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We were born for this

If you’re an introvert like me, you’ve probably seen this meme floating around on social media in the last few years and thought that it perfectly describes your attitude.

As writers and creatives, our ability to work from home is likely one of the biggest benefits of this life we’ve chosen. That and the fact that we spend every day doing something we love that fills our souls. So in a way, these #SocialDistancing and #ShelterInPlace orders coming from multiple governors and mayors across the country seem right up our alley. You could even say we’ve been preparing for this our whole lives. Shoot, we could even offer online courses in avoiding crowds. Except that would involve people. So ick.

But what happens when the safety of our home offices, couches, dining room tables, or kitchen counters is no longer the refuge we have chosen for ourselves but the quarantine that is thrust upon us by official edict? Suddenly, our tranquil havens transform into prisons simply because someone in “authority” is telling us we must not leave, and the desire to escape reaches a fever pitch.

For the entire month of February, I rented a small cottage in the South Bay area of California for a writing retreat and worked on a brand new middle-grade novel, a presentation for a panel at a major conference earlier this month, some smaller presentations that I still don’t know if I will be able to deliver (unless they go online), and I even did my taxes. Most of the time, I spent ten to twelve hours a day working. I was tucked away from family and friends, incredibly productive, and I loved every minute of my self-imposed isolation.

Now I’m back in Michigan and in my own comfy bed with access to a washer and dryer in the same building (instead of having to take a Lyft to do laundry), I have a microwave, my good Global knives, and my N’Espresso machine. Yet I feel trapped and haven’t written a single word of my middle-grade since coming home.

And then…

And then I saw the people singing on the balconies in Italy.

And I saw people putting up their holiday lights again.

Beth Pickens, author of YOUR ART WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, understands that creatives must continue to make art, and she gives some great advice for moving forward during difficult times.

First, she says, start exactly where you are. What can you do right here, right now? How can you fulfill your artist’s soul and create with what you have? What is your version of singing on your balcony?

Second, there are things you must accept and things you must change. Obviously, we must all accept that the situation will require sacrifices for weeks, if not months. What we can change is how we respond to the demands placed on us. What is your version of hanging holiday lights?

Third, we still need joy. “A joy-filled life leads to sustainability,” Pickens says. If we can find the things that will bring us joy, we can sustain ourselves during the turbulent times ahead.

Pickens is reminding me that being in my home is not isolation. It is comfort and safety. I can walk my dog outdoors. I can go for a drive (and fill my gas tank without ever coming in contact with another human). I can dance outside on my deck. Hey, my neighbors already think I’m a little off (they’re not necessarily wrong).

It seems to me, this is the perfect time to continue creating stories for children who need them, now more than ever. To me, that is joy.

Jay Whistler provides developmental edits for picture books, middle grade, young adult, and adult novels. She also offers editorial assessments, query and synopsis critiques, and sensitivity reads. Find out more about Jay here.

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