In the wake of a global pandemic that has halted the world, all of my emotions are heightened. Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, and concern have occupied every single second of existence as I move through life at a languid pace. Though I have been infinitely blessed with my health, there are few things as disorientating as daily routines being turned on their heads after pleas from health and government officials echo louder and louder. Clicking through television channels and scrolling through Twitter unleashes a flood of panicked headlines and harrowing statistics, and it is no doubt overwhelming to listen to the world fall around you as you sit alone in a room unsure of what comes next. This is a time like no other. And so, it calls on us to rise to the occasion. Those who are healthy alter their timetables for the sake of the ill and those who are wealthy take care of the disenfranchised and the poor. As we spend the next few weeks unified in our uncertainty, I implore you to take advantage of writing as a means of escape, as a step towards healing, and as an effort to stop the feeling of your world ending.
Having an unprecedented amount of time due to social distancing measures enacted to decrease the spread of the virus may increase feelings of unproductivity. This can often trigger emotions of discontent and unease which fuel anxiety and self-deprecation. Creating lists of tasks that you want to complete not only keeps you organized but produces a sense of accomplishment that fills your need to be ‘active’. This is a subtle opportunity for writing that can be expounded to cultivate additional opportunities to be more creative. If drawing a line through a completed assignment is somehow not fulfilling enough, challenge yourself to create more intricate spreads in a bullet journal or another medium. As we move to virtual classrooms, this will also help combat a lack of motivation and accountability, and set you up to be the best possible student you can be during this time of turmoil.
Taking it one step further, journaling or dabbling in other creative writing prompts such as poetry is another significant way to express your feelings, especially when the doors of communication seem limited. Alone in our rooms means being alone with our thoughts which is not always an easy reality to face. Mental health issues will likely spike during these few months for a variety of reasons, and though writing is not a cure to any diagnosed illness, it can provide a momentary relief from the hardships of life. Being honest with yourself and engaging in self-reflection is essential to your growth as a person. Blossoming in this time of darkness can only be done by having another source of light. It may help to dedicate a few minutes of your day to understanding and appreciating the complexity of thoughts and emotions you are experiencing.
Even if you do not think of yourself as a creative writer, set aside a few minutes before bed to unpack the occurrences of the day. If you are happy, write down how you feel so you will remember the ecstasy of joy when you are upset. Write in free verse or write in rhyme, it does not matter so long as you are recognizing the whirling thoughts in your brain. If you are angry, perhaps at the way institutions are handling this pandemic, write a letter. Maybe you can even send it in the morning. If you feel lonesome, revel in the idea that thousands of people are understanding of your circumstance because they too are living it. If you want to write but do not know where to start, start there. Write about how desperately you want to commit words to paper. Write a love poem between two inanimate objects. Write a haiku about what you see outside your window. Write about what you miss or what you look forward to. If you need more ideas, UMBC Retriever Poets will be holding online meetings on Tuesdays from 5-6:30pm (email them for more information at email@example.com).
Your resilience and kindness during this time are inspiring. I hope that these moments of confusion and chaos are short-lived, and that you are prioritizing your health and happiness.
Contributed by: Ilsa Mir, Writing Center intern