• Pandemic: Will You Change as a Writer? As a Person?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in CoronaVirus     Comments 18 comments

    Discussion questions: How will the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home reality change you as a writer? How about as a person? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


    Lots of people are fantasizing about the first thing they’ll do when life returns to normal. Others don’t believe we’ll return to normal at all, ever.

    Whether that’s true or not, it seems likely that many of us will come out the other side of this pandemic having changed in some way. I’m also wondering, will COVID-19 change some of us as writers, either in simple ways like routine and approach or in heavier ways like an overhaul of our belief system.

    I asked a few writers if they believe COVID-19 will change them as writers, and as people. Their responses are below.

    I want to know about you, too: How will the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home reality change you as a writer? How about as a person? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


    That seems impossible to predict. I feel like the arc of my life has thus far made me less interested in myself and more interested in showing up for other people. I hope this continues my slow evolution.

    — Tom Andes, WBN coach/consultant


    Hard for me to tell at this point. Except for added precautionary steps, my overall habits remain pretty much the same. I can point to ways in which, for example, caregiving and cancer have changed and continue to change me. They’re more like effects on bedrock, while so far the direct effects on me of COVID-19 are more like shifting topsoil. But that’s today. It could all change tomorrow.

    — Elissa Malcohn


    I hope this makes me less timid as a writer and more generous as a person. I hope this quiet time is bringing forward new ideas that can become substantive fixtures to look back on and appreciate.

    — Cecily Sailer


    I will more closely resemble Grimace from McDonald’s.

    — Aaron Block, Yak Babies host


    I’m definitely not going to write King Lear during this lockdown, I know that much. But on a more serious note, I find myself thinking a lot about priorities in life. I think a lot of us are being forced to reevaluate our priorities and to reconsider some decisions we’ve made. I guess what I’m hoping for for all of us is that when we get to the other side — whatever that looks like — that we still have our capacity for joy.

    — Adriana Cloud, WBN coach/consultant


    I still believe it isn’t the experience but the reflection on the experience that opens the heart and sets the words free. My first novel was written two years after a time when everything in my life was under siege. Reflection on my survival helped me produce a main character with my stage 0 cancer (that’s an almost cancer treated with real radiation) and create a daughter who had Crohn’s disease like my son. I couldn’t have written during the turmoil, but I longed to write after. Alice Again gave me the opportunity to move on after 9/11. I gave Alice an alternate universe called Red Sky where she could heal. We both ‘got better.’ Will COVID-19 change me? I don’t know. Give me time to reflect and I’ll get back to you.

    — Adrienne Leslie


    I am changed from realizing the closer approach of that anti-artistic principle of evil long at work in the world (aka: “the Unspeakable”; re: Thomas Merton; also James W. Douglass). It is a difficult thing to see and will affect everything I write from here on, whether I intend it or not. The consequence for my writing impulse is twofold. On the one hand, I feel an outrage that makes me want to write my opposition to the dark forces of totalitarianism, like Victor Laszlo in Casablanca. On the other hand, I’m basically a coward and feel inclined to hunker down within my house arrest and write my passions. Something like Cervantes, perhaps, or maybe E. Dickinson.

    Sometimes, I just sit in my stay-home exile on my screened-in back porch on a temperate evening. There, I imagine august literary company. Sitting in the dusk with cigars and whiskey, I discuss drama by lamplight with Mr. Tolkien, Mr. Hilton, Mr. Welles, Mr. Wells, Mr. Orwell, and others. It is a fleeting balm for my soul beyond the reach, or understanding, of the Unspeakable. I suppose most writers have such a snug place in their imaginations. Ultimately, that may be the truest refuge for our sheltering.

    — Ray Foy


    [This] is the one I’m trying to answer for myself… re-evaluating relationships, connections. Churchill’s famous black dog moved in and I’m trying like hell to push him out… really questioning myself, my life, my path. Realizing how much of the normal day-to-day was just a cover to deny the real, at least for me. Leo Buscaglia said to feel negative feelings, don’t devalue, deny, diminish, denigrate or drown them, but use the negatively to become more empathetic. Emotional upset means something is broken somewhere. I usually serve as everyone’s emotional sponge anyway, so trying to keep in frequent touch with those who make me smile and those who don’t… worrying about three people who are depressed and in denial about it. I used to work with persons with suicidal ideation, so I can recognize depression. I’m prone to too much navel-gazing but there has to be a way to become a better person from this. Having daily communication with a seventy-three-year-old cancer survivor who is optimistic about the future, settled in herself and justplainhappy… I figure, gotta learn from the best.

