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there's no getting around this—it's no fun

and since we may be at this for a while, write.



Even at this point, three months into the pandemic and counting, our days are different, and for those of us able (or willing) to get out of our houses, the world we see will remain different for a while.

The more we try to normalize it, the less successful we're going to be. So let's admit it's going to be hard and find some ways to make it work.

Writing is one of them, but first a confession: ​I don't think I've written 10,000 words of fiction since early March. If 10,000 words sounds like a lot to you, remember that (1) novels usually contain about 100,000 words and (2) I'm averaging 100 words a day—just about the number of words in this block.

I know that with the prospect of 200,000 dead Americans by Labor Day, fiction seems frivolous and trivial, especially now when truth really is stranger than it. But a world we can create may be more fun to live in than the one we currently occupy, and fiction is the only way to get there. It's not as easy as binge-watching or jigsaw-puzzling, but the payoff will be greater.

Those who remember—or have heard of—Daniel DeFoe usually associate him with the classic survival novel, Robinson Crusoe, or the somewhat bawdier picaresque, Moll Flanders.

But in 1772 Defoe wrote another fiction, Journal of the Plague Year, recounting the effects of the bubonic plague on London in 1665. The account is fiction (Defoe did not live in both cited years), but it is accurately researched, and it presents a fair account of what life was like in those circumstances.

Still, it was fiction. What is occurring in the world today is maybe too real, and this may be the time to begin keeping your own "journal of the plague year." You can find plenty of help on line, or you can keep it simple:​

  1. Journal in the morning when time constraints seem less taxing.

  2. Write every day, even if the only entry is "I have nothing to write about." Usually if you ask yourself why you have nothing to write about, you'll quickly have something to write about.

  3. Don't censor yourself or play editor. Don't use a dictionary or a thesaurus.

  4. Keep it private, but not secret. It's not a diary. Or the codicil to a will

  5. Some people suggest pen and paper as freeing the mind more. If you agree, use a notebook you enjoy writing in, and keep the entire journal in the same notebook or folder.

  6. Don't be afraid to use prompts. These from Poets & Writers are outstanding.

  7. Not every entry has to include references to the coronavirus. That may frame your writing, but it does not define you.

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