5 Things I Learned From Writing a ‘Pandemic’ Story During a Pandemic

#1 Everybody’s journey in a social panic situation is different, and apparently mine’s deeply personal.

(As is this post, right?)

It takes guts to live with the fact that you can still surprise yourself with your own reactions, whichever way they turn out. Also, writing helps when your reactions are not quite up to your own standards. (Apparently it’s called the ‘human condition’.)

#2 Giving yourself permission to be somewhat inappropriate in your writing is liberating.

I’m a sincere believer in PC in all things everyday (I see it as a sign of interpersonal respect, not mere politeness), but the fiction… I do tend to cross a personal line or two. Sometimes. Never too much—everybody’s got boundaries as writers—but enough to keep me on my toes.

#3 Sometimes writing about what scares you really does make it easier.

It’s time my enemies shared my dread, as somebody wrote for one of my favourite movies of the early 2000s.

I don’t play well with sci-fi (and I’m not touching horror) based around any kind of infection, disease etc. (nope, not even parasites, thank you very much), and I wasn’t sure if taking on a story about something similar was a good idea. I… was suprised, and in a good way, to find out it made me feel better altogether. Putting huge, scary ass issues in context helps either way. Why not use them for fun fiction, too?

#4 Writing for an immediate audience does work wonders, at least for me.

The story I ended up writing took me almost three days to finish, but I admit to spreading it out a bit to enjoy the process more. It was written for an occasion which a brilliant writer friend of mine constructed to help fight off the general unease swallowing our country in the first few weeks of March 2020. Since the moment I started building the story—and it was built, rather than written, since I didn’t know the whole plot from the get go—I knew I was going to have to read it aloud, to people I know, in a few days’ time. Were I a different person, I might’ve already had a pandemic tale, but, alas, I dread the subject. Thus, I had to write to bring something to the table. Little did I know it would end up being this entertaining. (And useful, since—a second Archipelago story! The second story to publish here on the blog! The fourth story I’ve written, ever, to be available in English! Etc.)

Were it not for the occasion and the rather imminent deadline (a little under five days), I’m not sure I would’ve pressed through and finished the story—especially since the week turned out to be rather hard, personally, with the direction the news cycle (and, apparently, the amount of toilet paper available in the stores?) was going. I have been known to ditch unfinished tales (the Tolkien geeks might be more familiar with the handle ‘UT’) more often than not, if the call’s deadline was too far away. This occasion worked wonders.

Also, editing/revision for a story designed to be read aloud instead of, um, read, made a great change of pace for me.

#5 I should write short stories more.

This one barely broke 2k, final, and it still made me feel so alive, in a way I haven’t felt since I’ve started writing novels almost exclusively. I’ve started with stories as a kid. I need to write stories. I… might be having just a tiny bit of a relapse from an addiction I never ever knew I had.

I’ve also wanted, for a few years, to get my stories published in a single volume—but I never really had enough of them to even try to work towards it. (Well, not the ones I deem publishable. You know. I did start at eight.) With the recent, daring dreaming that started in my household (which currently consists of two writers, one cat and one dog who is almost more of a diva then the first three combined) (which is weird when you think about it, because, you know), I might just be working on a short story collection during the second part of this weird year.

Strange times indeed.

So, what I wanted to say was basically this—wherever you are, whatever your friends and family and coworkers and governments and pets think lately—I truly do hope you haven’t stopped writing. The pros know how to handle this whirlwind—the rest of us are just beginning to figure it out.

And writing, at this peculiar and rather distracting moment in time, just might be as good as learning, for us all. And we can never have enough of that, can we?

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Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash.