The Seven Rs of Pandemic Writing

Everyone is writing a pandemic journal, it seems. We all want to capture this lost time that will soon disappear (we hope) when the vaccine makes its way into our arms, when we forget face masks, and how to socially distance, and the acronyms PPE, PCR and RNA. We want to document all those mindless moments when we stared into space during lockdown, chatted incessantly on social media and digested all its misinformation, went paranoid when we sneezed, worked from home, and shopped only on Amazon. I’ve read many pieces written during this time and have written some myself. They fall into the following categories which I am calling the Seven Rs.

Report: The writer is merely recording what is happening, a ball-by-ball commentary regurgitated from newspapers, TV and other media. By adding his tag-line and claiming the material, the writer is not creating anything new, but merely indicating that he is following the herd.

Rant: The writer is angry for what has befallen her. How dare they take away her freedom to go places, to party, to work, to enjoy life? The writing is scattershot: no one is to blame and everyone is to blame, but the writer is never to blame – it is always those Other Guys whodunit.

Review: The writer is reviewing what has happened and why, connecting the dots from the actions of a speeded-up and crazy world that has brought him to this pass. This includes lots of conspiracy theories that once lived only in the realms of fiction and are now even stranger than fiction.

Recollection: Scared out of her wits at what is happening, the writer has retreated into her past, to better times, even sadder ones, but ones that were safe because she had always come out of them at the other end. This pandemic is without end, and we don’t know who will be left standing. The past is safe, the present scary, and the future is not even written.

Reverie: The writer is dreaming up an imaginary future when the world would be well again. Only happy images dot this picture, even overly happy ones – and they include Climate Change reversed, a Universal Vaccine for all diseases known and unknown, a Universal Basic Income, Health and Pharmacare for all, GDP based on happiness and not on growth, machines doing all our grunt work, and unmitigated travel to exotic locations. The longer the reverie, the happier the images.

Re-evaluation: The writer believes he is going to die. So he is using this pandemic to look back upon his life and tick off all the things he did well and the things he didn’t quite manage. He is making a list of all the people he needs to say “sorry” to. But he is never going to call them up and apologize, his writing is supposed to do that.

Recipe: This writer is seeing opportunity in this pandemic, and a platform to prescribe how we should live the virtuous life. Do’s and Don’ts pepper the narrative. One could argue this is the type of writing that will be most read, for people are grabbing at straws right now, and recipes are most welcome.   

So, what are you writing for your pandemic time capsule? Or would you rather suffer the amnesia of forgetfulness during this period, looking forward only to the better times ahead, even if they lie only in your imagination?

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