It’s been said roughly a bazillion times this week, I’m sure, but it bears repeating: these are strange times we live in.
Americans are either forced to hunker down at home, or they are on the front line of essential services. Everyone is inconvenienced. Most are worried about finances. And many, like nurses, truck drivers are hustling day-by-day just struggling to juggle working longer hours with childcare with not contracting this potentially deadly disease experts know so little about. All the teachers I know are stepping up and doing an amazing job of serving their students virtually–something some never imagined they’d need to do. I wonder if, on the other side of all this, we’ll have some kind of holiday called essential services workers day? If not, we should.
I’m interested in the stories that will come out of this. Imagine the anthologies chronicling the hardships of people from all walks of life. Nobody will be left unaffected by this. There will be stories.
It seems like this crisis has brought about a sharp disparity between those without kids (who, according to Facebook, suddenly have all the time in the world at home to create, read, and binge the entirety of Netflix) and those with kids (who must now dig deep to find time to productively work from home, homeschool/babysit the kids, do all the usual parent things, not get coronavirus, and somewhere in there, sleep).
My wife and I are in the later camp. A part of me envies the people with gads of free time. Being forced to stay inside–and having a LEGITIMATE excuse not to go to the gym or to questionable social gatherings–is an introvert’s dream come true. But that doesn’t mean that those of us with mounting home responsibilities don’t have any free time. We just have to be very careful about how we spend it.
I see a lot of creators doing what they do and producing. Extended social distancing may fray our nerves, but I wonder if it will cause a wellspring of creative productivity. All of us are being forced to look at our lives differently. We are needing to reassess what’s “essential” and what’s not. This goes for all our resources, including money, energy, and time.
I wonder about those who are in the midst of a career change, transitioning to a job where their creative skill can really shine. This is where I was three months ago: transitioning from a corporate jobby-job for which I’d lost the fire to doing something I really loved and felt good at: book design, helping authors to bring their books into the world.
For me, something that always stopped me from simply leaving my day job was the security it offered. Half a year ago, when I was considering a career change, I had to weigh my current job security against the giant question mark that was becoming an entrepreneur. But now, in these crazy times, nothing seems secure. People still need and want their jobs, they need insurance, I get all that, but in the turbulence, I hope those who are on the fence about making a major change in their life see this chaos as an opportunity.
After all, chaos–by which I mean an upending of the status quo–can be a good thing. It can jostle us awake. Change does not come without some measure of chaos and uncertainty. I’m not sure what’s more chaotic than a global pandemic and economic crumbling. But in the belly of this whale, we all have a choice: we can either hang on in hopes that we don’t drown in the pit, or we can choose to climb the ladder and make changes. Whatever they may be.
I acknowledge that many of us are experiencing pandemic anxiety, and try through we may to eek out new drafts or hit our word counts, creativity levels are seriously low. And that’s okay. It’s not about doing a lot. It’s about doing something. One strategy to combat the nerves is to set very small creative goals, something so small that you can’t talk yourself out of it. Commit to yourself that you’ll write one sentence a day. Or that you’ll simply open your document on your computer and take a look at it. Be gentle with yourself.
So now, how will you choose to change?