Taking Control

Let’s face it. Everywhere we turn these days, we’re being hit about the head and shoulders with something having to do with Covid-19. There are the doomsayers that forecast this will be the worst pandemic in the history of man. It will kill more people, make more sick and there will be so many Typhoid Mary’s walking around that we will never see a time without the virus until there is a vaccine. Then there are those who believe this is some sort of conspiracy formed by all the governments or technocrats or someone in order to take over our lives. Somewhere in between is the truth. The virus can be very bad for those who catch it. The overreaction of the government on all levels is ruining our economy on the short term and potentially on the long term. The media is using it to cast more blame on Trump because of Trump Derangement Syndrome. And somehow, through all this, we have to carry on.

For certain things, it’s easy to carry on. Food has to be bought–and either picked up or delivered unless you want to brave the stores yourself. The house has to be cleaned. The animals have to be cared for. Family members and friends have to be checked on. Those are the easy things. The harder, at least for me, has been focusing on work.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve “worked”. I have plot notes, world-building notes, character notes for at least five different . What I don’t have are productive words. It didn’t dawn on me until last night why.

The easy answer is that my routine has changed. And, to be honest, that is part of it. But the real answer is I can’t focus. Since learning last month there was a chance (a small one but one we couldn’t ignore) that Mom had been exposed to this damned virus, I’ve been splitting my focus between whatever I’m doing at the time and her. Even when she is in the other part of the house, I keep an ear open, listening. That wears on me and it tears my attention away from the actual business of writing.

So what’s the answer? I didn’t know until I read a post by Kris Rusch this morning. I need to focus on those things I can control right now. That means, at least for me, making a plan. More importantly, it means sticking to that plan. It also means knowing when the plan has to be deviated from and not letting that deviation completely throw off the rest of the day.

In other words, it is remembering that writing is my job and treating it as such. So, here goes.

Because I’m not a morning person, and because I have responsibilities at another blog where I’m the managing editor (and get to talk politics to my heart’s content), the first couple of hours each morning consist of coffee and catching up on news. Now, that doesn’t always help my blood pressure, but it gives me a chance to let the brain kick in.  Once that’s done, it is time to do a little work around the house to get the blood moving.

By 9 or so every morning, I’m going to be settling down at my desk. No more writing–or trying to–in the den or my room. The only other location I’m giving myself permission to work at is the back porch (when it’s not too cold. I’m sorry, it’s mid-April. It shouldn’t be in the low 40s in Texas). That is where I’ll stay until lunch when I take a break, check the blog, eat, etc.

After another hour or so of work, I need to get some exercise. That’s the biggest hit I’ve taken during this shelter in place order. I’m not getting out like I used to, so I’m not exercising like I used to. I feel better when I exercise and need to get back to it.

At night, I need to put it all to one side and spend time reading, talking with family and friends and doing everything I can except let the news get to me.

In other words, I need to cut out the noise and focus.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one. So here’s my question to you. How are you coping with what’s going on and what are you doing to be productive in this time of distractions?


  1. “How are you coping with what’s going on and what are you doing to be productive in this time of distractions?”

    1. I’ve been staying off the news blogs as much as I can, because each new thing is dumber than the one before around here. This is a big deal, because half a day can disappear while I run down some rumor or outrage.

    2. Headphones. When there are people walking around or playing Mario Kart in the same room, you want your tunes.

    3. Music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8Oc90QevaI
    This is the stream that’s keeping my synapses nicely oiled. 24/7, hardly any singing.

    4. Taking the dog out for his rip around the place is key. 10 minutes every couple of hours, we go outside and play don’t-fetch. (Two balls. One to chew, one to chase.)

    5. Cutting myself and everybody else a bunch of slack. Its the friggin’ zombie apocalypse, everybody is doing their thing as much as they can. Distressingly little in a lot of cases, but I am no paragon either, so I can put up with them if they put up with me.

    Taken together, all that is keeping me ~ on an even keel so far. That and the odd scary trip to the store is all that’s going on. Maybe a bit of carpentry on the side when the writing fails to satisfy.

  2. I get up early and go walking before sunrise. Since Day Job is still in effect, for longer hours than when it was live-and-in-person, I have to be “at work” by 0800. In the mornings I do Day Job. In the afternoons I write, and do Day Job. The evenings are mine, unless I have to do Day Job (which is the same as before March.) That is six days a week. The seventh day I try to rest.

  3. I’m in the fail mode of coping; a failure to enact a plan being a plan to fail. Just enjoying being with my partner, and us both being alive. Everything else seems rather secondary to that.

  4. Trying to resist the urge to write out some of the comments/posts/trolls that have come to my mind. No real productive benefit, and take away from productive stuff I can do.

    Trying to manage the productive stuff to get better than one in four parts productive, with the other parts being stress, fretting, and attempting to manage anxiety in inefficient ways.

    Stuff that isn’t productive can help if narrowly constrained. Stuff I can drop if I don’t get far in a few minutes, stuff that can wait for the expensive time investment for more affordable periods, stuff that I can think over without getting lost, and doesn’t remind me of what is stressing me.

    Noticing and admitting when I’ve been more productive than I feel that I have.

    Acknowledging that I am having challenges, of a nature I have gotten past before.

    Acknowledging when I have a serious problem, and can spend a little time now finding an actionable remedy.

  5. Hit some false-starts and dead-ends on my works in progress, so I decided to take another look at one of my more promising it’s-not-abandoned-just-dormant projects from a while back.

  6. Still working. People still need me to be there, so I’m there.
    Still weightlifting, because if I didn’t have the outlet for stress of picking up heavy things and putting them back down again, my life – and more importantly, my husband’s quality of life – would go downhill.
    Still working on writing every day… although, since I finished the book, that’s become a little strange and scattershot. Some days are edits. Some are nothing at all, as I review old story fragments and see what might come back to life. Yesterday, started something new. We’ll see – I don’t have a process for transitioning from one work to another yet.

  7. I’m trying to get my secret short story ready to become a reader magnet for my newsletter. Before that I was editing the novel WIP, so I haven’t had to do any fiction drafting for almost a month, which is probably just as well. I’ve started Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ads Challenge to help with advertising my new series, so I’m publishing, editing, marketing, learning, doing the day jobs, writing blog posts for fiction and the day job, and cooking. My husband and I are walking 2 or 3 miles most every day.

    I tell myself to stay off the news blogs, but that regularly fails.

    I got the cover for the secret short yesterday, so I’m back to publishing tasks.

  8. Trying to keep spirits up when I really am not feelin’ it.

    Gotten further along in a story than I expected before hitting the “now what?” wall, so going back through the earlier attempts to see what I can jump start.

    Spending a lot of time feeling guilty about not playing Final Fantasy 14 because I just really don’t feel like it– and trying not to worry about the signs of depression. -.-

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