There are two truths I’ve realized about the Coronavirus pandemic:
- Everyone feels they are dramatically, uniquely affected.
- Everyone is right.
Every one of us is affected. No one knows exactly how much.
There is a relentless, invisible virus among us, and there is also a weird anxiety in the air.
Like one minute I’m in a positive mindset: We’ve Got This!
Then literally a minute later I watch that doctor’s video about how fastidious you need to be when you clean your groceries… and fear and anxiety settle in.
Like suddenly I’m jumped by a Feelings Mafia that’s been lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce + mug me + empty me out.
It wears me down. Maybe you, too?
* * *
I spend a third of my year on the road, speaking at events and meeting people like you. But, as of now, I won’t be on an airplane until late June.
That’s disorienting in many ways, but especially creatively. I get so much inspiration and motivation from stepping outside my home bubble.
So I feel Feelings Mafia-mugged creatively, too. Frozen like a person-shaped slab of permafrost washed up prostrate on the couch, binging Schitt’s Creek.
* * *
How is any of this crisis inspiring? How can we take care of our mental health? How do we stay hopeful when the Feelings Mafia is lurking just outside the frame?
Sportscasters are getting through the sports sabbatical by narrating play-by-plays of their lives or the lives of those around them: marble races, two dogs playing in the park, people crossing the street, or (my favorite) street pigeon dressage. I like the absurdity of it.
That’s working for me, too: Taking an ordinary-nothing moment and playing it out to its ludicrous end. Those moments have become my daily writing prompts.
I’ve been doing that everywhere in the past two weeks, most publicly on Instagram Stories. You can see one on the “profound” hardship of running out of orange juice. Or how my ancient little dog lying for hours on a mat becomes a virtual yoga class with the world’s least versatile yoga instructor.
Humor is the truth exaggerated to an absurd degree. Imagining absurd outcomes with a sense of humor does two things:
- It reminds me that this virus isn’t permanent. The profound hardships of so many of our friends and fellow humans will end. 👈 👈 👈 (That last sentence feels like a statement we shouldn’t have to actually make. But some days feel endless and dire (mugged by the Feelings Mafia). Some days I crave that perspective.)
- It keeps me sane. It reminds me that my problems are, on balance, minuscule. It keeps me creatively limber at a time when I’m feeling emotionally atrophied.
* * *
If you want to try my daily writing prompt, here’s the framework I use:
▶️ Introduce a “real” problem.
You’re out of orange juice, too.
Your kids are bored.
▶️ Elevate it to a ridiculous degree.
What if you get a repetitive stress injury from squeezing your own oranges?
What if the kids never go back to school again?
▶️ Make the “solution” as absurdly specific as possible.
What if you also had to milk your own cow? Make your own clothes?
What if you devised a curriculum around things they really need to learn: Like AP Correct Way to Load a Dishwasher? What if you expelled them from your own home school?
▶️ Frame that ridiculous solution in a modern context.
What if you sewed your own khakis for casual-office Friday?
What if you were eventually Director of Admissions for Home College University? Would you wait-list your own child for the Class of 2025?
Here’s the writing prompt framework:
Elevated problem: _________________________
Absurdly specific solution: ___________________
Framed in a modern context: _________________
Don’t overthink it. Write a few sentences. Keep your good humor.
Let’s stay in the light: The Feelings Mafia won’t come out and mug you there.
This is an expanded version of a piece that ran in my own email newsletter. Sign up for exclusive offers and ideas not shared anywhere else: AnnHandley.com/newsletter.
Above: I can’t handle another close-up of the spikey coronavirus ball. So here’s my dog Abby waiting on brunch.