure as the the most innocent snowfall. You’ve blocked Twitter. You logged out of Facebook. You (probably) don’t have The Cove. Everything is quiet. It is time to create.
7:31 PM. CALENDAR CHECK
Wait what fucking day is it? Is it Tuesday? Tuesday is a day, right? A day of the week? What week is this? What month? Days matter, right? They totally matter ha aahahaha hah so, okay, it isn’t Tuesday, it’s Monday, and that means
7:32 PM. GARBAGE DAY
I mean, it’s 2020, so ha ha every day is garbage day but no really, today is garbage day.
7:61 AM. OH RIGHT YOU HAVE KIDS
Wait, you have kids? What are their names again? Steve and Diane? Storg and Japertha? Shit shit shit. Whatever. Just call them HEY YOU and SCOOTER. Anyway. Your kids need things ha haha because there’s no camp they can attend and even if they could attend camp they’d be not attending camp because you don’t want them to bring home The Pandemic so they need things like “food” and “brain stimulation” and “more food.” Shit, did you feed them yesterday? Do you remember yesterday? Why does your watch say 7:61AM? That’s not a real time, is it?
8:00 AM. BACK ON TRACK, BABY
Okay! Okay. Okay. Let’s do this. Let’s do it. Get it done. Rip and roar. Yeah. Mrow. Boom.
10:00 AM. BLANK PAGE
Aaaand, still nothing. But that’s okay! That’s fine. The actual writing is just an icebergian tip — beneath those cold waters are lots of non-writing activity. Lots of brain thinky business. Lots of just ruminating and marinating and what are you making for dinner oh shit
11:00 AM. POOL PARTY
Wait are your neighbors having a fucking pool party? You look out the window and jesus fuck that’s a lot of people. Kids and olds and everyone in-betweens. You see two masks among them, and one mask is hung under the chin like a face hammock and the other suffers from dicknose syndrome, and the rest are right up on each other, and they’re sharing sandwiches and drinking poolwater and laughing and aerosolizing saliva for fun and profit. Is the pandemic real? Are you dreaming it? Wait did you write a book about a pandemic and your brain has convinced you it’s real? Or were you hit by a bus and now you’re comatose, your mind trapping you in an interstitial nightmare realm where Donald Trump is president and there’s a coronavirus pandemic and actually that doesn’t sound so bad because at least when you wake up that shit will be vapor.
11:10 AM. TWITTER REDUX
I mean, you should probably tweet about that pool party, just to get it off your chest. Or at least insta that shit. Or Tik-Tok? Are you Tik-Toking now? Or posting to Facesquare? Or Jimjam? Or Dronelyfe? Are any of these real? Are you real? Fuck it, you’ll just tweet.
11:11 AM. MISTAKES WERE MADE
Tweeting was a mistake.
11:30 AM. OK YOU SHOULD MOVE YOUR BODY
The writing thing isn’t happening at this exact moment so you should definitely move your body. Get the blood moving. Get the ideas flowing. They say people in the Quarantimes are becoming hunks, chunks, or drunks, and so far you’ve hit two out of three, manifesting in full-on CHUNKADRUNK mode, so go go go, move move move. Clean living time. Time to HUNK UP.
11:41 AM. WELCOME TO MARS, QUAID
It’s 1000 degrees outside. So you clumsily gallumph on a treadmill for ten minutes and then go bake some bread. Because your sourdough starter is feeling neglected. Sometimes you hear it weeping.
1:00 PM. WORDS MAKE THE WORDS GO
Ah. There it is. You figured it out. You know what? You’re not reading enough. Words in, words out. Fuel for the machine. Blood makes the grass grow or whatever metaphor you like. So you pick up a book, sit down in a chair, Instagram the book because if you didn’t put that shit on The Gram, did it even happen? Here we go. First page. First sentence. It was a dark and storrrrr
4:00 PM. WAKEY WAKEY EGGS AND BAKEY
Stuhooorrrmmssngnh guuh. Fuzza. Wuzza. Huh? The fuck? Did you sleep? You slept. I mean, it’s not like you’re sleeping at actual night when the sleep usually happens so that’s fine probably but uhhh the book is tented on your chest and you got to page *checks notes* one but somehow you also managed to tweet like, seven times, so that’s almost like writing. What even woke you up? Oh, right —
4:01 PM. NEWS ALERT
BREAKING NEWS, your phone says. Trump said to CBS News something about “nuking baseball” and “curing COVID with raw chicken juice” and also he’s been using Federal military contractors to throw people into random Portajohns which they then blow up with grenades, so that’s great, and it’ll be very easy to ignore this and write something, definitely. You don’t even have to think about it, or the pandemic, or anything, all you have to do is write. I mean, tomorrow. Today’s fucked!
