As we wrote yesterday, we’re all more isolated than usual, so some of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers have put together two posts to let our readers know how we’re doing with the whole self-isolation and social distancing thing. Or as Maine’s CDC head puts it, physical distancing. Social contact is still possible.
Writers regularly hole up and avoid other people in order to write our books, so we’re also in a unique position to offer a few helpful survival tips. Please feel free to comment, let us know how you’re doing, and share your own suggestions to avoid going stir crazy.
Kate Flora: As the introduction to this group post notes, most of us are good at putting
ourselves in a chair and staying there. When I talk about the writing life, I occasionally tell the audience that the word “discipline” comes right after “imagination.” Books don’t get written because we dream about being writers. They get written because we force ourselves into the chair and to work even when we don’t want to and even when what appears on the page is more like gravel than prose. Sometimes I admit that I do grow restless, and in order to get the work done, I have a few tricks that I use. First, I set goals, either a page count or a word count. Second, I use either the Pomodoro timer app on my phone, or my green apple kitchen timer, to keep me in the chair for a set period of time. Third, because I am a confessed chocoholic, there are treats if I reach my goals.
Have a project you’ve always wanted to pursue? This might be the ideal time. Maybe you are someone who has always wanted to write a book but never had the time. There may never be a better time to try that. Go look up some of the blogs about NaNoWriMo…or national novel writing month, and put them to work, see how much you can accomplish before the stay home order is lifted. Or maybe you have some genealogy you’ve always wanted to pursue? If I can find it in my basement, I have a box of the letters my father sent my mother while he was overseas during World War II. This is an excellent time to get out the box and start reading.
I confess that when we can return to some kind of normal, I am looking forward to going to a restaurant and letting someone else do the cooking. Also hoping that the kindness and connection we are seeing, at least in my neighborhood, will last. I suggested to my neighbors that we make a “walking rope” with knots at 7′ intervals, so we could safely walk together. No takers yet.
Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson: Since we live year round in Maine, preparing for a normal winter means keeping a good supply of necessities on hand at all times, in case of extended power outages during an ice storm or blizzard. It was a blow when the ski areas shut down with many days perfect for skiing left in the season, but since my husband and I fall into that over-seventy-high-risk category, we can’t really complain about something so minor. He’s back to making jigsaw-puzzle tables. When his orders are filled, he’ll keep going so he’ll have stock on hand for next Christmas. I’m not writing anything new at the moment, but I am revising the manuscript for my 2021 Deadly Edits mystery and proofreading a couple of nonfiction projects I hope to publish independently as e-books when things settle down out in the big wide world.
That still leaves me a fair amount of free time. We’ve decided to go out, briefly, only once a week for the foreseeable future—to pick up the mail at the post office and whatever groceries and/or prescriptions we’ve run out of. To keep myself from going stir crazy I could catch up on house work, but cleaning, spring or otherwise, has never been high on my to-do list. That may change, but in the meantime reading, especially re-reading some of my comfort reads, doing jigsaw puzzles, and binge watching The West Wing are much more appealing pastimes. I’m also open to learning something new. The current project is mastering Zoom on my iPad. Thank goodness for WiFi! Once I figure this out, there are all sorts of groups I can participate in. It may not be as good as meeting in person, but it sure is a lot safer.
Maine Crime Writers alum Barb Ross: I haven’t been isolating in Maine. My husband and I have been in Key West, Florida since New Year’s Day. Tomorrow we begin the 1800 mile drive home to Portland. We won’t be alone there either. On March 14, my niece and her best friend fled their closed college in New York City and they’ve been staying at our house ever since. (They’re native Mainers so they’re not putting any additional burden on our healthcare system.) But like the other authors I do have advice about working from home. Most of it will have already been given. a) Go outside every day if you can. b) Get up from your desk and move around every hour or so. My third piece of advice is to allow time for “mode-switching.” If you’ve been commuting to your job, you have, consciously or unconsciously, been using your drive time to change modes. On the drive in your mind slowly abandons the preoccupations of home and starts working on the problems of work. On your commute home, the opposite happens. Working from home, it can be helpful if you find some routine that signals to your brain it’s time to go to work. I have been using my teeth care routine, which takes several minutes. (It feels like hours.) My brain now knows that after this we’re going to work and begins its transition. In the evening, before I shut down my laptop, I have a little routine where I add the day’s files to Dropbox and whatnot, and put all the loose stuff on my desktop back in its proper folders. Your routine may vary, but I find a “mode-switching” routine very helpful.
Sandra Neily: I am looking for things to share to make families’ lives easier. So I am repeating some of them here (below), in case folks missed yesterday’s posting. Today, I met up with my family and grand kids at a ski area (they are closed). The kids loved sliding. I could snowshoe up and down and keep good distance. The dogs loved chasing the sled. TONS of room to separate and still have fun together. Made us feel both connected and much free-er. No playground is safe, but the snow is. You don’t have to travel far inland to find spring snow. (See below.)
And I am making an online “flip” book of my pictures and some clip art I downloaded and sending it to my grand kids. I miss reading to them but now, they can follow along on their computer as I narrative a story I created … using pictures of family and places they recognize. Think this might be good for any older folks who are isolated and would love to receive this kind of book. https://bit.ly/2JvBjsw
Audio Books for Kids. Audible has curated a huge selection for kids, aged 0 and up. Bet the sound effects are good on the toddler ones. At stories.audible.com, you will find hundreds of kids’ titles available completely free. The collection has been handpicked by editors and is a mix of stories to entertain, engage, and inform young people, ages 0–18. The experience is completely free – no log-ins, credit cards, or passwords required. Just click, stream and listen. (As a big kid who drives a lot, I downloaded some Harry Potter. The award -winning reader of this serious is amazing. A very UP treat, except for Voldemort of course.)
Kids Get Virus Questions Answered: The NYTimes Daily podcast recorded kids’ virus questions, plays their voices, and has a perfect person answer them. In fact, send this to any person you think needs an interesting, non-preachy, lesson. (Maybe the governors of Florida and Idaho.) There’s an adorable girl, aged 4, who asked a great question. Kudos to her parents for opening the world to her. Fearlessly. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/podcasts/the-daily/kids-coronavirus.html
Ski Areas are Closed but Not For Us Walkers/Hikers. My social distance treat is a March snowshoe or hike up hill. Parks and trails are getting closed all over. There’s been way too many people using them for us to keep safe distances and also, restrooms are closed, so it’s just not a safe place. It’s worth a trip to your nearest ski area where there are either muddy trails that offer tons of room, or spring snow conditions. Snowshoeing or hiking on snowy trails is just soul-restoring. Doggies just love the space to run and roam. Find a list here: https://skimaine.com/
See the Happy: Put a great, happy home-screen pic of loved ones on your computer so you see it first thing. (Mine.)