The world needs your help. Right now this minute.
Think about it. Seriously. When was the last time someone shouted “HELP!! I NEED A WRITER!!”
(Around the same time as someone shouted “HELP! I NEED AN AUDITOR” or “HELP! I NEED A KALE GENETICIST”, I would imagine).
I’m not writing this blog post from the point of view of someone who can help. I can’t help in this virus crisis. I am as useless as a sponge raincoat. A dial-up internet connection. A weak handshake. A superfluous simile. I am writing this blog post as someone who is asking for help.
Why’s that, I hear nobody gasp at all, because they are all glued to the rolling headlines which for once mean something that’s really bloody serious whilst simultaneously reminding us of something bubonic from the 1300s?
Well, it’s because it occurred to me that something is happening globally today which has actually never happened before in human history. And that is that the world needs help… from writers.
This is because the world is currently dealing with a new reality. And when we can’t make sense of things, we all go hunting for advice.
So quite apart from the fact that there is more of a thirst for content now than ever, meaning that for the next 3-4 weeks blogs will be more relevant than they have been since those last famed five minutes in 2008, it’s time for writers to think about what they can offer the world, and give it. Now. Because all of a sudden, the world is lacking simple answer to the most rudimentary questions which bizarrely, only writers will have both the experience and skills to answer, such as:
- How the hell we’re supposed to work from home long-term
Newspapers are awash with articles about working from home, but few of them give people practical advice about how to do it AND KEEP YOUR SANITY AT THE SAME TIME.
But writers have been doing this forever. They are the only cohort of people who have consistently worked alone, from home, for years. Nobody knows this like a writer.
So I want loads of advice, please. It’s not just about productivity and purpose. We need answers to questions such as:
- Should I wear clothes if I never use video calling?
- Assuming the answer is yes to the above, what clothes should I wear?
- If the answer is no, what the hell do you do for a living?
- I normally walk to work, attend yoga classes and play sport at the weekends. When and how should I exercise now?
- Should I get a dog?
- How does lunch work around here?
- How do I structure my day and avoid distractions when nobody can see what I’m doing?
- What time should I start working?
- What time should I finish work? Does it depend on how much I did or didn’t achieve?
- Why is everyone posting pictures of ironing boards online?
- How do I minimise family distractions? In other words, how many times is it legally permissible to shout at bored out-of-school children?
- I’ve been working at home alone now for eight days, and I think I’m being bullied. Can I complain to HR about myself?
Selfishly, if you could reply with definitive answers to the above questions before Monday morning (my time), that would be great, thanks.
- How to stay connected with people whilst still practicing social distancing
It’s no secret that being a writer in the modern age is 95% social media, 5% writing. But it’s not just any old social media: no other cohort of people uses social media to such a bespoke and personal degree than writers. Writers aren’t about sharing cat memes and political diatribes coined by other people. Writers will generate their own memes, spew their own political DNA, and post unique answers to questions nobody asked them all day long if permitted.
This is more important than you think, because the end result is that writers are more genuinely connected to people they never meet than anyone else online. Everyone can learn from this as we close our doors. We’re hungry enough for real connection in a world where we can meet and slobber over each other in a physical sense; being locked away from each other can be as deadly for some people as a virus.
For this reason, I say writers: let your social media feeds be a beacon to those who are about to find out what loneliness feels like. Just one reply to a comment, or two silly sentences you write from the point of view of your dog could be the difference for someone in isolation between happy and sad.
- I’m afraid of losing my job/paycheque/clients because of the virus. What should I do?
I’m not even going to make a joke about this one. This is fecking serious. Loads of people all over the world are terrified that social distancing or lockdown rules are going to take away their livelihood, and no vague and detail-free announcement by a government about temporary debt or tax relief is going to take away from their fear on this one. Hairdressers, physical therapists, bus drivers, airline cabin crew, childminders, event managers, dancers, conference organisers: the list goes on.
Writers obviously don’t have an solution to this question (just as starting to write a book now about a pandemic is not going to help anyone). What they can do is offer some advice about living without money. About what happened that time that they quit their job and tried to write full-time. How they coped when a missed deadline, poor sales or a publishing decision resulted in them having to change horses mid-stream with no idea how to pay any bills, let alone the two red ones on the doormat.
Most of all, writers can offer stories about how the worst case scenario didn’t result in destitution or permanent damage. And what the world needs right now is positive stories about how things don’t result in destitution or permanent damage. Because they usually don’t. No matter how viral the bad news gets.
- I’m so bored I think I might punch a hole in the wall. What now?
Oh man, have you come to the right place! Look, writers: you are kings and queens of Imagination in today’s world. So, come on. Suggest things.
Think of the world as characters in a novel where people are locked inside rooms and apartments and buildings, and give them something to do. Make them specific to your genre – whether it be crime, YA, children’s stories.
Make a daily challenge out of things you’ve invented for your characters to do, and post them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, your blog, (TikTok if you’re under 20). The world will thank you for it. Strung out parents may even want to pay you.
That said, if you’re a literary fiction writer, good luck with that.
And if you’re a crime writer, I would suggest that you don’t suggest that people in lockdown inflict violence upon each other. Theft either. Up to you, though.
The moral of this story is that in order to get through a pandemic, it’s becoming clearer than ever that we need inspiration, imagination, creativity, and a happy ending. Writers: you have never been more relevant than you are today. So get on your marks, and…. GO.