THE NEXT DAY
THE DAY AFTER
You bite a hunk of granite, and your teeth break, and blood comes out
THE NEXT WEEK
And from those teeth and that stone you extract words, words you can take
THE NEXT MONTH
And line up one after the other until
You have sentences and paragraphs and a story, and no, it’s not good, and no, it’s not fast, and it’s sometimes like trying to run in a dream, and sometimes it’s 100 words, and other times half that, and on lucky days ten times that, but somewhere along the way, somewhere through the noise and the news and the anxiety, you emerge and
You have written something. And it’s done. Because that’s the only way you can do it. By going slow, slow as you had to, and carving this unforgiving, unyielding hunk of tree trunk into splinters. Despite everything. In spite of everything. Through grief and anxiety and giddy bewilderment.
You wrote something.
Now you just have to edit it.
23 responses to “How To Novel: Pandemic Fun Times Edition”
Which way is up?????
Yeah, this is so freakin me on most days that it incited a visceral reaction. Must. Write. Words.
Thanks Wendig. Needed that.
Yup. Thank you.
I wrote a blog post. That counts, right?
Solidarity. Thank you.
I mean, you’re not wrong.
I love every word of this! Though last night between wondering if it was permanent insomnia, a simple anxiety attack, a dramatic heart event or just demonic hallucinations, the muse whispered “here’s how you set up the climax for book 3.” Of course, I haven’t followed up on it yet … but … I will … eventually … depending on what WTF happens next in the world …
This blog post is all of us.
OMG. As if you are viewing my life through the lens of my laptop camera. Thanks for the good laugh.
Where I grew up, women feed their families by literally squeezing starch out of trees with their bare hands. Sometimes I think about that when I’m struggling with the writing. And then I feel like a non-tree-squeezing weakling, and then I get on with it.
There’s always a way out of the quagmire, but it turns out that a) ‘through’ is not the only way out, in fact, sometimes not even A way out; and b) the way out is probably not the same way as last time. But it’s in there, somewhere. Under, around, over, through…
Sometimes people overthink this. In a household where one is the main person for everything, the plots and the stories and the people doing crazy shit in your head show up in mobs–right when you have to do the laundry, discover what there is to eat for supper, and listen to a loved one’s story about an amazing dog who understood what Christmas is all about (which you should feel free to steal once you remove the DRM if you get my drift). The main thing is write this stuff down on the back of grocery lists so when you actually have time to read, you promise yourself one round of Candy Crush for every several hundred words you actually get written, and NO FACEBOOK till your daily stint is done.
Sometimes you need to let the pressure build up by being in a situation where you can’t write Because Reasons (and you know the perfect line will show up right when you can’t write it down, no, not even disguising as minutes for that Zoom meeting you got stuck in).
Dammit chuck stop channeling my effing life. Omg. Now what day is it again??!! What are my kids names? Do I have kids?
Chuck, you’re simply the coolest. 2020 has been the year for people-watching and note-taking. So much fun material to write about … one day. Maybe in 2021, after I’ve fully digested my observational notes from all things American Psychology 101. A Dr. Stella Immanuel character simply MUST be written in some fashion.
Wait. Let me get this straight. Midichlorians are religious mitochondria. Then you said some words and time sluffed around as I sit at the electric hearth. Religious Mitochondria? Feels all A Wind In The Door to me.
Thank you for writing a post that seems intended to allow me a brief moment of both smug self-satisfaction and immense gratitude. Two weeks ago I finished my 168K rough draft which I at first thought was the origin story of one protagonist who was totally not a super-hero, but turns out it is a trilogy — the origin story of a band of totally-not-super-heroes.
Also I live in a neighborhood with lots of space and which tends to draw those who value quiet & isolation.
But the moment is passing already. In a few weeks the calm eye of the book-i-cane will have passed as I begin my re-write and also my in-brain arguments over why I really need to go doomsurf twitter right now…
Congratulations! Looming rewrites and armageddons notwithstanding that’s a hell of an achievement.
So you’re saying it’s not just me?
I don’t fully understand it, but I am freaking sobbing right now, Chuck. I feel extremely comforted. Not in a wrap myself in clouds way, but in a take my hand we’ll get through this way. Thank you.
OMG I just finished writing a novel, and YES to all this. Also, I have writer’s envy. You sure know how to put those words together.