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Up for the Challenge – Writing During Shelter-in-Place
By C.V. Lee
March 30, 2021

In my day job, I substitute teach for multiple school districts. On Thursday, March 12th, 2020, the high school where I was working informed us there would be no school on Friday or Monday, giving everyone a four-day weekend while the school was sanitized. The next day, Friday the 13th (what other day could it be?), I was subbing in another school district when the word came down, no school until after spring break. It wasn’t long before we were told that school would not resume in-person for the remainder of the school year.

While people around me voiced fear and confusion, I determined not to let myself worry or get anxious. After all, there was nothing I could do to change what was happening in the world outside my door no matter how much I fretted. So I turned off the television, for the most part ignored the news, and embraced this reprieve from working fives days a week. This pause in the every day grind provided me with time to set my own agenda every day. The first priority on my list—completing my work-in-progress.

When I laid out my goals for 2020, I hoped to complete my second draft by the end of the year. The manuscript is approximately 52 chapters, so I figured with work and family obligations, I could reasonably commit to re-writing one chapter per week. When shelter-in-place was imposed, I pushed that deadline forward and aimed to finish by the end of June. A lofty ambition on my part, but I hammered away at the keyboard for 4-6 hours a day and accomplished it by the end of July. I could take it one of two ways, one month late or five months early. Always preferring to be the optimist, I took the win at five months early.

I set a new goal for myself—complete the re-write by the end of the year. I missed that revised goal by two weeks. But then, I finished my WIP almost a year earlier than expected. I’ve now sent my manuscript out to several beta readers, many from my writer’s group (check out my YouTube video on The Importance of Writers’ Groups), and am looking forward to my book party in April and getting bombarded by their feedback. As I wait, I’ve been researching what I can via the internet for my next novel. But after the critique session, I’ll be making final revisions and weighing the various publication options.

All that hard work, doesn’t mean I didn’t take time for pleasure.

During that time I snuck in a long weekend to Lake Tahoe and almost a week in the Pacific Northwest where I was able to spend a few precious hours with my 93-year-old father, masked and/or social distanced, of course. These requirements made it difficult to have any meaningful conversation since his vision and hearing are both poor. But at least I got to see him and he knows I was there. This year, I stole away for five days in Maui.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking and tried some new recipes. One of the items on my “to-learn” list was making sour dough bread—me and the rest of the world! Our neighbors have been the beneficiaries of my efforts as there was no way my husband and I could keep up with eating so much bread. My family’s favorite variation is jalapeño-cheddar.

Now I’m trying my hand at growing plants. I have always been highly skilled at killing the most hardy of them indoors and out. A friend gave me an orchid earlier this year and I have managed to keep it alive for two months. That has emboldened me to move on to more difficult projects like trying to sprout plumeria. I never make it easy for myself.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

It’s been just a bit over one year since I began this whole lockdown experience. I’ve been back at work for several months, just a bit differently. As one of the students said, “I never thought I’d have a virtual substitute.” And I never dreamed I’d be one!

Like everyone else, I’m so done with this pandemic and can hardly wait to get back to a more normal life. My next novel requires some research for which a trip to England is necessary. But at least when I look back on my time, I feel gratified that I seized this rare opportunity in time to focus on me. And it was good.

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C.V. Lee
Written by C.V. Lee

C.V. Lee writes historical biographical fiction featuring forgotten heroes and heroines of the past. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Alli, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can find her on Facebook @cvlee.histficwriter and on Instagram @cvleewriter.

View CV’s PLW Profile

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