Jeanne: Writing through Coronabrain

Digital illustration of macro Covid-19 cells floating over a human brain and a web of connection. Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic concept digital compositeWhen I was a child, my mother sent me to the local YWCA for swimming lessons. Although I took lessons for what I remember as an entire winter, I never really mastered the art of moving horizontally through water.

There were two issues I couldn’t seem to overcome:

  1. I never got to where I could put my face in the water and turn my head for breath every few strokes. Putting my face in the water engendered a feeling of panic I could never conquer–not even after spending a week faithfully practicing dunking my face in the tub when I took my bath each night.
  2. The frustration that came from furiously flailing my skinny little arms and legs until the whistle blew, only to discover that I hadn’t progressed forward to any appreciable degree, left me unenthusiastic about continuing.

Lately, I’ve had much the same feeling when I sit down to work on my manuscript. I work away industriously, face in the water for what feels like hours, only to surface and find that I’m still in the same spot I was when I jumped in (though without that gasping sense of panic that I can’t breathe, so that’s good).

Part of that is the Coronabrain mentioned in the title of this post–difficulties in focusing brought on by the stress of living through (and watching my kids and other loved ones struggle through) a global public health crisis whose long-term impacts are impossible to predict and there are no guarantees we’ll all make it out alive and solvent.

But with cases back on the rise and no relief in the near-term future, it feels like it’s time to figure out how to propel myself forward, despite the situation.

One of the problems is that I’ve let myself wander away from my trusty schedule of writing from eight to noon. I’ve been staying up later at nights and therefore getting up later in the morning, making it difficult to work out, shower and breakfast before eight a.m. And since I am not at my desk by eight, I go ahead and prioritize other things (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning) ahead of writing.

This week I’m going to try to return to my schedule, putting writing at the top of my list again. I’m going to try giving myself a reward (watching an episode of Gilmore Girls, which I recently discovered on Netflix and LOVE) each day that I complete one thousand words. So we’ll see how that goes.

If you’re having any luck with productivity, what magic spell are you casting?

6 thoughts on “Jeanne: Writing through Coronabrain

  1. LOL, I’ve always felt that a strict schedule of writing two to four hours in the morning (before the day drains away my mojo!) would be the best thing to do, but I wind up doing other stuff instead — laundry (no dryer, so getting clothes out in the sun is a high priority), reading too much over breakfast, recovering from a late night or too much lawn mowing the day before.

    July starts tomorrow! I’m going to try to get an hour done in the morning, and see if that helps any. I personally loved swimming, but I know exactly what you mean — I feel like I’m doggy-paddling, but when I look up, I’ve only been treading water and not getting to the JUICY stuff nearly fast enough.

  2. Day One yesterday resulted in words lost, but I did stay focused for several hours. This morning, life interrupted, but I’m still hoping to get some work done today.

    Let me know if the new schedule works for you!

  3. I’ve found myself in an alternate kind of schedule. Instead of writing M-F like i did when the kids were in school/hubs at the office, I write Sun-Thur. Sunday turns out to be my most productive day. There are no businesses open to call me and need things/issue reminders, the boys and hubs are occupied playing video games, and we don’t have to be anywhere. I noticed much less work done yesterday (I had stuff to do, calls to make, appts to schedule, etc.), and i suspect today will be the same.

    You might also cut yourself some slack on when you write. You used to do 8-12, but what’s wrong with 9-1? 10-2? Give yourself the four hour window, regardless of when it starts. I used to start at 7:30, but now it’s more like 9. We’ve all migrated to a later schedule here, and we’re just rolling with it. Breakfast at 9, lunch at 2, dinner at 7, and I still manage to get words on the page.

    Lastly, and this is something it took me awhile to learn, but try not to do anything else before you write (groceries excepted, because sometimes the only way you find what you need is if you get there early). Prioritize writing above all else, perhaps even exercising. Make that the reward for words on the page. It might be a nice way to shake up your day, too. A few hours free in the afternoon is still enough time to do the non-writing work, so let that happen later. But in the morning, when you’ve had your coffee/tea/woken up, turn your phone off, nix the notifications on your computer, and write. (I sometimes don’t even shower until I’ve written…particularly on Sundays.)

    Good luck…you got this!

    • I think that , for me, there’s value in a consistent schedule. (Stephen King says that tells your muse when to show up.) And that seems easiest to do early in the day, before life has had much chance to interrupt.

      Your suggestion about writing first is a good one. I’ll keep that in mind as I’m prioritizing!

  4. What everybody said. Plus, I just read an article somewhere about why we can’t do all the things we thought we’d do when we went into quarantine. Turns out there’s a sound psychological reason for it, related to uncertainty. Also, if I don’t get done whatever it is that I want to get done. I like to think, What’s the worst that can happen? Because it’s great to set goals. Not so great to beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish them.

  5. The worst that could happen is I die before I finish this book. Not likely to trigger the apocalypse but it would be sad.

    Although I suppose I’ll inevitably die with something unfinished.

    You may have noticed that I’m pretty achievement-driven…

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