223: Ep 223: One Thing Writers Can Do in a Pandemic: Document the Days
As I write this, a pandemic is spreading across the planet. I surely hope you and those you love are spared any sickness during this worldwide crisis. I’m stating this in part to document my day in the midst of these extraordinary circumstances.
This is something we can do as writers:
Document the days.
Keep a Journal If You Can
Record your story as it’s unfolding; capture and preserve—in real time, in your voice—what will become source material for future historians or for your own memoir.
Dr. Shane Landrum wrote, in a series of tweets:
Advice from a historian in the Boston area: Start keeping a journal today, ideally a hand written one if that’s within your ability. Write about what you’re seeing in the news, how yr friends are responding, what is closed in yr neighborhood or city or state or country. Save it…Sometimes you know you’re living through an event that will be in the history books very large…personal stories don’t make it into the history books unless people are writing them down in the first place. Keep a journal if you can.1
His Twitter thread prompted people to suggest typing up and printing out their observations and others to recommend indelible ink on archival paper.
But you can find other, creative ways to document the days.
Audio or Video Diaries
If you’re a writer who is also a first responder, health care worker, or supply chain contributor delivering food and goods to stores—or stocking and supplying the stores—you may not have time to write.
On a break, record a one- to three-minute audio or video diary on your phone. Tell us about the fatigue, the tasks, the challenges, the people. Share it, or save it. But document the days.
If you’re not in some of those critical roles—and I’m sure I missed entire groups of people—you are likely at home tending to your work, perhaps educating your child or overseeing her work. You, too, can use a video or audio diary to document the days.
Share Some Now, Save Some for Later
Some of it, you’ll save for later: for a future project, for family, for historians.
Some of it, though, you can share right now, to offer hope and accurately report on your world.
Publish on social media, or through your blog, or through a podcast like this.
Publish and distribute your most urgent messages however and wherever you can most easily get the word out to the people who need it most.
Use Dr. Landrum’s hashtag, if you like, to communally chronicle your experiences with others across the globe: #pandemicjournal2
However you choose to document your days, I urge you to do this.
Writers Document the Details
We are in a unique position, as writers, to know how to weave sensory detail into our observations that will recreate it for readers later; we understand that the story keeps going and if we document it today, we’ll grab texture and tension and we can scene-build, and if we don’t, we will have forgotten when the world moves on from toilet paper hoarding to new challenges, as it already has.
It’s easy to forget the messaging and actions of early stages when the next one happens a mere hours later.
Our role as writers in these uncertain times is to be among those who capture the stories.
Tell Your Story
You tell yours from your corner of the world, and I’ll tell mine.
One day, they’ll fit together to help people understand how one thing led to another in the high-level reporting alongside the everyday events: the confusion, the indecision; the toilet paper hoarding and the jokes that ensued; the frantic trips to Walmart and Target and grocery stores, not knowing how to prepare for such a time as this.
We’ve had questions: will we go on lockdown or will life go on as usual? We will be able to share how that changed day by day, moment by moment, question by question.
Document the Questions
The questions, so many questions…
O Me! O Life!
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,