Whether someone has relished in the alone time that COVID-19 has mandated, or they are an extravert that cannot stand another day of social distancing, Coronavirus has affected everyone. People have lost loved ones, or been sick themselves. People have lost their jobs and had to miss important events. People are isolated and being forced to adapt; no matter who they are and where they are from, they’ve felt these effects.
Humans are social creatures who by nature look for a connection. So, when we are forced to isolate ourselves from our loved ones and interrupt our way of life for an extended period of time, it is not surprising that we’ve seen an increase in mental health issues.
A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information investigates the responses to COVID-19 through personal stories published in newspapers in Britain and Sri Lanka. The researchers studied the progression of mental health breakdown in individuals and social and economic collapse over the course of a month of self-isolation or quarantine.
One of the stories collected in the study shows the increase in mental health struggles: “Since going into isolation my anxiety has really increased. It often comes really unexpectedly. I have trouble breathing and thinking straight. It’s just a sense of all-over- the-placeness” (Ligia, Story 1). This makes sense, and the feeling of “all-over-the-placeness” is probably relatable for people who have never even dealt with anxiety before. There is fear that comes with an invisible threat to your health, and ultimately no end date for the pandemic in the site. Bottom line: people can learn to adjust, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that reports on national health issues released a brief titled, “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.”
The brief discusses how the virus has resulted in barriers for people already suffering from mental illness. It states:“A broad body of research links social isolation and loneliness to poor mental health; and recent data shows that significantly higher shares of people who were sheltering in place (47%) reported negative mental health effects resulting from worry or stress related to coronavirus than among those not sheltering in place (37%). Negative mental health effects due to social isolation may be particularly pronounced among older adults and households with adolescents, as these groups are already at risk for depression or suicidal ideation” (Chidambaram). So, COVID-19 is affecting people’s mental health. But how are writers specifically affected, and how can they adapt to the market’s demands? Writing is something that can happen alone and inside; you really don’t need anyone or anything, aside from a computer (or pen and paper, depending on how old school you are). But just because a writer has the time to write does not mean the inspiration and motivation magically appear, unfortunately.
In an online blog called Camels & Chocolate, created by journalist Kristin Luna, freelance writer Margaret Littman talks about the effect that COVID-19 had on freelance journalists. She works mostly for magazines and travel publications and explains that contracts for travel articles have disappeared because travel has ceased, understandably. “Major outlets, like Fortune magazine, eliminated their freelance budgets entirely,” she says. Writers have not been immune to the decreasing job security brought on by the limited demand for content, and people in freelance positions are often the first to be shut out from continued opportunities.
However, as stated before, some people have jumped at the ample downtown. Those who have been waiting for the time to sit down and write that zombie novel that they’ve dreamt of have been given the golden opportunity.
The Guardian reports that many publishing houses have seen spikes in submissions since quarantine began. The article quotes Lisa Coen, from renowned Irish publisher Tramp Press, saying that while they normally receive four to five submissions per day they are now doubling it, “receiving up to 16 in one day” (Barnett).
So this tells us that there is an opportunity. With the struggle also comes a chance to work even harder.
The point is that the writer has to find what works for them. All of the greats did. Edgar Allen Poe had a cat. Virginia Woolf liked purple pens and Agatha Christie ate apples in the bathtub (Popova). Every great writer that we all know and love has found what works for them, and we can’t let coronavirus stop us from doing what we love!
So, we encourage you to keep doing what you do. Stay safe and healthy, and if you can, find some time in the day to write. Make your routine, chose your story and tell it to us. In an effort to support fellow writers, below is a list (a product of Poets & Writers) of resources/organizations that have been set up for aspiring writers that may need relief in this stressful time.
Barnett, David. “Finally Working on That Novel as You Self-Isolate? You’re Not Alone | Books | The Guardian.” The Guardian, The Guardian, 26 Mar. 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/mar/26/novel-writing-during-coronavirus-crisis-outbreak.
---. “Finally Working on That Novel as You Self-Isolate? You’re Not Alone | Books | The Guardian.” The Guardian, https://www.facebook.com/theguardian, 26 Mar. 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/mar/26/novel-writing-during-coronavirus-crisis-outbreak.
“‘I Feel like Death on Legs’: COVID-19 Isolation and Mental Health.” PubMed Central (PMC), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7340050/. Accessed 19 Aug. 2020.
Kristin. “What Coronavirus Looks Like for Travel Writers and Journalists.” Camels & Chocolate: Travel & Lifestyles Blog, https://www.facebook.com/camelsandchocolate/, 8 May 2020, https://www.camelsandchocolate.com/how-coronavirus-affects-travel-writers/.
Popova, Maria. “The Odd Habits and Curious Customs of Famous Writers – Brain Pickings.” Brain Pickings, 23 Sept. 2013, https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/09/23/odd-type-writers/.
Staff. (2020, August 11). Resources for Writers in the Time of Coronavirus. Retrieved September 03, 2020, from https://www.pw.org/content/resources_for_writers_in_the_time_of_coronavirus
“The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use | KFF.” KFF, 21 Apr. 2020, https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/.
In-text Citation:(“The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use | KFF”)