Well, what a bloody weird time this is. Are we getting used to it yet? Plagues, pandemics and killer viruses are just something we read about in history books that get turned into movies aren’t they?
Remember that time when we were all moaning about our jobs, stressing out about sitting in traffic and throwing things at the telly when our team conceded a penalty in the last minute? What we wouldn’t give now to be able to go out for lunch with our friends and colleagues, to take a drive to the coast with the family or to be back in the stands swearing at the ref with our fellow supporters.
Instead, we’re being forced into a clean break with the past and we’re being asked some searching questions about the very things that make us human. We’ve been thrust from the comfort and routine familiarity of our wonderfully mundane existence into an enforced alternative reality and we don’t like it at all.
We’re constantly teased by our Facebook reminders. The things we find meaning in are changing and there’s a stark realisation that we have taken for granted so many aspects of our lives, every single day. For many of us, our sense of purpose has been furloughed along with our work.
As humans, even as immensely privileged and entitled Westerners, we can endure far more than we care to imagine. We just don’t want to. We all have our own way of dealing with this. How we think and behave is driven by our value systems, our moral compass, our beliefs, our knowledge, experiences and attitudes. All those things that were such a stable part of our existence, along with our own free will.
In terms of managing this unchartered territory, amidst the lightheartedness, the amusing memes and the fun family video calls, we need something beyond humour to lift our spirits. We need something soul-stirring, something inspiring, something that gives us collective strength.
So we watch in awe the news reports, documentaries and videos of those on the front line and we stand at our windows, front doors and balconies to clap in admiration and respect for those that are doing the insanely important jobs that we couldn’t ever imagine doing. If we try to envisage it for just one second or we think of those we know and love being affected then we are confronted with unpleasant emotions.
We condemn the selfish and praise the selfless. We hail those who are saving lives in our hospitals, caring for the elderly in residential homes, filling shelves in supermarkets, delivering essential supplies and collecting our bins and yet these people were always there and always doing these things, way before it was noticed or appreciated and long before it became amazing. This whole scenario is forcing us to re-evaluate and reorganise our entire societal structure.
Despite all of this, we’re still torn. We must do the right thing but every fibre of our being is telling us we need our normal back. We will talk about this period in our lives for many years to come. It will be the focal point for our thoughts and conversations for the foreseeable future. When you look back on this time, how will you remember it? What will you have achieved and what will have changed? Will you define it or will it define you? For many, it will just be a case of getting through it.
Never has there been a better opportunity to start something new. Being stuck at home doesn’t have to be a frustrating drag. It is, only if you allow it to be. This period of time, as daunting and surreal as it is, could be the perfect chance to change something or do something you never would have thought of doing before. This is the opportunity to create a new normal.
What about starting a writing project? Writing is an age old form of communication and it will never go out of fashion. It has huge therapeutic value and is a unique way of expressing emotions. It’s a very helpful way of escaping the madness at a time when we are emotionally burdened. Words have so much power. They can educate, entertain and persuade. They can enlighten our senses and elevate our souls. I appreciate that baking, listening to music and playing Soccer Manager can also do the same thing but writing about those hobbies and passions could inspire others and help you to fall in love with something brand new.
This is a great time to think about journaling or blogging. Creating a permanent record of what will be a significant point in human history is an exciting prospect. Your own unique account, just like Samuel Pepys but with an iMac and Facebook.
Journaling and blogging is a very popular and easy way to get into writing. Many people don’t realise that they already do this in one form or another through their regular updates on social media. Posting about your thoughts, what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, who you’re with and where you are is exactly what journaling is. If you enjoy keeping people informed in this way and try to make your posts or entries entertaining then it’s easy to see how journaling can become a habit.
When it comes to blogging, people think this is some kind of specialist format that only content marketers or influencers use. Well, it’s not actually. Anyone can write a blog. Maybe you’re thinking “I wouldn’t know where to start” or “I’ve never really thought about writing at all.” Perhaps you’re in the “I’m not ‘arty’ or ‘creative’ enough” camp or you think you don’t have any ideas on what to write about. More likely it’s the most common excuse of “I just don’t have the time.” Not such a common excuse anymore.
Remember, if you’re a regular social media contributor then you’re already a writer. As for ideas, well, they’re everywhere. Maybe you’ve experienced something you wouldn’t ordinarily have done over the past few weeks like gone on a virtual date, chaired a work meeting from your garden or done a full on workout via an app.
Think about whether you have a niche. Is there something unique that you do or an area that you might be considered a bit of an expert in that others may find helpful, valuable, inspiring or entertaining? Is there something going on in your local area or a cause or a hobby that you’re really passionate about? Do you find yourself commenting a lot on other people’s posts or on group pages or forums? Maybe you’ve written a couple of TripAdvisor reviews that you’re really proud of. Perhaps you could write a letter to a relative or even your future self. Poems are good too They don’t have to rhyme, hell, they don’t even have to make sense. It’s just a collection of thoughts about something in particular that can be as messy and abstract as you like. Ideas are everywhere and bringing them to life has never been easier.
Many online posts and status updates from friends or family or pages that we follow provide amusement or make us feel a certain way. That’s why we like them. They’re trying to make light of the current situation or to make us stop and think differently about something. They are sharing things that others can relate to. That’s how many of the most successful online blogs, groups and pages got started. By using comedy, by being human and being authentic. That’s what makes something believable and that’s why it resonates with others.
Have you ever been reading a story to the kids and thought “I could do better than this”? Children’s writing is another form you could try and it’s so easy to get into it. There are a plethora of online courses available on numerous learning platforms that cover all forms of writing. Even if you’ve never picked up a pen, it doesn’t matter one iota. All you have to have is an interest, the desire and an open mind.
Writing isn’t time bound. You can do it at any age with any level of ability. It can be a great release just getting your thoughts, feelings and emotions out of your head and onto a screen (or a notebook if you’re old fashioned like me). It’s the age-old adage that everyone has a book in them. Everyone has a story to tell. Yours is fascinating. Your journey is unique. So, stop mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed and robotically hitting ‘Like’ or ‘Share.’ Become the creator. Use the current situation to inspire you. Write something that others will like and share and when they do, do it again. Just write from the heart. Write how you speak or how you think. Just write. If you’re not that confident or you’re not willing to share then just keep it for yourself.
When you look back on this time and when all of this becomes a distant yet vivid memory, will you be proud of what you used this unexpected time to do? I’m not talking about changing the world or gunning for the Nobel Prize, more adding a little piece to your own legacy. Do something different for today, for now. No one is topping up that sand in your hourglass and if there’s one thing that this crisis has taught us, it’s that the present moment is all we really ever have.