Sandhya Menon: writer of things for teens.

oatmeal comic that says "time is without form or substance"

Now that we’re almost to the point where some states–mine included–are beginning to reopen services (ahem, no comment), I feel more equipped to speak about creating while the entire world has gone completely stark raving mad.

Let me preface this, though, by saying three things:

  1. I was already a full-time writer before all this began,
  2. My kids are old enough to be able to police themselves while I work, and
  3. No one in my nuclear family is older or immunocompromised, so I did not feel the added stress of worrying intensely about their health. Also, neither my husband nor I lost our jobs.

Okay, now that those things are out of the way, I have to say, I actually liked having this time to create happily with no thoughts about travel or other disruptions. My creativity blossomed and came alive, knowing that I had only to sit in my little office, day in and day out, and pour out all manner of creative material. That was the only thing required of me (well, not only but you get my drift) and it was better than I feared it would be.

I did a couple of things early on in the quarantine that I think helped:

  1. I adjusted my expectations for my kids’ schooling, so that I didn’t feel like I was falling behind all the time. I contacted their teachers and told them my kids would be doing the best they could, but that they wouldn’t be able to complete all their assignments as both their dad and I work full-time. Their teachers were all very understanding and supportive.
  2. I made the decision to turn off the constant stream of news assaulting my eyes and ears. Seriously, no one needs to have that amount of input unless they’re running a country (and some people choose not to have it even then, hahaha, amirite? Anyway.). I would feed myself news in drips and drabs just to keep abreast of the basics and the need-to-knows.
  3. I made the decision to stop worrying about my book sales after taking a week at the very beginning to fret and worry about things that were definitely not in my control. After that, I told myself that literally every author in the world was in the same position as me and there was nothing to do about it. I could choose to tank my creativity by worrying about it or I could focus on creating new stuff for once the quarantine was over, and I chose the new stuff. (Hint: Always choose the new stuff!)

Now I’m not saying that there weren’t periods of time when I was stressed or worried or felt wrung out. I did because I’m human and it’s very hard not to feel those things when the world seems to be imploding around your head. But I also took the opportunity to relish the idea of being a creative person and an introvert (not needing people as much is the best when you have to isolate), with so much time on my hands and with very few other commitments. And when I needed social interaction, I reached out to friends, who were all happy to hop on the phone or Zoom or what-have-you with me because they were feeling the claustrophobia, too.

Having to stay home and isolate is not ideal for my mental or physical health, but I’ve come to realize it also doesn’t have to be absolutely awful. In fact, every time I stop and take a moment to be grateful for the big and little things in my life (healthy spouse and kids! perfecting my morning smoothie! a fun, new story world to dive into! my dog who looks ECSTATIC to see me every single time I leave the room and return!) I realize how much I truly have. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, Gratitude, always. Always, gratitude.