Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Strange New World

Terry Shames here: 

We have a very apt question to reply to this week:
The world, and the way we live in it, has changed. These are extraordinary times. How has the business of being an author changed, for you, in this new reality?

How has it changed, past tense? It is still changing. It changes hourly.

 My new reality differs from my old reality in that without being able to go out, I have a lot more time. Which could mean more time to do productive things, but apparently actually means more time to be distracted.

Major distraction #1: 3,000-piece puzzle

I usually start working mid-day at the latest. That is, until two weeks ago when my husband and I decided to start doing social distancing a week before it was mandated. I couldn’t figure out why it took me until four or five in the afternoon to start actually putting words on paper. And then I saw an interesting take on the situation  from another author. He said that he thought authors’ brains are usually working in the background on whatever they are writing, but that worries about the virus assault have taken up the space we usually have in our brains for processing.

Distraction #2--going for walks and taking photos of flowers.

That may explain why, even though I’ve been writing 1,000-2,000 words a day, when I go back and look at the words, some of them are absolute gibberish. My first drafts are never lovely things to behold, but this is another level altogether. That said, though, I do find it’s helpful to have words down—even if they are crappy words. Editing is easier for me than having to come up with original thoughts.

As for the publishing industry itself, my agent has been worrying on her blog that publishing has dead in the water. That publishing houses were stepping back, that editors and agents were having the same trouble focusing as everyone else and therefore were not as able to look at new work. But now she says that appears to be changing and that like the rest of us the publishing world is adjusting to the new normal. I hope so. I haven’t wanted to push her about the revised manuscript I sent her a week ago.

On another note, after Left Coast Crime was cancelled, last week the Mayhem and Murder conference, scheduled for Saturday, March 21, was cancelled as well. And then a miracle occurred. Lori Rader-day and Dana Kaye, organizers of the conference, decided to take it on-line. Some of the original participants couldn’t be in the on-line event, but Lori and Dana did a brilliant job of shuffling and rescheduling to bring the conference to those interested. Almost 1,000 people signed up. The conference went on all day. I had originally intended to take part in my panel and maybe dip in here and there with other panels. I ended up watching almost day as one panel after another turned out to be as meaningful on line as in person. And the interview Dana did with Greg Hurwitz was inspired. It was almost as good seeing writer friends’ faces on the computer as it would have been in person.. You can watch the replay of the conference here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/murder-and-mayhem-in. One last tidbit. During the panels, watchers were encouraged to add their comments or questions, and there was a constant stream of chat going on at the side of the screen. Interesting comments and questions.

Personally sheltering-in-place has been fine for me, because I realize how introverted I really am. Lots of people have been calling me to “say hello,” and I get tired of it! After the first few people call each day, I hear the phone ring and think, “leave me alone!” But I had a great cocktail party with two close friends Friday night—on Zoom. And my husband and I talk to my son and his girlfriend via Face Time most days.

Lucy and I wish this was over!

It’s all about coping and figuring out what makes me as an author feel like I’m moving forward. I’m curious to know how others are coping—or not.


Paul D. Marks said...

Sounds like you're doing pretty well to me, Terry. I think even people who are used to working at home, being home, etc., are thrown by this current situation. Cause know we can't really go out even if we want to as there's nowhere to go. And I hope the publishing industry is, indeed, settling into the new normal. And hopefully it won't be that for long and we'll get back to something like the old normal. In the meantime, good luck with that puzzle.

Terry said...

I'm doing okay most of the time. I'm not alone because I have my husband and we have a student who lives with us. She's very careful and is a breath of fresh air. I worry for those who are alone and on limited budgets and facing physical problems even before the epidemic took hold.

Thanks for the luck with the puzzle. I hope to finish it just as quarantines start to let up.