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  • Writer's pictureTony

Writing with a COVID-brain

I had COVID-19 in August, which consisted of a bad head-cold, a cough, one day of fever and chills. I also experienced the loss of my sense of taste (you could have switched my toothpaste out for caulk and I wouldn't have noticed) and a phantom aroma (I would smell potpourri and sometimes incense). A few weeks later, I ended up in an emergency room with heart palpitations. All my scans and tests came back OK, but I tested COVID-positive for the second time.

It's now been three months, and I've been symptom-free and clear since then, but I still struggle with longterm problems, including extreme fatigue, recurring headaches, shortness of breath, depression, and the dreaded "fog." I have trouble concentrating as well as finding the right words in conversation, and sometimes names escape me. It has made my time spent on creative writing a real frustration, too. I struggle to go deeper than a description of action and dialogue. To get inside a character and "show" rather than tell.

Multiple passes on drafts are required. My first draft generally is succeeding in getting plot and action covered. The next pass gets the sensory details and picks up any dropped narrative moments (I've found characters acting upon choices that I failed to demonstrate to the reader). Third and fourth drafts finally get me into the POV character's head, allowing me to let the character ask questions of himself, speculate, misunderstand/worry over another's motivations or meanings, and so forth.

I'm not bragging when I say that my process pre-COVID was much more streamlined. I incorporated all of these elements as early as my first draft, with each subsequent pass adding layers of depth. Writing was a reflex for me, as natural as breathing, and I took great joy in it. Now I'm quite frustrated by how difficult it is for me to write in recent weeks; it's easier for me to sit on the couch and watch TV than to struggle through a scene involving multiple characters, and I pray to whatever gods of light are out there that I come out the other side of this sooner rather than never.

All of this to say: DON'T QUIT. Sometimes, it will be a labor of blood, sweat and tears, and sometimes you will feel yourself in the arms of the Muse. You don't find the Muse until you get to the work, though. Yes, inspiration can attack at any moment, but the work — the energy you give to the art and craft — is what brings the Muse to the table.

KEEP WRITING. Keep working. Don't get lost in the fog.

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