A Year of Resilience and Adaptability

Last April, when we were in the early stages of lockdown, the Quebec Writers’ Federation put out a call for short essays under the theme “Chronicling the Days”.   The idea was to document the thoughts, emotions and days of authors who submitted during an unprecedented time in our lives. The QWF posted several each day throughout April 2020 on their blog for a total of 100, and I was thrilled to be among them.

A few months later, they asked if my essay could be included in an anthology to be published in the spring 2021. Fast forward one year:  The virtual book launch took place a few weeks ago during the Blue Metropolis Festival and included readings by some well-known authors.  It struck me that more than one prefaced the reading of their essay with, “This feels dated now, but …”  We were still in the throes of the pandemic. Quebec had been under a curfew from 8 pm to 5 am since January. The number of cases and hospitalizations were still high. So what had changed to make their thoughts on the pandemic of a year ago feel dated?

I realized we knew so much more about the virus itself, but the biggest change was in our attitude. Our resilience and adaptability prevailed and, armed with more knowledge, we were co-habiting (unwillingly) with COVID-19.

A year ago, we had no idea when a vaccine would be available. Or how effective it would be when it became available.  A year ago, we were told not to wear masks because it would make us feel comfortable breaching the 6-foot distance we were supposed to maintain between us. That distance, it seems, was more important than a mask in preventing the spread of the virus. Then we were told to wear masks AND keep our distance.  Human creativity couldn’t be suppressed so cloth masks of all stripes, colors and patterns became almost a fashion accessory. Then we were told that we should wear surgical masks because they blocked transmission of the virus particles more efficiently.  All of us, including health authorities, were winging it as best we could.

A year ago, we were told to wash our hands often and for at least 20 seconds. We were told to sing “Happy Birthday” while washing our hands because the song lasted about 20 seconds. Then we were told singing could cause the virus to become airborne so it would be better not to sing. A year ago, many of us wore latex gloves when grocery shopping. We were told  the virus could easily survive on surfaces, and were encouraged  us to scrub every item coming from the grocery store before putting it away.  

But more importantly, a year ago we were paralyzed – by fear and by the unknown. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost and even more people were sick. And we didn’t know how to stop it.

Today, we are still a long way from “normal”, but we are no longer paralyzed. We wear our masks. We automatically squirt the disinfectant gel from the dispenser at every store and business entrance onto our hands.  Vaccines  – more than one – are here and seem to be effective.  And in my part of the world at least, things are slowly opening up. And we can finally hope that this too shall pass.

Now I am a writer! (I think…)

I’ve been stringing words together for years. I loved English class, especially writing papers and essays. Later, corporate writing became a big part of my professional life. I even landed a few paid freelance assignments for magazines and newspapers.  And it was all fine, but I still didn’t see myself as a writer.

Then I started this blog just for me – to write about the people, experiences and emotions that made up my life. I wanted: 

1) The blog to be a commitment to myself to write and post regularly;

2) Each post to be the best I could make it by writing, editing and polishing it before posting it.

That second point? It turned out to be the single biggest barrier to the success for the first point. Here’s what actually happens:

Scenario 1:
I spend days or weeks on a post before I either decide it’s good enough to be seen by others or it will never be good enough to be seen by others.

Scenario 2:
I start writing a piece that I’m really happy with! The beginning sings, the middle is great! And then I get metaphorically mired in the mud. I spin my wheels, get out and push from the back, do everything I can think of to get out and … nothing. The result is I have half a dozen pieces with great beginnings (in my humble opinion) and no ending.

I’m told these are exactly the kinds of things that happen to writers. So, I guess they make me a writer (although a little-read one)! What do other writers out there think – what exactly makes someone a writer?

Blogging Mistakes to Live & Learn By

This week I read a few bloggers’ responses to Salted Caramel’s #Blogging Insights prompt “Which mistakes did you make in your first few months of blogging?”   I didn’t participate in the prompt, but I toyed with the question for a few days until I decided:  The biggest mistake I made was biting off more than I could chew.

I started my first blog almost five years ago. I wanted to write on a specific topic but I’m not an expert on anything. Finally, an idea I could get behind came to me and my blog, “52 Weeks”, was born. The idea was to feature one special woman in my life each week. I had an abundance of spectacular female friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances I could write about.  There was beautiful, courageous Renée, a mother of two boys, who lost her husband to cancer when he was just 40 years old. There was my tribe of close “sisters” – friends I have known forever and who are each strong and beautiful in their own way. There was my step-daughter, a free spirit who often swims against the current to be true to herself. 

So, armed with my niche topic, I outlined the process I would follow, compiled a list of names, and set out to launch my blog. The first person I asked to participate was Ida, someone I have known since grade school. When she accepted, I sent her a list of questions to answer. They included fun facts like: 1) What cause is close to your heart? What’s your biggest fear?  Name a guilty pleasure.  I also asked her to send me photos I could use with the post.

Once I had all the material, I began the post with the story of how we were connected, followed by her answers to my questions. So far, so good, right? Then came editing and that’s where I hit a roadblock. I wanted the post to really show Ida’s qualities and what makes her special.  And I was afraid I just wasn’t doing her justice. So I spent my evenings reviewing, editing, then reviewing and editing again. By the time I published the post, I was behind on the research and work for the following week. And so it went until after nine weeks, I ran out of steam.  I still think it was a good idea and I may get back to it someday!