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The Write Life: Reconvening May

One of the worst parts of quarantine for me is giving up going to conventions. I love conventions. I love being around people excited about stuff, geeking out with professional geeks, and seeing people display their obsessions in all manner of creative ways. But the convention community is creative, perseverant, and bold as all hell, so it shouldn’t have surprised me to see conventions not only move online but do so in a way that made me feel like I was actually at a con!

In mid-May I attended Flights of Foundry, a streaming conference for sci-fi and fantasy writers. The conference was genuinely amazing, packed with great content—much more than I would have expected for a free conference—and spanning enough hours I was rooted to my computer for more or less 12 hours a day. Was I fatigued by the end? Certainly, but in the good way.

The thing that impressed me the most about Flights of Foundry was how they recreated an in-person experience with virtual tools. The conference operated through several different panel “room” streams, which stayed open between panels. The schedule directed attendees and panelists to the different streams, the same way you might shuffle between panel rooms in a hotel. The rooms didn’t disappear when the panel was over, and if you wanted to just stay in one stream/room, another panel would start in a moment. That aspect alone was enough to make me feel more like I was visiting a conference room than a video stream.

To facilitate the conference atmosphere, Flights of Foundry had a corresponding Discord server. Each panel stream had a Discord channel where you could “attend” with everyone else. This allowed for discussion between and during panels. It allowed the audience to have secondary conversations, questions, and sharing outside of what would have been possible in the in-person format. (I pulled so many book and article recommendations from the Discord.) It was a little like the experiences I’ve had live-tweeting panels, except everyone responding to commentary had the relevant context without me having to also tweet the context.

Outside of the panel room channels, the Discord offered additional places to chat and meet people with similar interests (editor-chat, comics-creator-chat, writer-chat, for example). I didn’t play in the non-panel channels during the convention, but some of them have stayed active, even a couple weeks later.

Suffice it to say, I was extremely happy attending Flights of Foundry as a virtual conference, and if this is any indication of what the convention season might be like for the remainder of 2020, I’m not worried. I’ll miss seeing my friends’ faces in person, but many of the other aspects of conventions can be reproduced virtually, and I’m excited to continue visiting more conferences than I would in a normal year. (Travel is so much easier when I just have to walk from my bedroom to my office.)

 

 

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The Write Life: Quarantined April

The second month in quarantine slowly felt more and more normal as new routines settled into habits and new habits became familiar. Some changes, actually, are welcome and have provided more structure to my day and made me more productive. Whereas March saw my motivation and productivity slowly folding like a flan in a cupboard, April built up to impressive amounts of writing (over 25,000 words) and finally getting back to editing projects. (Which, by the way, thank you to everyone sitting static in the queue for most of the month. Your patience has been key to maintaining my mental health.)

One thing that has helped a lot is that six-days a week I run virtual write-ins for Central Florida Inklings. Inklings used to be my face-to-face writing group that met once a week, but since shifting to an online format, I started offering weekday write-ins. We’ve got a couple times that are stable, but the other times shift, allowing different members to participate and allowing me to have a little variation day to day and week to week, which is, let me tell you, something I desperately needed. Working from home—as I’m sure many of you have noticed—has a sameness that can be devastating. It’s all too easy to forget what day it is when there’s so little variation in your life or schedule. But these write-ins have made me work a little harder to remember the day of the week, and that in turn has helped me stay present and active.

Another improvement to quarantine life is that I purchased some noise-cancelling headphones. It’s now much easier for me to get a quiet slice of time to write and edit, and I can listen to some bops whenever I like. (There may have been a marked increase in Dance Party Writing Breaks over the last two weeks.) I’m still searching out the perfect playlist for writing, but for now, being able to dull the random noises around me is working wonderfully.

While many states and cities are planning to open quarantine within the next month, I’m planning to stay isolated through the end of May. As I’ve said before, quarantine life is a lot like my regular life, so staying isolated to keep my household healthy isn’t much of a burden. But, uh, I may have to venture out for tacos or to stand in a library or bookstore. (Browsing my home bookshelves is just not the same.)

 

 

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

The Write Life: A Socially Distant March

Well, this month certainly has been a year, hasn’t it?

First, I hope wherever you are, you’re safe, have everything you need, and are scared enough to take every precaution but not so scared that you’re immobilized. Mostly, I hope you’re taking care of yourself in whatever fashion that needs to be. (Which could be taking a break from writing—we’ve all been through a trauma, so give yourself the space to deal with your own feelings before dealing with your characters’ feelings.)

For me, quarantine isn’t that different from my normal life. I already work from home and am used to socializing online. I can’t escape to write at my favorite restaurant or in the shadow of Hogwarts, and my in-person writing group has now become my other online writing group, but mostly life is the same.

I shower every day, put on a nerdy t-shirt, and write.

I spend a little more time re-watching old favorites and reading comic books and escapist fiction.

I have anxiety attacks and try to forget whatever doomsday numbers I saw in some article.

I read on the porch and take pictures of how pretty things are around me (or of the cheesecake I’m eating because that cheesecake is saving my life at the moment).

I take naps with my cat.

I try to focus enough to edit, write Patreon posts, or whatever else I’m supposed to be doing while counting how many days it’s been since my last possible virus exposure.

I have difficulty sleeping, but eventually drift off and wake from anxiety dreams.

I order tea online. (I probably have enough tea to see me through this.)

I revisit our virus protocols for quarantining or cleaning anything coming into the house and am grateful that my paranoia isn’t being treated as something negative.

I run additional sessions for my writing group because writing is the one constant in my life and right now it doesn’t have to be such a lonely profession. It shouldn’t be a lonely profession. Writing has always been one of the things connecting me to people, and now more than ever it’s the connection I need.

 

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.