Snapshot #149 | 10 Things for 22 March 2020

Personal

The social distancing edition! Currently…

1. regretting… the decision to walk home from the supermarket with two weeks’ worth of groceries. (I’m not obsessively stockpiling, but I am trying to reduce my trips out.) I have a really good rolling cart, but still.
2. cutting… back on my social media and news consumption. A lot.
3. realizing… (again) that I own way too much stuff. I tried to rearrange a closet and… ugh.
4. wanting… to bake something, but again… not sure what.
5. trying… to trick the cat into cuddling. (I love her, but Lucy’s not the most demonstrative girl unless there’s food involved.)
6. feeling… thankful that I didn’t decide, back in December (when I would’ve had to give notice), that this was the year to find a new apartment. Moving right now would be awful.
7. finishing… the most recent draft of Violet Lane!
8. wishing… the mornings would warm up enough to go for a run. (How did I become this person?)
9. keeping… my anxiety in check. Mostly.
10. ordering… a new coffee maker, because mine decided—after fifteen years—that this would be the perfect week to give up the ghost. (I mean… I have others. The situation isn’t desperate. But I do need a drip machine for that first cup of the morning.)

Water bottle, keyboard and trackpad on a dark background. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

On writing, anxiety, and COVID-19.

Writing

I finished a draft of Violet Lane last week. (I say ‘a draft’ because at this point, I honestly don’t know how to number the drafts of this thing. Is it the first draft? The third? Yes and yes.)

The timing was good. My anxiety levels have gone through the roof these last few days, and I don’t think I’d be able to write a word if I was trying to wrap it up now. As it is, I learned that it’s really hard to write an upbeat ending in times of crisis—the last scene is my main characters, watching TV as the villain talks about how awesome everything is, thinking ‘Well… at least we’re alive? And not in prison?’ (Not really a spoiler. I’ve got at least two major drafts of this story to go, and the chances of that ending sticking around are slim.)

It’s difficult to even write my usual postmortem about the process, because the last couple of weeks have thrown everything into chaos. I don’t remember most of the story right now, let alone how it felt to write it back in November. 

But I know I had good weeks.

I know there’s a good story here, somewhere. I haven’t read it yet—I’m still letting it rest—but I think that it’s the closest I’ve come yet to the story I want Violet Lane to be. I know that there are scenes that feel perfect. I’ve finally figured out who these characters are.

I also know that there are whole plot lines that don’t quite work, and that I need to rework the sci-fi side of things in order to keep up with how quickly the real world is shifting. (Seriously, my whole ‘near-future sci-fi’ thing? It’s in danger of becoming hopelessly outdated.)

And I know that I need to figure out how to work when it feels like the world is falling apart.

Because it’s fine to say that Shakespeare wrote King Lear when everything was shut down because of the plague. Shakespeare could close the door and get to work. He didn’t write on the same machine that fed him a constant stream of news about shutdowns and empty shelves and test shortages and people insisting on their god-given right to get drunk in public and lick doorhandles. He didn’t write on the same machine that supplied him with a soothing balm of cat pictures and romcoms and guided breathing exercises. He probably wasn’t trying to figure out if every little ache or sniffle was allergies or anxiety or plague, or realizing how difficult it is to write without touching your face. (Seriously. What am I supposed to do with my hands when they’re not typing?) 

Also: most of what he wrote was based on preexisting material—Shakespeare didn’t have to come up with something new and shiny.

The circumstances are different, and I don’t blame anyone for not being able to write—or do anything else—right now. It feels impossible, and it feels frivolous. 

I’m not sure what any of this means, or how long it’s going to last. I just know that I can’t sit and scroll. Even without the constant stream of bad news… even if I limit myself to those cat videos and romcoms, I still end up feeling sluggish and awful. I need to do something that feels productive, that feels creative, or the anxiety just builds on itself.

I need to figure out how to function in this version of normal. And this is a good time to do that—I don’t have to think about Violet Lane for a couple of weeks, I’ve got a fun project to brainstorm and hopefully outline, and I’m not on any strict deadlines. I don’t have to come up with a perfect solution immediately, I’ve got time to experiment and figure out what works.

I’ll keep you posted.