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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Eliot

Wheel Spinning in the Plague

I hope this post finds you in good health. It's been a while since I put any thoughts here. There have been too many to sort and share! Obviously I'm referring to the end of business as usual thanks to COVID-19, the germ-encrusted elephant in the room.

Like many, I've been holed up at home with my husband and my six year old son, following a routine of working half-time, home schooling, writing/calling/cursing the unemployment office and figuring out how and what to write creatively. While I have made some progress with a couple of manuscripts I'm working on, It's been a strange purgatory with a lot of walking in circles.

I read an article that aptly titled this curve-flattening time as The Great Pause. As my husband and I stocked our pantry and prepared for this unprecedented solitude, I told myself the thing everyone did at the time. "With all this free time I'll get a ton of _______ done!" For some people the blank was house projects, cleaning, reading, exercising, etc. For me, it was writing and submitting queries to try to get an agent. As we've all gone through this time with varying results, I doubt you'll be surprised to know that I didn't submit a single query and the writing has been slow going.

There are a couple of barriers for me that I'm mitigating but not crushing just now. First off, most of the pieces I'm working on are either in an editing phase or just about to wrap up. I often hit the wall just before the end of a book. Probably some weird self-sabotage way of not wanting the piece to end so I won't have to say goodbye to the characters. Either way, I haven't been in that super-inspired, exciting phase of starting something new that really makes me churn out pages. Another barrier has been a fresh wave of "this is all utter shit", which I'm coming to recognize as a regular and necessary occurrence.

But one of the biggest things that has slowed me down is a combination of feeling that simple cishet, predominantly white, romance stories aren't important enough right now and debating whether or not to include this entirely new post-COVID world into these stories. I've always been intentional on including diverse characters in my work. There's definitely LGBT representation and the world surrounding my main characters isn't solely peopled with suburban white folx. But I have yet to write any main characters of color as I don't feel confident enough to properly write those voices and honestly, there are plenty of authors of color who deserve a place ahead of me in telling their stories.

And what about this (sorry to use the term) "new normal"? Every time I write a scene where characters meet in public, go to a movie, eat at a restaurant, shake hands with someone they meet, I eye roll internally. These settings are odd to think about now and there's so much unsurety about what is safe to do and what isn't. And considering my genre, wouldn't readers want to escape this terrifying new and unknown landscape? Would including all the changes that have occurred worldwide in the last few months prevent that escape? Or does ignoring them seem disingenuous considering we have fundamental societal re-ordering going on?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions. All I know is that I want forward momentum as an artist. I want to feel that when I sit down, I've either written something or completed a portion of the business side of selling my work that will get me closer to my goals. Once my initial two weeks of "OH-MY-GOD-WE'RE-ALL-GOING-TO-DIE-RIGHT-AFTER-WE LOSE-OUR-JOBS-AND-DECLARE-BANKRUPTCY" that kept my brain from any creativity, I started to be able to get in little spurts of moving forward. Now I'm ready to get back to more of a steady pace. Of course this happens right before I start back to work full time. Ah well. I seem to get more done when I have less time to put it off.

The good news is I wrote this blog post! And I made some adjustments to the site, so that is several steps forward as far as I'm concerned. Here's to momentum, here's to writing without judgment, here's to moving creative endeavors out of the obligation pile and back into the enjoyment/fulfillment category!

Just talked myself into being excited to write. I hope I don't get caught up in taking four hours to decide on a photo to go with this blog post and waste that vim and vigor :)

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