    — Anonymous WriteByNighter


    As far as changing as a writer; it’s up in the air if I am even going to be a writer again. We will see. Winter sucked, my mood was not good, but I had hopes that a pleasant spring would help my state of mind. Instead, this happens. My one face-to-face writing group is put on hold because we temporarily lost or meeting space at the library. I quit the online one because suddenly writing wasn’t fun; bad painful, critiques.

    — David Lemke


    Thank you for reading and contributing. We hope you’re staying healthy and staying safe.

    This post is part of a series collecting the experiences of WriteByNighters during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are links to the rest of these discussion posts:

    Creativity During COVID-19

    What’s making you smile and laugh

    What is giving you hope and encouragement

    What’s making you cry (happy & sad)

    What are you reading

    What are you writing

    How are you writing

    General discussion


    david blogWriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2020 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. If you have a manuscript that’s ready for some editorial care, check out our various critiquing, editorial, and proofing servicesJoin our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Cheryl Guillot Jones

    My daughter commented one day that I would have no problem with social distancing as I am an expert. There is probably a lot of truth in that from her perspective. Until recently with my commute time I maintained a 65 hour week. I should take this time to be less of an invisible woman. Our situation has brought back memories of social isolation and quarantine signs (polio) when I was very little. I had no playmates, there were no birthday parties. So this is a kind of deja vu for me. I don’t like it, but it does feel… Read more »

    Cheryl Guillot Jones

    David, my family and friends have complained for a long time that I have no social media presence. So I will use this time to establish an author website and experiment with other outlets. I am learning how to use Zoom and other such media. In the past I have used only the technology I needed. It is probably time to upgrade.

    Barbara Mealer

    Covid-19, because of the media, will change how people interact. I won’t change as I’m a hugger and need that sense of connection with other humans. Shaking hands has never been a big thing for me. If I don’t know the person a head nod of acknowledgement will do. But all friends and family get hugs and some acquaintances do too. I’m lucky. I live in an area where I can get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sun. There is no one around other than Al, my partner. There hasn’t been one case of the virus in this… Read more »

    stephen Glick

    Barbara the more I hear the talking heads I fear that in a restaurant my server will wear a P.P.e. outfit while I sit in rubber gloves and mask and wait. I truly hope that our future doesn’t look like that.

    stephen Glick

    a question for all . I thought that I would close the book I am writing by a man getting married and his life long friend and cousin hanging himself far away from the wedding. Well the COUSIN WAS KILLED 100 pages before Options anyone??HELP!


    How will this situation change me as a writer? Let me think about this for a moment. I am always going to write and if that makes me a writer; I am not sure. But this situation made me realize being a writer means more than just learning the art of writing and putting together words to make a creative sentence. It also is more than setting goals to win writing contests. I learned I need others. Sitting, isolated in my bedroom/office for hours on end, just writing is not what a writer must do to earn the title WRITER/ARTIST.… Read more »



    Hans De Leo

    To answer your questions, yes, and yes. That is, unless you already have this thing called life figured out and have nothing more to learn. In that case enlighten the rest of us with your wisdom. I’m old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, the JFK assassination, race riots, sit-ins, inflation, recessions, unemployment, the Hong Kong flu, the AIDS epidemic, swine flu, Y2K, you name it. Most if was, quite frankly, “meh” unless it touched me in some way. For instance, the Cuban Missile Crisis had everyone scared to death for a while. Going through periods of unemployment wasn’t… Read more »

    Glynis Jolly

    The change in my writing and the coronavirus pandemic almost happened simultaneously. I read about what was going on in China and a few days after that I decided I needed to change my writing so I wouldn’t just leave it behind in a hole someplace. I changed from fiction to nonfiction.

    David Duhr

    Hi Glynis. It’s good to hear from you. So what prompted this change, and how is it going so far?

    Glynis Jolly

    The need for change was obvious before Christmas last year. Trying to write more to my WIP was getting downright grueling. My blog had been about writing too and I had cut back on updating that to only once per month. The whole idea of writing had gotten old and mind-numbing. I tried to keep that blog going after the first of the year but just couldn’t see the point of it. I developed a new blog, Thoughts in Print, where I could practice a new writing I had entertained way back when I was in college, opinionated nonfiction. At… Read more »

    Jennifer Pommer

    The pandemic has brought mixed patterns regarding my writing. One of my goals in 2020 was to have been to jumpstart my writing from occasional journal writing to actively write my ideas, whether for novels, articles, poems, where ever these ideas take me. Since the pandemic’s lockdown, I have been writing more and organizing many of the disparate paths that I’ve written down although maybe not as much as you would think with all this ‘free’ time’. As most people are doing, I’ve been engaged in the news and what to do to stay safe . But luckily, I am… Read more »

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