Too Much Time Wasted

But I Still Got A Lot Done

By Jeff Salter

Topic: How has the ongoing pandemic affected your creativity?

Wow… hot topic.

Intro

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.

Summary

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.

Question:

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.

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
This entry was posted in advice, authors, Daily life, experiences, inspiration, Jeff Salter and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Too Much Time Wasted

  1. My pleasure assisting with the digital art.
    I agree with the idea that the more time you think you have, the less you’ll get done. Back when I was working full time and raising kids, I found that I was able to get more done on an unexpected snow day than I did on a weekend day, because with a snow day I was already awake and prepared to accomplish things. So when I didn’t have to make the forty-minute drive (in good weather) to work, I immediately dove into the stuff I’d been putting off “for later.” When I had a week-long vacation, I tended to waste most of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jbrayweber says:

    Great post. Several spot on observations adn take-aways.
    I, too, thought a shutdown would give me more time to write and tackle publishing tasks. I was seriously wrong. Having my youngest going to “school” at home was disatrous. She hated it, was always lost, and I basically had to sit with her to help her through. My oldest was being deprived the remaining of her senior year – no prom, no graduation, no fan-fare that comes with leaving high school. It was emotionally draining to help her through her bitterness. The disruption of our “normal” lives absolutely sucked out my creativity. The best I could do was finish the book I was already close to finishing anyway. And then it was just “riding the waves” as they came.
    Fortunately, I’m a Texan. We didn’t experience the huge shutdowns like much of the rest of the country. My hubs was considered an essential worker and I kept pace with doing/going as I would have without the pandemic, just more carefully. Cuz I’m an adult, who can be responsible. ☺
    I will say that I went through a spell of loathing. I felt like I should have been able to write; I should have been able to start and finish more projects. I felt like I wasted time. It’s really hard to come to terms with that, but honestly it was such a strange upheaval of life that we must give ourselves grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Beautifully said — we must allow ourselves grace (that perhaps we “could have done” more).
      Very sorry about your older child missing graduation and all the events that “normally” go in that final semester. Our oldest grandchild had the same situation: no graduation, etc.
      The daughter of our pastor had the lead role in a play… and that entire production was cancelled.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jbrayweber says:

        There was a lot of disappointment the kids experienced. It was not fair, by any means. While kids are resilient, they were still robbed and I feel terrible for them all.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jeff Salter says:

          Absolutely. Whether it was academic, sports, or extra-curricular activities, most students invest years into that final term of H.S. And — at least in every generation since those who went directly from school into WW2 — those memories of that senior year are held close for a lifetime.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. It is truly amazing how all of this adversely affected most of our writing schedules…or output.
    I suppose that life is meant to throw us curves. It was a horrific year for you and well, I have no idea what is coming next.
    May we have creative outlets during the upcoming circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elaine Cantrell says:

    You and I had very similar experiences, but at least you got a little writing done. Good for you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s