Before I begin, let me summarize my advice: don’t. If you agree, there’s no need to read further. If you don’t, read on. I’ll explain.
I’ve been writing some pretty heavy stuff on my blog about how Covid-19 is affecting me personally, and that’s okay. Regardless of who reads or doesn’t read it, it’s good to get that stuff out by working it through. If in the process of working it through I connect with someone, so much the better. I’m not ashamed of my blogs, nor will I be ashamed of them when this is over. That’s what I want to talk about: when this is over.
My speculation is that I’m not the only one writing about Covid-19. I’m sure there is a superfluity of writers who are writing fiction and non-fiction about it, trying to get that “in the moment” feel. Writers want to connect with their readers. Covid-19 is an obvious way to do that. It’s affecting everyone in the English-speaking world.
The difference between what I’m doing and what other writers are doing is this: I’m blogging. Blogging is ephemeral. There aren’t many people who are going to go back and look at this in a year. I accept that. I’m not trying to memorialize what’s going on. What I blog is in the context of what’s going on. When this is over, that context will be gone. My blogs won’t mean a whole hell of a lot. I’m not being self-deprecating. I’m just acknowledging what’s natural.
People are dying. People are losing people they love. People are losing their livelihoods. This is serious shit. For those of us who survive, no one is going to get out of this unscathed in some way. It’s just a question of degree. It’s going to take a long time to recover. It’s going to be a long time before anyone wants to be reminded of this. As far as I’m concerned, for those of us who aren’t Stephen King who, you’ll agree, comprise 99.99999% of writers, writing fiction about it is pointless. Even people who read obscure literary journals aren’t going to be interested in fiction about this. It’s too personal. It’s an act of pure hubris to think otherwise.
I’m in a writing group, as most of the people who are reading this know. From time to time, we put out an anthology. We don’t put it out because we’re that impressed with ourselves. We put it out for the pleasure of having done it. It’s nice to see your work in print. It’s nice to be able to hold it in your hand and think, hey, I did that. If anybody reads it, it’s a bonus.
We’ve been trying to come up with a theme for our next anthology for about nine months. We’ve had a lot of good ideas, but none of those ideas jumped out at us, hence all the dickering over it. The last time we met (on Zoom), it took about sixty seconds to figure it out. The theme for our next anthology is that our anthology is going to be light and pleasant to read. Maybe we’ll call it “The Unbelievable Lightness of Fluff.” It’s not going to try to evoke complex emotions. It’s going to attempt to make the reader feel good.
That’s what people are going to want when this is over. They’re going to want to feel good. They’re going to want to escape the cold reality of what’s happened. Hell, they want to escape it right now. But that’s hard to do. There are a lot of jokes going around about being confined, and they’re good for a chuckle, and that’s all they’re good for. Right now, no one is really laughing. Those jokes, the TV shows we’re watching, the movies we’re streaming, they’re good for escaping reality for an hour and a half. Nobody wants to watch a soap opera or a drama or read literary fiction about Covid-19, and I suspect no one will want to until the next Covid-19-free generation learns to read.
Anyone who’s writing about Covid-19 is wasting their time.
That’s my stupid writing advice.