Naturally, you could come to the conclusion that COVID-19 has provided the opportunity through lockdowns and forced isolation to create the perfect storm that writers can work on their book.
For some this may be true, however for others – and I include myself – it has created a barrage of situations that have reduced my writing time, rather than expanding it. At first glance, my fingers should be running across the keyboard like a possessed woman. So why aren’t they?
I can sum it up in one word, family, and I use that all-encompassing word with a smile. Even though my writing time has now been cut in half than before, I don’t envy it, because I actually feel the need to nurture, comfort, support and teach my loved ones during this unique opportunity for my family to develop a deeper understanding of each other.
Family, they are like the pieces of a puzzle in which the image continually changes and everyone tries to fit in as best they can. Under normal circumstances; pre-Covid; any family difficulties, sibling disagreements, home boundary issues, chores, and finances; could easily be avoided or postponed; simply leaving the family unit under the pretext that he would be late for school, work, or friends. In my case, any annoyance could be put aside until after the first glass of red.
Enter the stage to the right; Covid 19. My daily routine was erased and I found myself sitting in front of a bewildered family at breakfast, who hadn’t said good morning to me in years as I walked out the door at 7am. If they had asked me, before Covid, I would have said: ‘We are a very adaptable family, we have lived in some countries, we have some experience in the world, go ahead! Reality punched me that made my knees shake. I think we got the description, ‘brave’, but that was it.
Before the week was out, our home had become the center of all operations, and each of us acted autonomously according to what was best for our individual interests. My husband was determined to store all the cans of beans within a thirty mile radius. My oldest daughter (who has a young son and an apartment in the neighboring city) needed to know right away what my babysitting schedule would be like for the next year and that I was in it, ‘support bubble’ (?), AND my youngest daughter. she believed she was destined to become a spinster. I started planning how to sneak into the garage to write and drop them all.
The pandemic forced me to step up and be emotionally present for my family. The first few weeks were the hardest, with no routine and no idea what she was expected to do, apart from scouring the supermarkets looking for toilet paper. I was hit with what felt like mass shrapnel: upcoming exams, job interviews, medical exams, and a speeding ticket, all of which had to be taken online with a webcam. I reminded myself, ‘You have moved across continents with a 3 and 6 month old baby, I can do this!’
I don’t remember writing a single line in those first few weeks, while trying to quell the growing panic in the house.
I became an IT repairman, cook, teacher, college advisor, babysitter, bank negotiator, therapist, nurse, dental hygienist, hairdresser, and veterinary nurse, anything but a writer. In an even shorter time, tempers frayed and long-standing annoyances and fears were expressed at the decibels that left our neighbors flushing.
My “lightbulb” moment came after revisiting the cookie tin for the umpteenth time one morning. If Covid didn’t kill me, stress could. I swallowed my pride, like 90% proof bourbon, gathered the family together and announced that I couldn’t do it all. You should have seen their faces! Total disbelief.
Now for the role delegation part. I set around the room asking each of them what their preferred task was and what hidden skill sets they possessed, pointing out that we didn’t need to twerk around the house. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved that they took over the household chores, communicating with the outside world, and scheduling.
At the end of 2020, we had been in lockdown for months and were preparing for the second wave. Our perspective as a family had changed: it is no longer ‘poor me’, now it is ‘what can I do to be useful?’
Finally, he was writing more furiously and with more conviction and creativity than ever. I looked at my family, one of the millions on the planet, and I thought, “wow, these people support me and I support them, and in turn, we support our community.” It was a domino effect. I am not alone. We are not alone.
Writing under the pseudonym Pandora, Claire Pandora Gearty lives in Devon, England with her husband and two daughters. His first novel, The Pilgrim of Balance, which has been sold in nine countries since 2015, was adapted for a screenplay and its follow-up novel, Pilgrim and the geometry of fear, was published in 2016. He is working on the third in the trilogy, Pilgrim and the Fall of Kings.