I was in Paris less than two weeks ago and everyone was being mildly careful about not coughing on each other. We all knew Coronavirus was a thing, but I think everyone broadly assumed it would just be dealt with somehow. While we were away, we started seeing news reports about panic-buying in UK supermarkets. Ten days later and we’re all basically in lockdown…
Last night I read this story in the NYT about a group of friends who went canoeing down the Colorado River and were off the grid for three weeks. Those guys returned to a world that had changed more than they could possibly imagine.
No one knows how this is going to play out or how long that playing out is going to take. I’ve been working from home for about 25 years, so the notion of self-isolation shouldn’t be such a big deal for me, and yet I’m already feeling like the walls are closing in because there’s a big difference between choosing not to go out and not being allowed to.
But this isn’t a letter about Coronavirus per se because I’m sure we’re all reading and watching more than enough about that already. Anxiety levels are through the roof, and it’s worth remembering that this is how the media likes it; it’s how they make their money. That’s not to say they’re telling lies or that the news isn’t important, but it’s worth trying to filter the amount you take in; you need to know what’s happening and what you’re meant to be doing, but too much of this stuff can have an alarming effect on your mental equilibrium.
And you’re going to need that equilibrium now. Here are some sites I’m relying on for a little balance:
The Inkl Newsletter, which curates news from dozens of sources around the world, starts each bulletin with “Good News”, the positive stuff that is happening around the world and that’s a good way to start the day.
Colossal posts amazing pieces of art from around the world every day.
Atlas Obscura gives incredible glimpses of unusual and interesting places around the world.
We’re supposed to be keeping physical distance from each other, so it’s worth looking at how we open up social connections through technology.
I’ve been looking at various video conferencing/chat utilities and have come to the conclusion that Zoom is infinitely better than Skype. It’s so good that I’m toying with using it to set up a virtual writers’ room on a project that may get greenlit whilst the virus is still upon us. I suspect we may end up staying virtual even after the all-clear, because the idea of being able to participate with full HD video, a virtual whiteboard, live document swapping etc all without leaving the house could really catch on.
I’m also going to be using Zoom to continue the Call Of Cthulhu campaign some friends and I have been playing every week (I looked at Fantasy Realms and Roll20 as alternate game hosting engines and I think Zoom trumps them).
A decent camera and microphone improve the video-conferencing experience immeasurably. I use a Logitech Brio HD Pro webcam and I just ordered a Blue Yeti Xmicrophone. I’m toying with creating some kind of INFODUMP podcast with the latter (I have promised this before and not delivered, so don’t hold your breath).
Slack is also a life-saver. I’ve reactivated the INFODUMP Slack channel in the hope that it will allow people to swap working-from-home tips and provide some kind of mutual support. If you want in, drop me a line at email@example.com
On the INFODUMP site, I’m going to be posting interesting (well, they’re interesting to me) things that are not virus-related, in the hope of at least providing a place people can go to take their minds off stuff.
For those who like audio drama, I just put up five of my radio plays on the site that are free to listen to and might provide a few hours pleasant diversion.
I’ve reactivated social media (I’m a fool because I think I will be able to avoid it throwing me into a blind panic). I’m @julianactual on Twitter and the INFODUMP feed is @INFODUMPtweets.
And I think there will be more regular INFODUMP newsletters landing in your inbox. While this may not be great news for you, it might delay my descent into insanity, so you’ll just have to suck it up.
I’m a writer, so there’s still work to be done despite the difficulty of focusing at the moment (yes I know Shakespeare wrote some of his best plays whilst under quarantine - fuck him). I have a couple of movie scripts to finish, a Netflix pilot to write and Season Three of the podcast to write, so I’m going to be plenty busy for a while.
Make (non-physical) connections; find places to retreat to, in books, in movies, in games, that give your mind a break from the anxiety; help people when you can. And journal - it really helps to get you thoughts out onto paper. And it will be interesting to read back when all this is done. The transition to the new-normal is going to be harder than the new-normal itself. This too shall pass.