“We’re in this together.” I remember saying those words often this past year. Crisis seemed to pile upon crisis. For most of the year, every news report was more grim and gruesome than the one before. Not only were people dying, but they couldn’t have their loved ones near in those final hours—no touch, no whispers of forever love, no sweet assurances and sing-you-Home lullabies. Not only were schools shut down and parents evicted from their offices and sent home, but nearly every parent became a live-in teacher or at the least a homeroom monitor almost overnight. Teachers, doctors, emergency staff, business leaders, and scientists—all scrambled to keep their ships upright, their charges calm, and their heads above water.
Not all succeeded.
“Small talk” turned into “large talk.” How will we ever make this work? How can we stay safe? How long will this last? How will we survive if—gulp—a first world country runs out of toilet paper?
But we were in it together. And together is almost always better than alone.
I’m trying to imagine anyone’s life that wasn’t upended at least in some way by the global pandemic. It reached even the remoteness of Outer Mongolia…and I’m not kidding. The US sent ventilators to a common euphemism for “the ends of the earth.”
To say that we’ve all been changed is an understatement.
One would think that someone like me—an author who is quite content spending most of every day with her fingers on the keyboard, moving words around, playing with ideas in relative solitude in not exactly in Outer Mongolia, but in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where we think we can see it from here—would find her life only mildly affected by a global incident. Or that my daily routine wouldn’t change all that much.
Drink the coffee. Boot up the computer. Sit. Think. Type. Repeat. Throw in editing, social media, and an occasional meal and bathroom break. Repeat again.
But I was changed…and not just because we were frugal with toilet paper. Changed. And so was my writing. Come to think of it, I’m still in the process of processing, and almost daily make adaptations to the way I do things and the way I approach life, love, and the privilege of being a writer.
That’s one of them. The reminder that writing is a privilege. It’s a privilege to live in an era and a country and a home environment where writing can continue no matter what’s swirling around me. Even if all that were left to me were the dozens of yellow legal pads I keep, though I no longer use them, and the colored pencils I saved from when my kids were in grade school (my grandkids are in high school now), I could still keep writing. For me alone, if not for readers. For what I learn and how I grow when I tell stories.
I was one of the oh-let’s-call-it-privileged who had/has not one, not two, but three books releasing “in a time of COVID.” A novel in June of 2020 (Afraid of the Light), a novel in March of 2021 (Facing the Dawn), and a nonfiction in the fall of 2021. Among my favorite author activities are visiting and supporting bookstores, popping in to book clubs, holding author events in libraries, and meeting readers face-to-face wherever I can…which during that time was virtual or not at all. Virtual is better than nothing, but that’s what life had been reduced to. “Better than nothing” had turned into “the most we can hope for.”
Did it affect my enjoyment of those glorious release days? Enjoyment wasn’t foremost in my mind. What mattered was readers. Were they able to receive their pre-orders? Did they hear about the new release? Did they feel like reading again? So many have felt the tug of books but no energy to lift the cover and read. I sympathized with the “can’t read” reaction but admit that I wanted to lay my six-feet-distanced arm around the shoulders of those people and whisper through my mask, “But the best place to retreat from the rigors of survival is under the covers of a good book.”
Cynthia Ruchti is the award-winning author of more than 30 books, including the novels Afraid of the Light, Miles from Where We Started, As Waters Gone By, Song of Silence, A Fragile Hope, and They Almost Always Come Home. Her books have been honored with more than 40 readers’, reviewers’, and retailers’ awards, including Romantic Times’s Inspirational Novel of the Year, four Selah Awards, and five Christian Retailing’s BEST Awards, and has been a finalist for many others, including the Carol and the Christy. Former president of and current professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Cynthia lives in Wisconsin and can be found online at www.cynthiaruchti.com.