What is the New Normal?

I cut my hair with kitchen scissors today. Some of you mutter, “That’s not normal.” Which was deliberate on my part, because now I can ask you, “What is normal?” The old one has gone and none of us has any idea what’s coming in its place. None of us imagined 2020 to be like this, right? Everything familiar is crumbling, evaporating, or being torn down. I’ll admit I’m beginning to hate the “new normal” sound bite. In the UK, I don’t think we’ll have anything like it for maybe a year or two.

Writers are already famous for living in their jim-jams; I’m not one of them. I have to get up and dressed, but to me, hacking your own hair with a blunt instrument sets a higher bar for eccentricity. I hasten to add I’m not the first, nor am I original, but there’s nothing new under the sun anyway and we stoics can cope with that.

Social Media and mainstream press are full of predictions and analyses to try to pin down this shapeshifter year, but who can spot the genuine newshounds from the fakers and the spindoctors? Everyone has an agenda these days. You don’t exist without one. Anyway, I’ll try to keep this piece agenda-free. It’s just me hanging out with you guys in writer cyberspace.

Two Kinds of Writers

There’s no criticism for being exhausted trying to make sense of it all. I am, I’ll admit. Good writing takes a person’s entire physical and mental energy. I simply do not have the bandwidth for the whole “statues” debate. We’re trying to cope with a pandemic here, and also with a government that doesn’t appear to know what it’s doing.

Lockdown has a strange effect on the psyche. It’s one thing to choose seclusion and scribble away for weeks or months, deaf to the pleas of family and friends. It’s quite another to have it imposed on you, especially if you have to self-isolate. House arrest. From the social media writing community I think I observe two kinds of writers, the ones whose concentration is shot to pieces, and the ones who’ve doubled down on work. I consider myself lucky to be one of those. Writing is largely escapism for me and I can go a whole day without thinking about the pandemic at all, as long as I avoid the news.

Finding Your New Normal

I want to say, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t work. We are dealing with extraordinary times. This is what’s exhausting, the constant readjustment of where you, and me – physically and mentally – now fit into the new normal universe. Just when we think we’ve adjusted to whatever the “new— there’s that sound bite again – something blows it out of the water. For me, writing is an avoidance of making that adjustment because I know the next incoming news item will force me to do it all again. It’s like Groundhog Day meets Contagion.

Don’t Start Here

Or maybe don’t start at all. It’s an ever-changing landscape and it’s not going to settle down any time soon, so writers, give yourself a break. Something will spark sooner or later. In the meantime, you can study and improve your skillset, mentor somebody, catch up on your reading, or switch it up by working in a different format. I haven’t a clue what the rest of 2020 has in store for us, but I do know it won’t be normal, which is why I can cut my hair with kitchen scissors.

Resources for Writers

While you’re defining your new normal, here are some free (or cheap) resources to stop you going stir crazy.

London Screenwriters Festival Online

Bang2Write free writing advice

Sitcom Geeks on Patreon on how to write comedy

Script Revolution free hosting site for screenwriters (check out my work here)

Clive Frayne’s articles and advice for screenwriters

Keep going. However much or little you achieve today, it’s a win. Nobody can take tomorrow for granted. This is the new normal.

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