Strange Animals 23mar2020: This One’s About The Thing

Hey folks! Unless something incredibly surprising happens, this is the one time I’ll talk about the time we live in specifically. As big as the thing is, it is only one of the things happening. But if you read newsletters to escape from that, you might want to skip this one or read it later.

To make up for this, I’ll send out another edition tomorrow or day after, collating some of the wonderful digital free reads that creators are offering for people to read in the lockdown.

I’m not gonna offer advice on how to set up a new routine in this time, From the Perspective of a WFH Veteran. Any advice you need about working from home, or about maintaining your physical health, or about learning to cook for yourself at short notice, you can find elsewhere quite easily. Anyway, fun fact, I spent Wednesday-Friday mostly freaking out and not being productive, so fat lot of help I’ve got to offer you.

When we got the recommendation to self-isolate, I joked around with my friends about how that’s my normal life as a freelancer anyway (you might remember that from my previous newsletter, oh so long ago), but then I realised I’d have to take this seriously, given how bad things look likely to get, and that I didn’t have the choice to go out anymore, I did go stir crazy. My productivity went way down, and for a couple of days, all I could do was look at the news and despair, which is … quite far from my normal, I gotta say.

But that’s the thing. This isn’t a proportionate situation to the lives most of us have lived thus far, and it doesn’t require a proportionate response.

I hear a lot of folks talking about how this is the best time to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time for, and sure, do that if that helps, but being productive is not the priority here. Your mental and physical health is. And acting as if everything’s normal and the only difference is you can’t get out of the house isn’t necessarily right for everyone.

My advice is: be kind to yourself. If you’ve just started working from home, it’s going to take some time to figure out a new routine. If you’re genuinely worried about your monetary future, you’re not gonna be able to put that out of your mind instantly, because we’re not creatures made of pure logic and it doesn’t serve you to pretend. If you’re an anxious person like me, you might need to let that take its course as well. Maybe don’t punish yourself for not being able to handle everything with aplomb just yet.

Sure, this could be the perfect time to work on that personal project. But do that because it nourishes you and makes you feel better rather than about any future earnings from it. Or maybe wait a week or two before placing that demand on yourself. Or … it could also not be the perfect time for it.

You might also want to use this time to connect with people. This is the time to tell people you care about them. This is the time to shoot the shit and waste time with your buddies over Skype, or play an RPG. One of my friends has set up a virtual happy hour with his local friends where they gather over Zoom to drink from home at the end of the day. That sounds like fun. This is the one time we’re literally all in this together, so let’s act like it.

People adjust incredibly easily. Almost our entire lives are artificial constructs – lies agreed upon – that we uptake on a day-to-day basis. That’s why this feels so shaky, because so many of those are laid bare unexpectedly. But we build new normals – that is both the lovely and terrifying thing about us. Whether we’ll return to early 21st century “normal” or build a new one is unknown as yet, but every subsequent day it gets easier to uptake (another lovely and terrifying thing).

For myself, I used Saturday to cover up what work I’d missed out on, and I felt much better, because now I didn’t owe anyone anything, and could focus on myself.

I’ve decided that this is a good time to learn to cook more and better, because, even if food deliveries get back up next week, I don’t think it’s such a good idea for me to be eating out or ordering in. (Also, if things go really sideways, knowing how to cook is not such a bad thing.)

I’ve also been catching up with friends, and have scheduled a bunch of Skypes over next week. A lot of these are with my collaborators, but usually we’re just so caught up with work that email is all we can manage. This felt like a good time to talk with people in a similar situation, and to talk about comics just because us nerds love comics with an unreasonable fire.

I do plan to write more starting next week, because I expect a slowdown in projects as people reevaluate schedules. And the weirdest thing is, at this point, I really don’t know if what I’ll write in this time will ever be published for money or be turned into a comic. So that means the ideas I truly love are coming to the fore, because those are the ones I want to write even if no one reads them.

Next week, I’ll come back with something more like my usual stuff. Be well. Wash your hands.