My entire news feed is all coronavirus all the time.
As of the date of this post, New York City has 170,534 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13,684 deaths.
I’ve been stuck at home with my family in an apartment since mid-March. No backyard, no front yard – just a small patio (which I’m grateful to have because I’ve seen others on their fire escape).
Every day feels like a stress cycle of pandemic news. My mind is going a mile a minute. I’ve read so many articles about how stress affects concentration and memory, but I don’t need to read an article to know that I’m stressed. Not being able to focus and disrupted sleep is pretty much my life right now.
I’m in a reading slump for first time in forever. I just got the green light from my AMM mentor to get going with the revisions to my book. I’m hoping to enter DVPit (a Twitter pitching contest) in the fall so I really need to get my head in the game. Did I mention that I’m working from home and trying to teach my son and keep up with the e-learning, the Zoom calls, virtual townhalls and still get work done?
Here’s how I’m keeping my head above the water.
1. Limit Media Intake
It’s easy to get swept away in the tide of press conferences, statistics and overall sense of impending doom. I’ve stopped watching the daily briefings, preferring to catch the highlights online later in the day. Paying too much attention to something you can’t control just adds more stress. And you might want to avoid checking the news before bed because you can’t worry and sleep at the same time. Be mindful of what and how much media you consume. Bonus points for getting your news from credible and reliable sources.
Get outside, take a walk, run, bike – whatever works for you. I’m aiming for at least 15 minutes of cardio per day. Walking isn’t always possible due to weather and work but incorporating more activity in my routine will get the mind and body moving again.
3. Set realistic writing goals
Setting word count goals has never been my thing, but if I have any hope of finishing the draft of my book by end of August, I need to start getting the words down. Sooner the better. I’ve set a 500 per day word count goal. Rain fall, sun shine – the words gotta get on the page. That’s 2,500 words a week because I’m planning to write a minimum of 5 days a week, and a total minimum of 10,000 by the end of May. Set a goal and try to get it done. It all adds up.
4. Reorder Reading Goals
Reading has been challenging. Many of the books on my pre-pandemic ‘to be read’ list have heavy themes that I’m just not in the mood for right now. So this means, no moody, broody, bleak books that will funk up my mood. Ditto on the social justice books that only remind me of the undeniable disparities in healthcare for minorities, who are bearing a disproportionate burden in this health crisis. I plan to read more middle grade books, cozy mysteries and romance. So bring on the rom-coms, the funny middle grade and whodunits! Find something new and immersive. Nothing like getting lost in a good book.
5. Set a Routine
The first weeks working at home was helter-skelter. I went to bed each night burnt out and with a headache. I put a system in place and over the last few weeks, I’m finally beginning to feel more organized at home. Whoever wrote that it takes 21 days to form a habit was spot on.
I start work at the same time every day. I’m writing this blog post in my ‘lunch hour’, I try to get the homeschooling out of the way early (doesn’t always happen but I try) and I wrap up my working day at the same time every day. I slot my writing in-between, whenever I can, using snatches of time to work on my outline and prepare for my upcoming revisions.
6. Attend Online Events
On the bright side, the pandemic has created so much access to authors that we didn’t have before, like Twitter events, online book launches, Read Ins, Author Instagram events. At home, I’ve attended Y’all Stay Home, an online writers conference with amazing panelists talking about all things writing and books. For many of us, it’s a unique opportunity to participate in writing conference without airfare and expenses. Many writerly things are moving online, so take advantage!
7. Be Kind to Yourself
Focus on the good instead of the bad and uncertain. I’ve had a hard time accepting that my productivity isn’t what it used to be. It’s okay. This isn’t a permanent state, and eventually we’ll be moving forward into a new normal and it’s perfectly fine to grieve old ways of doing things. Find the good in what you have now and be grateful for the things and people in our lives right now.