Isolation: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Edith/Maddie here, self-isolating like everybody else I know.

No, that’s wrong. Health care providers, grocery store workers, my friend who works for TSA, garbage collectors, and many, many others don’t have the luxury of staying home and away from everyone except family.

But let’s start with The Good. All my many in-person spring events are no longer on the calendar. And that means I can relax, stay home, and write the next book. This is good (for me). So much more available time to read is good. Neighbors offering to take care of the elderly and neighbors in need is good. This crisis is not without the proverbial silver lining. I have flour, beans, chocolate, and wine in plentiful supply. I can last for a while, as long as the electricity doesn’t go out.

Laptop and chocolate

The Bad. Library is closed. Favorite restaurants are closed. Schools are closed, so parents trying to work from home with children at home are losing their wits. I can’t go visit my squishy delightful great-goddaughter and my bestie, her grandma (see This is Not a Snow Day). None of my guests think they should come for our annual cherished Easter brunch. When my son and his wife popped in for a quick visit last weekend, we all acted responsibly and DID NOT HUG. All my six in-person book launch events are canceled. And, sniff, Malice Domestic is postponed and the Edgars banquet canceled. It’s all bad – but necessary.

The Ugly. People are sick from this virus, and people have died. Almost everyone is fearful. Businesses small and large, local and national, are worrying about going bankrupt. The stock market has tanked. Those who are homeless and (or) with precarious health are at much higher risk. There is no vaccine. Medical equipment is in short supply. Doctors, nurses, home health aides, EMTs – all are in danger. And some people…are ignoring the danger and continuing to gather in crowds, which is even more scary. This is a tremendously terrifying time with many unknowns.

So – back to the Good. What can writers who are able to stay home do with all this? We can capture feelings of fear and frustration – ours and those of others – and bring them into a story. We can use real acts of radical generosity and communities pulling together in our fiction. We can be generous to our peers whose appearances have been slashed. We can appreciate beauty around us.

And seriously? We can buckle down and write our brains out, getting ahead of deadlines. Maybe we’ll try some new creative venture. Writing dark short fiction when we usually pen lighter and funnier? Working up a proposal for a series outside our comfort zone? This is a rare opportunity.

Whatever you do with your self quarantine – or your public service job, many blessings upon you – I wish you the best, and continuing health.

Readers: What are you doing during your own social distancing? Writers: plans for productivity, or is it just too hard to focus? Anybody else stress baking?

37 Thoughts

  1. The Good – I’m still going to work. This is good because as I’ve said before if I don’t go to work, I don’t get paid. And that is bad because I need money to pay bills. And if I’m forced to file for (temporary I hope) unemployment, that’s just a royal pain.

    The Bad – I’m missing out on all the things I like to do. Concerts are cancelled/postponed, Book signings (including Edith’s and Joanna Schaffhausen’s) are cancelled. Can’t go to the movies or trivia nights where the beautiful waitress that makes my jaw hit the floor like a Looney Tunes character works. Don’t even get to hang out with my friend (PLATONIC) Ann much either. Oh and the banks are making it that much harder to get my money out or pay my bills in person. (I don’t do online banking).

    Oh and I don’t know if this is bad or ugly but with every author or musician looking for me to pre-order their book or buy some band merchandise, it makes me either sad or mad because I can’t do anything as I need my money to pay bills instead.

    The Ugly – Besides every bit of endless news regarding the sickness? I don’t get the least little break. I tried to watch an episode of The Flintstones while eating lunch yesterday and it was the one where Wilma and Betty get the measles.

    As for buckling down and doing a bunch of writing, I’m hoping to do some of that this week while I’m alone at home in the evenings. If I can do some Cassette Chronicles articles to get ahead of the game there PLUS reading the ARCs I have for review purposes, I could be quite occupied.

    1. Jay–I just saw your update on Facebook. I am so sorry about the job. I hope we get some kind of economic relief soon if only a moratorium on mortgages, rents, utilities, insurance payments, etc.

