When I was young I filled notebooks full of poems. These days, I don’t write much poetry. But I wrote a poem about dating during the pandemic. This isn’t from personal experience, but observation and extrapolation helped me along.
While I didn’t intend it, I actually published my interview with Elizabeth Ellen on the same day my poem came out. Normally, I don’t bother making a blog post about the interviews, but since it came out on the same day, I thought I ought to explain. The Junction didn’t say exactly when my story was being posted online to read, so it was just a coincidence that the day I got my Ellen interview up was the same day my poem came out (though the poem must have come out after I got the interview up since I didn’t see anything about“For When No One Does Social Distancing Anymore” until this morning).
It seems that a lot of people are finding life hard right now. They’re stuck at home, can’t socialize, and many have other worries (lost jobs, long lines at food banks, bored children who can’t hang with their friends). This event—caused by the novel coronavirus, a biological entity spreading as a sickness known to the world by the name of COVID-19—as a sociological phenomena has affected me mildly. So I’ve been putting off writing anything about it here on my website (though my personal journal is full of reflections).
Capture from a video of my niece’s dolls social distancing in the yard.
One of the things that social distancing has taught me is that I don’t socialize. It really hasn’t changed my social life whatsoever. The biggest social difference is that I’m no longer meeting up with Mike for our working meetings (we’re creating scripts for a literary YouTube channel we hope to get off the ground at some point). Although this itself doesn’t feel odd, since we only started doing them about 3 weeks before #SocialDistancing became a thing.
My wife, however, has been feeling the changes more acutely than I. She’s a school teacher, so she’s been working from home, doing Zoom video meetings regularly. Iowa law does not currently allow virtual learning to count toward minimum hours required each school year. So my wife’s district has been creating voluntary homework. It’ll be corrected, but not graded, for those students who choose to do it (AKA for those kids whose parents make them do it).
I must say, having Libby at home has been generally nice. While different, it does not feel particularly novel. After all, she is home pretty much all day during the summer. Summer just came early, while snow still kept repeatedly gracing the ground with its annoying clinginess. #FuckSnow #MeltAlready
We also happen to live in one of the few states without a mandatory stay-at-home order (and I work in Nebraska, which also lacks blanket pandemic measures). So things don’t feel as locked down as they probably do elsewhere in the country. The hotel I work at has slowed down quite a lot; it seemed the summer construction season was ramping up early before the virus appeared on our shores. Nevertheless, we’ve been holding our own. Also, because of our status as a housing facility, I think we’re considered essential business, so it’s likely that even if Pete Ricketts began implementing draconian measures to help save the lives of citizens under his governorship, our business would continue to operate as long as employees were staying healthy.
So if there’s financial hardship headed my family’s way, we’ve yet to see it. With the stimulus check landing in our savings account last week, we’re actually coming out ahead.
I think the most stressing part of all this (outside of the copious amount of hand sanitizer and bleach water I’m using while at work) is seeing the president attempt to rewrite history, push conspiracy theories, cut off funding from WHO, and (most recently) make a call for citizens to rise up against state governments (specifically of Democrat governors; Republican led states doing the same thing aren’t the target of his presidential tweets).
This is highly distressing. It simply boggles my mind how such a horrible human being and incompetent “leader” can possibly be in charge right now. With another weak Democratic candidate as the only option left (well, I guess we’ll see if the unofficial write-in-Bernie movement gets serious by the time November rolls around) I’m afraid it’ll be four more years of the Orange Buffoon. Hopefully his transparent ploy to save the economy by duping people into thinking it’s okay to get back to normal before the transmission rate gets close to zero (the Fed guidelines are only asking for a 2-week downward trend, which isn’t what health officials had suggested as a sign for reopening the economy). Of course, without adequate testing, there’s no way to know for sure if any place is ready. Is the trend really down or are our testing supplies in such inadequately short supply that we’re guessing based on wholly incomplete data? But the Liar in Chief continues to think the public and reporters are too dumb to realize that we don’t have enough tests. Only his ardent cult followers believe him and whatever tumbles out of the screen from Fox News (#fauxnews).
And by the time this scheduled post goes up, who knows what other insane set of alternative facts or devastating decisions that Trump, the Great American Traitor, will let issue forth from his frog’s mouth.
Politics were slightly less stressful for me the first three weeks of social distancing at the beginning of March because I didn’t have time to catch more than a handful of soundbites on the radio. Why? because I was writing. Yes, I was actually writing quite a lot. I found a publisher for a piece called Christ Abyss and so began the process of taking a draft, adding and editing until it turned into a short novella or novelette. I sent it in to the transgressive publisher on the 31st, though I suspect it could have been better (a beta reader got back to me only recently with some great suggestions), but that was the deadline. I don’t know if you’d term it a dark fantasy or horror fantasy or an anti-heaven tourism novel, but it’s not written for righteous among us.
Whatever it is, it had my full attention for those three weeks—despite being just about done with draft 1 of my novel and having just downloaded new software for editing the video footage I filmed for a “Write with Me” style YouTube video.
Order of events: I wrote the damned novella, took a week off from everything except our new Nintendo Switch (okay, this is the other biggest change that the coronavirus has thus far brought to our lives; I haven’t owned a gaming system since 2005), and then finally finished draft 1 of the novel last Thursday. Yes siree, the zero draft I completed on December 3rd has finally been fully transferred into an edited digital first draft.
My goal was to write a sorta bigger book (no Moby Dick, but hopefully something bigger than the standard 80K). I thought I would probably hit somewhere between 120 to 126 thousand words for my first draft. My hope was to then expand this during my edits, adding scenes, better detail, etc. Then, in all likelihood, I would see it trimmed back down to about the original length after my future publisher’s editor got done hacking it to pieces revising it.
My final word count came to 173,499 words. That’s over 47 thousand more words than I expected to get. And I’d love to see this word count even higher when I get to work on draft 2. I don’t think I will see it rise more than 5 or 10 thousand words, but if for some reason I managed to add enough to get my #FutureMasterpiece above the 200K word mark, I’ll treat myself to a fancy steakhouse dinner (assuming the local steakhouses find the means and meat to reopen after America gets its herd immunity—I mean its mass vaccinations).
My next task is to dive back into the remainder of my unedited dialogues. I’m sure that I’m waaay behind where I should have been with these, but that’s the writing life for ya. You get creatively distracted. You get bogged down by life or lifted away into a book (when will I learn that I can’t read fiction in the mornings if I want to get any writing done?). Your muse sometimes says you must muster your writerly might for more material matters (for example: an alliterative blog post).
I also don’t know how attentive I’ll be on my AuthorTube channel; whatever pleasure and practical gains I get from it can’t compare to the simple act of writing & creating story. On top of that, it begins to look nice enough out for sitting around outdoors in the evenings with a book. Maybe I’ll make a goal of one video a month for now (though don’t hold me to it). Other than putting off the unessential, I’ve also taken some stabs at starting a new novel. The proper way to begin is eluding me. What I think I need to do is actually sit down and plot this book. I’ve never plotted before. And since my attempts at not plotting this thing have petered out, it’s time I take the plunge into the twisty waters of plotting. Wish me the best of luck! #WriteOn
[An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that requiring online education was illegal in Iowa. This post was updated to reflect more accurate language around virtual education in this state.]