Let’s face it, a writer’s primary tool is language. Just over a year of living with a global pandemic has changed not only our language, but our relationships with each other. If we’re not careful our writing may be another casualty.
In Australia, phrases like social distancing and contact tracing are now commonplace, with Corona Virus Disease quickly being shortened to Covid. Technically Covid-19, but who’s counting?
Then there’s self-isolating, quarantine, lockdown, and the unprecedented popularity of…unprecedented.
Many people now work from home (WFH) or meet virtually via the internet using platforms such as Zoom, with varying degrees of success. Many of us chuckled over the US judge and lawyers conferencing on Zoom, one of the parties appearing to be a white kitten with wonderful eye rolls, apparently due to a rogue filter.
Others are photo bombed by children, animals and half-dressed family members, leading to Zoom fatigue and the self-explanatory label, covidiot. No wonder “quarantini” drinks are a thing as we check the news for “donut days” with zero new cases of community transmission. The actual consumption of foods such as donuts and sourdough bread adds “Covid kilos” possibly piled on after too many quarantinis.
If you’re a writer, where is all this leading? I hear from many of you that working from home isn’t too big a challenge. WFH has been a writer’s normal for as long as some of us can remember. But that’s before someone threw in “schooling from home” while trying to hold down your usual day job if you’re fortunate enough to keep it.
Some writers thrive on WFH, although it’s fair to say mostly those without school-aged children. By and large the majority of writers I’ve consulted say they’ve written far less then they’d expected, given the limits on outings, social engagements and travel.
Therein lies a big clue. Writers need things to write about. Virtual get-togethers don’t provide the same input. Going out in a mask may work for superheroes, but it’s tough on those of us who need human interaction, if not for story material, then for priming the well of our creativity.
We accept the need for social distancing, but romance writers write about people touching, arguing, hugging, loving. Bumping elbows works, but can you see your characters doing it and having the physical response that leads to a romance?
I’ve turned off TV shows where the actors are mostly masked. Yes, it’s the new normal, and the medical benefits are undeniable, but facial expressions are also part of our language toolbox.
How are we to deal with such changes? Some writers are choosing historical periods where they feel more comfortable with character interactions, steaming up series such as Bridgerton and the like.
Personally, I’m writing stories set in my invented South Pacific island kingdom of Carramer. Her Royal Secret Santa is out now on Amazon in ebook (links below) and my current work-in-progress is Royal Right Hand Man. Carramer is my secret hideaway, untouched by Covid, and readers like it that way.
I made this choice because, of all the translations of my work received lately, the majority are Carramer “royal” books, set in a modern world that we barely recognise any more.
Medical experts suggest even with vaccines, we may have years before we can truly relax. By then the habits of social distancing may be too entrenched to change. Only time will tell.
For me, romance novels have never been about reality. We live with our everyday partners and mostly wouldn’t change them. Over the years surveys conducted by Harlequin show that we have no wish to hook up with a romance hero. They are fantasy. And sales tell us as the real world gets darker, demand for fantasy increases both on screen and on our devices.
As a writer, how are you coping with this new normal? Are you writing Covid elements into stories, or getting as far away from them as you can? How are you priming your creative well? I’m totally supportive of the measures taken to keep our communities safe, so this isn’t anti-anything of the sort. What I’d love to hear is how you’ve kept your writer-self safe and productive, or what you plan to write when you can.
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