      1. Thanks Barbara. I’ve got at least one week’s pay still coming so I can get some more bills paid at the end of the week. After that, it is crapshoot time.

  2. Being both senior citizens and with underlying health issues including being allergic to the flu shot, we are taking the situation serious. Mom always taught me to keep a well stocked pantry and being older I’ve learned to make do before. Having been through ice storms (one lasting so long we were without electricity for 9 days) taught us to have a generator built into our home when we built 3 years ago. So all in all, we are prepared to hunker down for a while.

    We have done a lot of baking which is good and bad. Good because it keeps us entertained and bad because there are only the two of us to eat it all. Love photography but spring weather seems to have taken a vacation so very rarely have we been able to go outside or sit on the front porch to photograph or daily critter visitors. Hubby is busy working on sprouting seeds and then planting in little pot for our veggie and flower garden that we hope to be planting outside before long. We can already imagine the beauty of the flowers and the flavors of the veggies. Doing my fair share of reading. We have always communicated well but it has been fun to really talk – about the past, the present situation and the future.

    We have found out our special and giving some of our younger friends are as they call and check on us and offer to make grocery runs for us if we need anything. It brings to the forefront of our mind how blessed and fortunate we are.

    Appreciate those that are taking this serious and following the plan laid out for us to send this bug packing. Praying for all those still in service that they be protected from illness while doing all they can to keep the rest of us safe, furnished with the necessities of life and trying to keep some resemblance to “normal” to our lives! May they find a cure/vaccine very soon. May God be with those affected with the virus and give them and their families comfort!

  3. Thank you, Edith. You have broken into my isolation, causing me to feel “in touch” once again. May you keep healthy and writing.

  4. The Good: I still have a job and one that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And I’m still sticking to my deadlines.

    The Bad: The house is full of people, fuller than it normally is. I want to get away and I Just. Can’t.

    But I also refuse to be terrified. This is serious and it’s scary. Yes. But it’s going to end. When? Don’t know. But it will.

    In a couple weeks we celebrate Easter. I don’t know if my church will be able to do all the Holy Week celebrations or the big Easter Vigil Mass. But Easter means hope and resurrection.

    Frankly, I don’t know that I could write this into my fiction. For me, that’s giving it too much control over my life.

    1. Glad you have the job, Liz/Mary! Keep hanging onto the hopeful meaning of Easter. Things will brighten, even if the church can’t do what it usually does.

    2. Liz, lots of Churches have online services. Check the listings. I attended the National Cathedral on Sunday – online.

      1. The Hubby was on a meeting last night where our priest administrator said over 4,000 people tuned in to our parishes livestreamed Masses last week. That’s more bodies than are in the pews!

  5. I’m getting used to my husband and daughter being home 24/7. I may have said hide the knives more than once. But we live in a house with plenty of spaces so we can go to our separate corners. I’m so grateful for that and for the ways we can communicate that we couldn’t before.

    1. We both are lucky to have home spaces to retreat to, Sherry! Glad the communication is happening (and the knives are still hidden, LOL).

  6. My husband is working from home. Even when we retreat to our own spaces, he’s distracting! And though they’re practical, sensible people, my girls aren’t under my roof, so I worry. (that’s what writers do, right? We “what if” every situation.) But we’re lucky to have the page to escape to, so I’m trying to get ahead of deadline. My version of stress baking is stress making ice cream…I just made a wonderful margarita flavor, but I can’t have friends over to help me enjoy it. Wish you were closer, Edith, I’d leave some on your porch.

  7. I’m working from home, and I’m expecting to work overtime this week trying to capture the financial impact of all of this. My short commute is even shorter, and we will have lots of phone calls and virtual meetings to try to make sure this is all covered properly, but it is almost business as usual for me.

    I did get more read this weekend than I normally would. But I’m not even completely sure why that happened since I went to church on line. Only one thing on my regular weekend plan was cancelled, in fact.

  8. All the usual stuff when made to stay home: read, read, read; large jigsaw puzzles; serious cleaning that almost never gets done; yard work when the WX permits; and careful planning when going out is necessary. And making sure to thank everyone in every business for being there.

