A yoga teacher I studied with years ago gave this guidance for how to be with one’s thoughts during meditation: Neither holding on nor pushing away. It helps me now with writing in addition to meditation and life in general—neither holding on to my old normal nor pushing away the present. I’m experiencing writing now as a balancing act, both a remembering practice without holding on and a letting-go practice without pushing away.
My work in progress, book eight in the Mae Martin series, is pre-pandemic. My books are always set several years in the past because I want to get the context right. While I don’t write directly about current events, they exist in the background and have a realistic impact on my characters’ lives. Eventually, maybe in three to five years, I might set a book in the spring of 2020. It’s too soon to write fiction about what’s happening now, and too soon for anyone to want to read it.
I’m keeping notes, though, and making an archive of how we live through this in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, since my stories take place here. Maybe I’ll never write the book, but preparing as if I’m going to helps me process everything and stay focused. As well as saving copies of statewide public health orders and keeping track of the news, I’m writing down daily observations on life in our community during our present challenges.
I haven’t decided what the mystery in that distant future book will be. My books aren’t about murder, but other types of wrong-doing. I’ll have a better idea by the time I’m ready to write it, in whatever kind of world we live in then. Preparing the background for that book is part of releasing both worry and expectations. I record the full spectrum of events, and then I can let go of them for the day. I can’t plan the plot yet, because I can’t know what the future holds. Meanwhile, I’ve sketched out possible scenes with my characters in a state of not-knowing and uncertainty, of real loss and potential loss, as they struggle with the sudden change. So far, a lot of the dialogue in these quick drafts is humorous, as are many of my conversations—on the phone or six feet away—with my neighbors and friends. Dark humor at times, but it’s part of how we cope.
Meanwhile, my main creative focus is on a book in which people visit each other’s homes, go out dancing, meet for coffee, take aerobics classes and college classes in person, and share hugs. This is my remembering practice. Not clinging to what was normal once, but honoring it.