Jennifer Brozek | March 2020

Advice for Writers During the WFH Social Distancing Period

by Jennifer Brozek 17. March 2020 14:55

The Husband has been working at home for more than a week now and I have some thoughts. If you are a writer who…
…Suddenly works from home in your day job…
…Suddenly works from home in your day job and has a spouse who also now works from home…
…Always worked from home and suddenly has a spouse who also now works from home…
Here are some tips and tricks for you.

If you are one of the above and also have children who are home schooling or are just home… sorry, I don’t have kids, thus I don’t have practical advice on that particular front. Though, you might find some of this information helpful.

0. If possible, set up a dedicated day job work space. Something you can leave or shut down before you go to your writing spot. A physical separation is best. A laptop that can be closed and put away is good. A VPN that can be shut down is okay. Closing all work apps/notifications will suffice.

1. During the workweek, dress for work. Video conferencing is a thing. At least put on a clean shirt, wash your face, and comb your hair. It will help put you in the correct frame of mind. Speaking of video conferencing, be aware of what is behind you.

2. Try to keep to your normal schedule as close as possible.
•    Get up at your normal time. If you have a commute, use that commute time to do something else (read, listen to a podcast, take a walk).
•    Log into work at the normal time.
•    Take hourly breaks.
•    Take your lunch break. This means if you normally leave your work system, log out and leave it.
•    SET ALARMS. (Forgetting to eat and drink is common for those who are not use to working from home.)
•    When the workday is done, close your system and (at least mentally) walk away. You do not work 24/7 unless you are on call and/or this is how your normal job works. This means no checking work email outside of work hours.

3. If you have a day job, try to keep to your normal writing schedule. If you write at lunch, that’s the time to continue doing it. If it is before or after your work day, again, that is when you write. Structure, and a schedule, is your best friend.

4. If you have a spouse working from home, they should have a separate and distinct “office” area away from you. Even if it is your closet, the laundry room, or in the corner of the family room. Do this as much as physically and distantly possible. Otherwise, the urge to spin in each other’s orbits will either be very distracting or overwhelming.

5. During the workweek, when you and your partner are working, only contact them in the same way you normally contact them during the workweek: texting, slack, discord, google hangouts, etc… They are probably also having a hard time adjusting to working from home. They need to find their new normal, just like you do.

6. Headphones are your friend. One or both of you need to wear headphones so you can’t hear each other as much. Also, headphones are invaluable for video conferencing. Trust me on this.

7. Schedule movement breaks. Some people do 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of movement. Some people do 45-50 minutes of work 10-15 minutes of movement. Working at home limits your steps in a big way.

There is no one true way for the new normal of working from home, but these are some of the ways a writer can adjust to both working the day job at home and/or figuring out how to work at home with your partner there. Good luck!

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Life in the Age of a (Currently) Mild Pandemic

by Jennifer Brozek 10. March 2020 15:04

Parameters for this blog post: Pandemic level 0: Normal flu season. Pandemic level 5: Contagion movie. Pandemic level 10: The Stand by Stephen King.

I think we’re somewhere around Pandemic level 3. I say level 3 because of the following:

·         There is a cause for concern. We are no longer at containment. We are at leveling the curve for emergency care and working to mitigate the spread as much as possible. The breakdown of hospital resources (ventilators) in Italy is an example of why we need to flatten the curve.

·         There is some mild panic. It’s still thoughtful and rational. It’s “I need hand sanitizer and TP.” There is no real threat of looting. It’s not a real panic. Real panic is where you will accidently drown another person trying to find the surface of the water. It’s where you will leave behind loved ones in the face of danger because you are no longer thinking. It’s where fight or flight has taken over and where people refuse to open doors to neighbors out of fear.

·         Long asymptomatic infectious period. A person can be infected with COVID-19 for as many as 14 days without showing any symptoms while being contagious. The R0 (R-naught), the estimated number of individuals that each infected person will transmit to, for the COVID-19 is currently between 2 and 3.

·         Specific vulnerable population. In Contagion and The Stand, anyone and everyone could get the virus and all ages would get sick and die. Whereas COVID-19 is specifically lethal to elderly and autoimmune compromised populations. I’ve read a lot of data out there that say up to  40-70% of the world’s population will catch COVID-19, but only have comparatively mild symptoms. Obviously, more than just the elderly and autoimmune compromised can get sick and die.

·         There is no vaccine. Yet. We don’t try to contain the flu during flu season. That’s because we have a vaccine. COVID-19 does not yet have a vaccine. That’s one of the reasons it is so dangerous.

·         There’s a lot more data out there. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s some of the reasons for my thought process and estimate of the danger. Don't forget to do your own research.

 

In the Seattle area, many companies (mostly tech companies) have cancelled all non-essential travel. Also, those who can work at home have been sent home until the last week of March (at the earliest). Many of those companies have put support staff on “holiday hours” but are still paying full-time wages. Some are not, and that will lead to future problems.

As an author of dark speculative fiction, and a former military brat who lived in Europe during the Cold War, I watch this all with a wary eye. Every person of my local social writing group, Wit’n’Word, has a spouse who has been sent to work from home. Including me. This isn’t too bad. The Husband understands I need quiet and long periods of time to write. On the other hand, this entire week he has early morning conference calls with the people he was supposed to meet in Boston.

My dreams are unquiet. Example: last night, I dreamed that the Husband agreed to taken in 14 cats without asking me because two of them were singapura kittens and he knows I love them. There were also a LOT of people in the house because of the cats. By the end of the dream, I was slowly containing the cats and kicking the unwanted house guests out.

Clearly, my brain believes that the Husband is bringing a lot of chaos home and it doesn’t know how to deal with it all…yet.

I do have some anxiety. I really don’t want to live through an actual Armageddon. At least, not one this slow moving. Give me Night of the Comet any day of the week and let me have the world’s resources to survive on. You can skip the zombies, though.

Still, I have hope. Hope that the spring and summer months will become an obstacle to COVID-19 and its spread. Hope that a vaccine will be approved over the next year. Hope that I will still be able to make some of my summer convention season.

I also have common sense. Washing my hands regularly. Limiting my forays out into the world. Plans of what to do when I do go to conventions—gloves, wipes, no handshakes or hugs. The knowledge that some events may be postponed or cancelled and there’s little I can do about that.

Now, I guess we will wait and see.

 

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Jennifer Brozek: Writerholic

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. Her editing work has netted her a Hugo Award nomination as well as an Australian Shadows Award for Grants Pass. Jennifer’s short form work has appeared in Apex Publications, and in anthologies set in the worlds of Valdemar, Shadowrun, V-Wars, and Predator. Jennifer is also the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions, and was the managing editor of Evil Girlfriend Media and assistant editor for Apex Book Company.

Jennifer has been a freelance author, editor, tie-in writer for over ten years after leaving her high paying tech job, and she’s never been happier. She keeps a tight schedule on her writing and editing projects and somehow manages to find time to volunteer for several professional writing organizations such as SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. She shares her husband, Jeff, with several cats and often uses him as a sounding board for her story ideas. Visit Jennifer’s worlds at jenniferbrozek.com.

"I see story ideas. All the time. They're everywhere. Just walking around like normal ideas. They don't know they're stories."