    1. While out on my solo walk just now, I saw my mail carrier on another block. I made sure to thank him for keeping us connected to the outside world (I don’t usually see him when he delivers our mail unless I’m walking at that time).

  9. The Good: We’re here in Key West. It’s warm. I can swim everyday.

    The Bad: Our lease here ends 4/1 and due to county decree we’ll have to leave. Not sure what we’ll find on the road on a four day road trip.

    The Ugly: I find myself sadder about the small stuff–family Easter cancelled, weddings postponed, graduations and graduation parties cancelled. It tells me that while tragedies are big and terrible, human stories make them real. And that is the essence of our work as fiction writers, making the big and incomprehensible human and real. So I’ll keep on keeping on.

  10. Reading . . . a neighbor has been buying needed items for me when she goes shopping. My favorite produce stand now will take phone-in orders and deliver them to the car . . . or even people’s homes for only $5 more.
    Restless a bit, but content to stay safe. Storytellers and authors have been posting videos, and I can take walks; we just walk further apart now. 😉
    . . . and did I mention reading? . . . and writing reviews. Hugs <3

  11. I make little vids and text them to my children and grandkids. So now every day we all make at least three vids to make sure everyone is safe. It’s fun and challenging. I read, play “in” my VR head set, and watch TV.

  12. I’m still working. I wish I could be home reading, crocheting, playing with my cat, relaxing… But I work at a nursing home so that’s not happening. Actually most things here are still open. I live in a very rural area so there isn’t much to do anyway. It really hasn’t had a big impact here except for us being jealous of the rest of the world’s free time.

    1. Alicia, please know how appreciated you are! I’ve been thinking about my dear friend who died in a nursing home last September, and how hard it would have been not to be able to visit her.

  13. Edith, thank you for the pep talk. I had thought I’d use this time – with such diminished time commitments – to write like mad, getting a real hold on a book that’s very different for me. this in NY, where life has been largely shut down. Instead, I find myself unfocused and anxious. (Partly this is because I am distracted by my grown kids, whose lives have been much more affected than mine) Time to say, “What is Edith doing?” and then do it, even if I have to write pointless musing UNTIL it makes sense.

    1. Aww, thank you, Triss. Hey, pointless musing might seem pointless, but you and I both know that having fingers typing away can produce surprising results.

  14. I’ve worked from home for the past 15 years, and I write, so isolation is nothing new. What’s new is the can’t aspect, and that has me itching to go to a restaurant, visit neighbors, go to the beach. What is different is how much thought I put into any foray into the new world. Jeans, long sleeved t-shirts, socks. Even with all that, I weigh the need with the risk and only venture out when it is imperative.

    We’ll get through this–things will be different, and we’ll be grateful.

    1. Yeah, that “can’t” edict is hard. Seems like you could go to the beach – as long as you aren’t next to anyone else. I’ve been dreaming of Six-Feet-Apart driveway happy hours with a few friends once the weather warms up a bit. BYOB, chair, and appetizers!

  15. I’ve been puttering around. Doing “this, that and the other thing” around the house. At the end of the day I have a sense of satisfaction, but not really sure what I Did.
    Reading – alternating between cozies, non-fiction, and golden-age mysteries. Finally getting to all my not-yet-read books.
    Taking on-line courses: Earthquakes ; Global History 1730-1910 – either I never knew this stuff or I’ve forgotten it, not sure which.
    Missing my mom who is in a memory-care facility – missing giving her hugs and just being there – I don’t think she knows who I am on our video chats.
    and finally, laughing because one of my friends told me I’ve been much more “chipper” since being in isolation…..

    Hope you all keep safe and well.

  16. I miss going to the library. I love to use their computers and check out items such as DVD’s and books. My only Internet at home is on my phone. I’m normally a homebody anyway. I wasn’t working. I take care of my dad who has dementia. I’m not close with any neighbors so I will leave my dad at home and go get groceries.

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