But I Still Got A Lot Done
By Jeff Salter
Topic: How has the ongoing pandemic affected your creativity?
Wow… hot topic.
Since my early retirement (from public library administration) in mid-2006, I’ve been quite a bit more of a home-body than ever before. Considerably less contact – face-to-face and telephonic – with others. Went to church and Sunday School… started working with the kids’ department at church. Went to exercise three times a week… was primary care-giver for my mother (taking her to the store, appointments, and to exercise for some of that period). But I didn’t have much “socializing” beyond those few areas of activity.
Then in mid-2010, some chronic stomach issues began restricting my travel… to the extent that I hardly ever left the county.
All that is merely to explain: even before the pandemic’s significant, wide-ranging restrictions (beginning mid-March 2020), I was more of a home-body than anything else. And that was fine with me!
Each week had external structure: 3 visits to the nursing home, 3 workouts at the exercise place, 2 visits to church, at least 2 grocery runs, etc. Plus, each month had local bills to pay, and (usually) at least one medical-related appointment.
In those early weeks / months of the covid shut-downs, however, I hardly went ANYwhere. Even the churches were closed (by the KY governor)! The nursing home didn’t allow visitors, so I couldn’t see my mom. No eating establishments were open for dining-in. I think about the only place I went during those early covid months was the grocery store (properly masked and distanced, of course)… and even that was rare.
All those restrictions SHOULD have carved out multitudes of time for me to work on my stacked-up writing projects. And when this period began – though we were initially assured it would be only for 15 days [HA] to “flatten the curve” – I actually thought, “Okay, now I’ll have the uninterrupted time to focus on Projects A, B, C, D, etc., that I’ve kept putting off because I’ve been so busy with outside activities.”
Well, it didn’t turn out that way.
I discovered that the lack of external structure / schedule actually had an odd negative effect on my writing… rather than the positive effect I had predicted. I liken it to the situation when someone buys a weight machine and a treadmill for his home, because he doesn’t want to pay expensive gym fees and, besides, with all that equipment right in his house, he can exercise ANY TIME HE WANTS. Ha. About 90% of those guys never (or rarely) use their home-exercise equipment, precisely because it’s always available… and he doesn’t have to arrange exercise sessions into his “schedule”.
To bring home that analogy: here I was, with (practically) all the time in the world, hardly ANY external commitments – indeed, many external prohibitions! – and could write at any time, night or day.
So what did I actually do in those first few covid months?
Mainly I snacked, fiddled on Facebook, and watched TV.
Finally, realizing how much I was wrecking my body with NO exercise and all that snacking, I started walking (here on the farm) with my wife. In April of 2020, we walked about 45 miles; in May, I think it was 50-something miles; in first half of June, we were on track to exceed 60 miles for that month. But middle June was when the fitness places were allowed to re-open, so I stopped walking on the farm and went back to my regular exercise routine at the gym. I think that’s also about the time when our local churches were allowed to resume in-house services. But the nursing home was still prohibiting visits.
But somehow – though it wasn’t “pretty” (in terms of workflow) – I still managed to crank out some words.
Yeah, in these two years of covidosity, so far, I’ve written (and released) two more novels: Cowboy Ambushed in Time and The Yuletide Caper. And I drafted a few short stories, including one published in an anthology, during this period. Plus I wrote a short novella… not yet published. And, well… I did complete another novel, not yet published, but it’s been “accepted.”
And I’ve posted the usual amount of anecdotes, observations, movie reviews, poems, and general nonsense on FB.
Oh, and I managed to land in the hospital for 5 days / 4 nites with covid / pneumonia (last August), which totally sapped my strength / energy / creativity / focus / memory / etc. for MANY weeks thereafter.
Just as I was recovering from that ordeal, my mom died (at age 99 years & 4 months)… a few weeks later, I got shingles. A few weeks later, one of my three publishers closed its doors and 11 of my titles were promptly dropped from Amazon (and other outlets). I mention these last three unsettling developments not attempting to elicit any pity — rather, to point out that there are many life experiences that can disrupt one’s creativity besides world-wide pandemic restrictions.
Despite the fact that I did NOT use all that “unstructured” time to best advantage, I did eventually find my way back to a partial (external) schedule and have managed to crank out a few titles (some long, some short) along the way.
I don’t think any of us – including the decision-makers on national, state, and local levels – had much of an idea of what we were doing during those early months of covid. And certainly most of us had no idea we’d still be slogging along (some 25 months later) with the aftermath — those aspects of our lives that would NEVER be the same.
Many of us yearned to return to “normal” (whatever that was)… while many others reached, instead, for a “new normal” (whatever that was supposed to be). “Normal” has always been a relative term, anyway… and what I’ve concluded (from this lengthy season of covidosity) is that each of us copes the best way we can — one day at a time.
My advice? Ride those few “gnarly” waves all the way to shore, do your best not to “wipe-out” on the killer waves… and if you do get dunked, don’t take it personally. Just come back up sputtering, tug your swim suit back in place, and start pulling on that security line to your surfboard.
Has YOUR creativity been affected by the pandemic?
[JLS # 584]
Special thanks to Patricia Kiyono… for beautifully merging the two pieces of clip art I found.