• Amy Q. Barker

How writing is like the Corona Virus

Updated: Jul 22

Strap on your masks and get the hand sanitizer out!

I don't mean writing is a global pandemic - can you imagine? People running around hiding their stories on tiny scraps of paper and stashing them away under rocks and in the holes of trees. Whatever you do, don't get caught writing! And don't spread any ideas to anyone else either!

No, seriously, though, what I mean is this: It starts as a whisper.

Remember back in February when you were going about your business as usual and then you saw a blip on the news about some new thing going on in China and you chalked it up to "oh, that's just another SARS thing - seems to happen a lot in China, nothing to be concerned about." It wasn't even really on your radar. But then as the month progressed, there were the whispers in the office and around the dinner table - "what the heck is this thing? is it coming here? what are the symptoms? should I be worried?" Then the chatter - SO much chatter. In the elevators, on the streets, in the airports; spreading fear and confusion like an oncoming tornado roaring off in the distance. Then the shout: it's HERE, everyone duck and cover!

You were sent home from the office in March and you haven't been back since. And that's all you've heard about in the news, and all you’ve talked about with your family, friends, and co-workers (virtually, of course). Strangely, in the grocery store, you're now avoiding people where you used to say “hi” or “how’s your day going?” You’re completely antisocial and rude. What is the matter with you? Why is your mouth set in a frown under your mask? Why are you avoiding eye contact? What have you become?

So, yeah, that's what writing is like. For me anyway. Not the rude, antisocial part, although there are days when I must not be disturbed under any circumstances. But more so it's the part where it started as a whisper and grew into a shout. When I was twelve years old, I got my first diary and I started recording all of my thoughts and feelings in this little notebook with hearts on the cover. Back then the entries were horrible - I shudder to read them! They were all about the boys I was crushing on or the friends I was fighting with or the teachers that were giving me grief. Then, over the years, I progressed to writing more mature content - poetry and short stories. Nothing worthy of publication, but still the beginning of something bigger.

These inspirations helped me graduate from Syracuse University with an English degree and move onto a career where I write for a living. No, not fiction, something else entirely that I won't get into here, and for a while, this professional writing fed my urge. But then the beating of the writing drum kept getting louder telling me that I should be doing more. I had oodles of stories floating around in my head, but I didn't know how to begin or where to turn or what to do. It was so easy to make excuses!

Finally I got the courage to start. Writing. For real. Novels. From my head. From my heart. For as long as my fingers would (and will!) let me.

Here's the other thing: the Corona Virus is all we've heard about for months, yet it's still some nebulous thing out there in the ether, isn't it? Yes, I watch the news and I know the statistics - people are getting sick and dying. It's horrible, the bane of our existence, nothing we've ever encountered before. However, I still don't know anyone who's had it (thank goodness, and knock on wood!).

It reminds me of "Who is John Galt?" (see my other post about Atlas Shrugged). Talk about a whisper! To write the first two-thirds of a novel with only vague references, then to reveal at the end it was the main point, premise, and person (the raison d'être) for the whole philosophy and book! Only Ayn Rand! Genius!

John Galt, Corona Virus, and Authorship: On everyone's lips and yet, we can barely get a first-hand account of it. Sure, everyone knows someone who has talked about writing a book. Heck, there's that second cousin or that great-uncle or that friend of a friend of a friend who once had a book of poetry published. You know, you went to the reading at the local Barnes and Nobles back in the 90s, remember? Yeah, it's like that: a far-off rumor of an intangible, unattainable dream.

According to literary agents, they receive hundreds of queries and manuscripts every day, and yet where are all of these authors? Shouldn't they be coming out of the woodwork? Shouldn't we all know hundreds, nay, thousands of them? When I first started submitting my own queries to these agents, I figured I would receive some constructive feedback. Oh what a naive fool I was! Come on, they are way too busy and too inundated (apparently) and can only read one percent of submissions. The rest get the inevitable standard rejection reply (or nothing at all). Not that I'm saying my submissions were worthy of more (or less). All I can say is that it seems agents are only seeking the new shiny object - whether that's YA Fantasy or MeToo or LGBTQ or BlackLivesMatter or some other flavor of the month. Don't get me wrong, those stories are important and need to be told. Just not by me.

I can only tell my own stories, in my own voice, with my own take on the world. And I can only write the type of novels I want to read - women's fiction about strong, independent, fierce women living everyday lives and working through their issues and foibles and feats, trying to learn and grow from their experiences. This is all I can do.

So it seems that the Corona Virus is here to stay. And my writing is too. Neither are a whisper anymore. Both are a shout! Starting with Rue, you will continue to hear from me. I have several other stories in the hopper, and I hope to publish for as long as there are readers who can relate to my characters and who are my kindred spirits.

Btw, this Ted Talk significantly altered my thinking about the way large corporations rule our communication and thinking. I would imagine (but I don't know for sure, I'm definitely on the outside looking in!) that this is how it works with the literary agents that represent the traditional publishing world:



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© 2020 by Amy Q. Barker