Creating in a crisis (Or not)

So I’m finally getting around to doing a blog post. What a weird wild time it’s been huh? All of you healthy out there? Staying home? Washing your hands? I hope you are.

I’ve been wanting to put a blog post out now for the past couple of weeks, but there’s a difference between having the urge to do it and actually doing it. But I felt that I needed to do it because so many other people were doing it.

But I couldn’t. Mainly because the world was sort of collapsing on me. In February, I had plans to have an awesome birthday in April. I had been asked to do a conversation with Veronica Roth for our local bookstore for her new book coming out, The Chosen Ones. On my actual birthday. And the venue was going to be held at our main public library. Two days after that, I was going to travel to Michigan to participate in the Festival of Faith and Writing as a Festival Circle Leader talking about how to weave your faith in science fiction and fantasy fiction. It was going to be so awesome.

By the 2nd week of March, I watched helplessly as both those events were canceled/postponed.

Of course, it wasn’t just me that was affected. It threw off everyone’s plans. It certainly affected others more deeply. There were others who lost income because of those cancellations. For me, (I told myself) it was a mere inconvenience. I should be grateful that I’m in a good position, and right now, I needed to support those who were more directly affected. Besides, the Festival was only postponed to next year. This isn’t about me. And besides, canceling those events are good. This is the best way to care for those who are sick and vulnerable. 

But as the cases of Covid-19 rose, and as people were told to stay at home, and as the schools closed, and the reality that we really were in the middle of a pandemic hit, I couldn’t really function. All I could do was scroll social media and stare at the news, and watch the panic, and occasionally break into tears. 

Of course, my productivity went down the tubes. 

At some point, though, I came to the realization that what I was experiencing was a form of grief. I told myself that I was grieving because the world was upset and I was simply empathizing with those emotions, but it took me a while for me to say that I was grieving also for me. Maybe it’s some sort of Christian thing that constantly tells you to put others before yourself. But if you’re doing that and you’re not in a healthy place yourself, you can collapse real fast, or worse, be next to useless. It’s akin to how airline attendents instruct you how to put on masks in an emergency. If you’re traveling with a child or vulnerable person, you don’t rush to put the masks on them first; you put one on yourself, then them.

Once I realized that, I decided to treat myself more gently. I listened to 80s pop Japanese music all day. I binge-watched a bunch of Simpsons cartoons. I played Tales of the Abyss on my 3DS. And I mourned.

Because, really, you guys, I was going to interview Veronica Roth in front of a live audience. Veronica Roth. And then I was going to go to the Festival of Faith and Writing. It would have been the first time I would’ve been at a writing conference that also dealt with faith. I was looking forward to it because Saladin Ahmed had been an invited author there, and if he could read a vulgarity-laced story that was deeply about faith, then dang, I would be in good company. It would’ve been such an awesome, awesome birthday week.

Getting those cancellations hurt. It really did. 

This morning, I woke up. The sun was out. The sky was blue. I got up, made tea. Did work from home. I had started regrowing bok choy from the bottom of a stalk in a bowl of water, and I was stunned to see its growth in such a few short hours. My next-door neighbor was across the street, writing inspirational quotes on the sidewalk with chalk. I chatted with her from the safety of my porch. 

Then I came down to my library, shut off social media, and wrote out this post. 

Everyone responds differently to crises. But if you’re in a place where you’re telling yourself you should be writing, and instead you can barely function, then take care of yourself. Let yourself cry. Watch as many videos as you need. Play as many video games you want. Talk to people, mentors, counselors, journal, etc. If you need permission, doggoneit, I give you permission.

And don’t feel bad if you feel like everyone is writing stuff instead of you. Some writers churn out stuff instantly as the news update in real time. Then there are those (like me) who need time to observe and deal with things before they can write up anything. And that’s fine too. It’s not like there’s a hard deadline. We’re going to be processing this for years. So if you can’t write now, just observe. You will know when you are ready. 

***

One more thing that I may expand on in another post, once I’m done with all the feely emotions. You see, I had a little story published back in 2018. A fun little story that had alternate versions of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie dealing with contagion and face masks and quarantines and hand washing. When I wrote it, I did a lot of research on quarantines and pandemics and such. And yeah, I also read up on warnings that we were primed to experience a pandemic in our lifetime at some point. 

I had no clue that it would happen, like, now

So yeah, on top of the above, I’ve been having a bit of a freakout because MY STORY PREDICTED THIS and WHOA I’M A FUTURIST NOW MAYBE?, especially since I’m now seeing recommendations that people wear masks when we finally emerge from this. And HOLY COW DOES THIS MEAN THAT ANYTHING I WRITE NOW WILL COME TRUE and CRAP I’M WORKING ON A NOVEL THAT TALKS ABOUT PROPHECIES THAT BRING ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP

Maybe I need to write a story about unicorns. Yeah. Happy unicorns.