Thursday, June 25, 2020

Adjusting to Difficult Times

Kameron Hurley's latest LOCUS column discusses the stress of coping with a period of crisis:

It's OK If This Email Finds You Well

She writes about the transition—whenever that may occur—from "these difficult times" to "life as we know it" and working through the stages of grief in that adjustment. She confides, "Unexpected change is difficult for me," a reaction with which I can thoroughly identify. I don't like change in general, unless it's completely pleasant, and unexpectedness makes it worse. Hurley brings up a point that had never occurred to me, the difference between traumatic upheaval requiring swift reactions and "slow-moving disasters." If we're continuously "forced to worry about our day-to-day survival," we never get time to do the emotional "processing" a traumatic event requires.

I'm lucky not only in enjoying continued health (along with all the members of our family) but in that my husband and I are retired. We don't have to worry about survival, because our income level doesn't change. The restrictions of the past couple of months haven't altered our day-to-day routine much, although we do miss the few activities we were used to doing outside the home. Because we're exempt from a lot of the stresses Hurley describes, I don't suffer the degree of inability to focus that she mentions. Yet I do feel vaguely stuck in a "waiting" mode, tempted to put things off "until all this is over." Since we don't know when "all this" will end and what "over" will look like, that's not a particularly useful attitude. I'm currently brainstorming a third fiction piece connected to my two Wild Rose Press paranormal romance novellas (YOKAI MAGIC, published in 2019, and KITSUNE ENCHANTMENT, now in the publisher's editing process). The project is still in the early stages, not even up to formal outlining. It's easy to slide into the mindset that there's no point in working too hard on it until the second novella gets nearer publication. Then I mentally slap myself for succumbing to laziness.

A few bracing quotes from Hurley's essay:

"Humans are resilient creatures, to both our benefit and detriment."

"There is a lot of horror in going through any crisis, and it can wear you down. But horror is not the whole story, and humanity is full of positive acts and examples that we don’t speak enough about."

"There’s good reason humanity has lasted this long, and it’s not because we formed death cults and threw ourselves off cliffs. It’s because we care for one another and our communities."

One of the things I love about S. M. Stirling's DIES THE FIRE and its sequels is that he doesn't dwell at great length on post-apocalyptic horrors, but focuses on groups of people who work together to build new kinds of communities after the catastrophic worldwide Change.

"The comfort I take is that we have been through the times of monsters before. And we will again. The time of monsters is necessary on our way to what happens next. No new world was ever birthed without pain."

As a sometime horror writer with a fondness for "monsters," I appreciate that sentiment.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt


  1. Here's a page I just came across with encouraging quotes by various authors about writing in the current situation: