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POINT OF VIEW: Writing in the Time of Covid19

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Another week in lockdown.

Although California didn’t order a statewide “shelter in place” order until late last week and Sacramento’s was only a few days before, Mark have been staying home (with only trips out for walks and one trip to the Supermarket parking lot) for eleven days now. We are starting to settle into the new routine, which on the face of it isn’t really all that different than before:

Work, eat, work, eat and play card games, work, eat, work and watch TV, sleep. Oh, and the occasional shave and shower in there somewhere. *grin*

And yet, this is fundamentally different in that we don’t have the option to do many of the things that used to function as release valves for us – our Italian group, runs to Starbucks, and even going to church instead of watching it on TV. And lunch with friends.

Zoom and other social media and video apps provide a partial substitute for many of these activities, allowing us to still “see” our friends and family, but they are no replacement for a big hug from a friend, for their warm arms around you.

So given all that’s going on, I should be way too distracted to write, right?

And yet I’m not.

The other day, MSBC was showing images from Italy, where the streets are empty. One in particular – of the streets and canals of Venice – caught my attention, and sparked an idea for a new short story.

A hopeful story.

We’ve gone through a time of dystopian tales in literature, film, and TV, from the Handmaid’s Tale to the Hunger Games. There used to be a visceral thrill in considering these dark futures, but now that our own dark future has arrived with breathtaking speed, I find that my soul craves something new. A reason to believe things WILL get better. That we are not at the end times, and that we will come together and figure this out.

And so I have been writing.

Writing is a rational response to powerlessness. When we no longer have the ability to steer our own fate, we can still step into our role as spec fic writers and provide a glimpse of a better future, where we will have it again.

As spec fic writers, I have long argued that we have a responsibility to warn about what may come, but now that it’s here, I’d argue the reverse too. We need to get the word out that there will be life after this crisis. That it might even spur us to re-examine some of the most basic aspects of our lives and society. And that maybe something good will ultimately come out of this dark time.

This crisis has been driven in part by a failure of imagination on the part of our leaders – the failure to listen to experts and prepare for the day when something like this might happen. And so here we are.

In the time of covid19, we must continue to write.

Let’s use our imaginations as writers now to picture a brighter future, and to light the way forward for everyone within reach of our voices.

Thanks to Gabriel García Márquez for the title inspiration for this post.

To my fellow writers, how are you and your work responding to the current crisis? Readers, do you need to read a little hope right now?

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