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The Hard Refresh: How To Be A Writer During A Pandemic

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

It was one of the hardest weeks I’d ever lived through. It began with the predictable exhaustion of the Monday after Daylight Savings Time—which was mildly annoying, but no big deal.

By the end of the week, life was collapsing, one thing after another falling like a line of dominoes. My extensive calendar of exciting events—plays, concerts, a vacation to see my best friend in Florida—was obliterated.

I was laid off from my job.

My church, where I serve on the leadership team, teach a Sunday school class for teens, and participate in other activities, moved online indefinitely.

For months, I’d been going 90 miles an hour down what I didn’t know was a dead-end road.

Then, I slammed head-on into a brick wall.

The new reality of being under virtual house arrest was painful. The weight of how many people were ill and suffering while I was safe bore down on me. Just getting through the day was grueling, even if nothing of note was happening.

Every night, I got into bed feeling the ecstasy and achievement of someone who just ran a marathon. I reveled in the state of unconsciousness that I now got to experience as a reward.

Then, all too soon, my alarm would go off, and it was time to do it again.

I was one play of “I Got You Babe” away from being Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

What’s more, my husband was an essential worker and his routine carried on as normal, while mine completely stalled. I didn’t even get to experience the fights over whose turn it was to do the dishes or who got the prime workspace for their Zoom calls.

What I did get to experience, though, was God.

My life before the pandemic had been hurried and noisy.

Now, I found that in the absence of all that noise, it was easier to hear Him.

More importantly, it was easier to see just how caught up I’d gotten in the noise, even to the point of not listening to Him at all.

In Romans 12:1-2, the Apostle Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The more I got alone with Jesus, the more I realized I’d been doing a lot of conforming, while my mind renewal was a little (okay fine, a LOT) on the low side.

I had been pushing ahead with my life, especially my work life, without stopping to see what God really wanted from me and how He wanted me to do it. The never-ending stimuli and distractions were simply too loud. If you’ve worked with the Internet, particularly in web development, you may have heard the term “hard refresh.” The simplest way to explain it is that sometimes, your browser gets so clogged with data that the information you actually need can’t load.

Just hitting the refresh button alone doesn’t do the trick. You have to hold down the control key at the same time, taking an extra step so all that clutter can get cleaned out. Only then can the right version of the page load so you can complete the task in front of you. That’s what I think the pandemic did for me as a writer, as a Christ-follower, as a human being. That’s what I think it did for a lot of people. Maybe you’re a Christian and you can explicitly relate to the idea of having your mind renewed. But even if you aren’t, you probably have your own version of realizing how much you’ve let the noise and “stuff” in your life cloud your mind and ability to perceive reality.

Regardless, this period of time has been hard for everyone. But I think in a lot of unexpected ways, in spite of all the uncertainty and disruption, it’s been refreshing, too. I had to figure out this year what it means for me to be a writer during this unique time in history. In fact, Inkling Creative Strategies is a big part of that.

For me, being a writer doesn’t just mean writing—it means helping other people make sense of that same question and empowering them to create. If you’re reading this, it probably means that you have a lot of the same questions about how to create and move forward with your work. So, here are a few things I’ve learned about being a writer during the pandemic that you’ll perhaps find helpful.

Pay attention. One thing I heard a lot of people comment on this past summer was how beautiful the sunsets have been. My Instagram feed has been replete with them and I’ve got numerous photos of my own.

But what if the sunsets have always been that beautiful?

What if we are just now taking notice?

I think the present circumstances have left us much more attuned to the details of the world around us. Concrete details are what powerful stories are made from, so take in as many of them as you can.

Connect with people who know more than you. If anything “good” has come out of the pandemic, it’s that it has never been easier to find learning communities online.

Take a writing class, go to a free Zoom event for writers, or join an organization that lets you connect with other artists.

Maybe we can’t get together in person, but the giant world of the Internet has become just a little smaller as a result of us all having this shared experience.

Keep writing. Your voice matters. Your story matters. You have something to give to readers that they can’t get for themselves.

I know you’re probably exhausted and frustrated and maybe you’re still stuck in that experience of Groundhog Day Fantasy Camp. That’s okay. You don’t have to set an ambitious goal like writing a book. You just have to write a little bit every day.

If you aren’t sure where to start, keep a journal. You’ll probably end up with a source of great ideas and you’ll have a record of what your life was like during this period.

If you’re still not sure how to get started, have a project you want to talk about, or just want to connect for writerly conversation, I’d love to help.

My goal for Inkling is to connect with as many writers as possible, help them solve their problems, and give them a creative community. Set up a complimentary Virtual Meetup with me and we’ll talk. Writing Prompt: In 300 words or less, write about a very specific experience you’ve had during the pandemic. Use as many concrete details as possible. Bring the experience and its emotions to life.

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