We’ve all been hearing that phrase; “the new normal.” For full time writers like myself, it looks a lot like the old normal up until we leave the house. It’s rather a jungle out there, but with the right attitude, it can almost be like a game to do things like grocery shopping. Just have to wear your Mad Max cosplay and treat other shoppers as space invaders.
Back at the writing desk, our adventures into real life can make a new form of writing fodder, especially for mystery and dystopian writers. Other genres don’t have to be excluded. A plague in a Fantasy world or dating in the time of Covid in a Romance novel can generate all sorts of new plot ideas.
In the meantime, the holidays are upon us. We’ve already managed to get past Halloween on a Saturday with a Full Moon but no trick or treating or parties allowed. The Americans have done Thanksgiving without extended family gatherings. Now Christmas and Hanukah are upon us and for many people, this is the hardest time. When you can’t see grandma because you want her to still be there next year, it’s an inescapable emotional wrench.
However, this time will pass as the Spanish Flu and other plagues have done before. Vaccines are on the horizon and understanding of the virus is increasing exponentially. With technology, families can still communicate over distances and mail order shopping was already gaining in popularity over recent years. We will have our holidays, if not quite in the way we might have if there was no pandemic.
The one escape we have is reading. If we had hoped to travel over the summer only to have to cancel, we can read about far away places. Even better, with gift giving holidays we can share that relief with our loved ones, by giving them books. As Mason Cooley said (now viral on social media), “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”
The greatest gift we could give our loved ones this year might well be found in books, especially those with a feel good factor. The traditional ghost stories might appeal to many, but others might prefer a good Romance and I find myself leaning towards the more Dickensian style of Christmas tales. To travel to another place and another era when life was simpler has a fairly universal appeal.
Another possibility is comedy. If you have relatives who don’t really enjoy reading much, perhaps they would enjoy a Simon’s Cat collection or another cartoon book? Books have something for everyone and one good thing that could come out of the restrictions imposed on us through this difficult time is it might help at least some people to develop a new appreciation for reading, or to rediscover the joys of submersing oneself into a good story.
Young people in particular could benefit from the distraction from their electronic worlds. While social media fills a void when meeting up with friends is impractical, books fill a need closer to home; the need to engage with one’s own thoughts and internal world, including the realm of imagination.
This is what will get us through the holidays without going stark, raving looney. If we can’t hug our loved ones, give them an alternative world to share. Books make the best gifts. Then we can also raise a glass or a turkey leg over social media and pretend it’s almost like being together.
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