An American Editor

March 23, 2020

On the Basics — Passing the time in quarantine

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 11:02 am
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By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

The coronavirus crisis is forcing change on every aspect of society that I can see, and will have long-lasting effects on all of our lives, both professional and personal. I hope all of our subscribers here will be safe.

Among concerns is that scammers and spammers are ramping up their schemes to take advantage of this scary time, so be extra-vigilant. While situations like this bring out the best in most people, it also brings out the worst in others. I’ve already seen warnings about people going door-to-door peddling phony cures (although that’s likely to stop as more stay-at-home orders go into effect), and inaccurate suggestions are going the rounds in places like Facebook, especially its messenger service. Warn family and friends (especially older people and those who live alone) that the longer this lasts, the more fake “cures,” treatments and tips will circulate. Tell them not to take “advice” or buy anything from unfamiliar sources, and ask them not to “forward to everyone in your address book.”

We also have to be aware that being stuck at home for unknown lengths of time can create tension among family members, in addition to boredom. Domestic violence is expected to increase. I don’t know how to counteract that trend, but being aware of the possibility might help some of us hold it at bay.

It also could get dangerous to venture out if stay-at-home orders last for longer than we hope and people feel increasingly desperate or angry about the situation. If you have to leave home for groceries, medications and other essentials, try to have someone with you, be extra-alert, don’t forget your cellphone and don’t dawdle.

Between crisis anxiety and being stuck at home due to work closings and stay-in orders, we’re all likely to eat more than usual, and more stuff that isn’t healthy. Comfort food is one thing; junk food is something else entirely. Two suggestions: (1) If you’re doing a store run, don’t be tempted to stock up on junk food, even if the kids are demanding it; if you have some at home, stash it somewhere inaccessible. (2) Up your activity level – do calisthenics and hallway walking indoors, go for walks around the block every couple hours, take the kids or the dog on longer walks than usual, go to a park for a hike or stroll. You’ll feel better mentally and physically.

We’re also likely to spend more than usual on online shopping as a distraction, so be careful not to go overboard because you or your family members need something to do. Start looking around the house for projects to tackle that can be done without spending more money; make such projects into games and challenges for family and neighbors.

Don’t give up on professional development opportunities. While major conferences have been cancelled, most host organizations are finding ways to keep the learning and networking aspects going through Skype, Zoom, GoToWebinar and similar resources.

I came up with a few more ideas for passing the time as more and more of us are seeing restrictions on activity and in-person interaction with family and friends (not to mention clients, colleagues, employers and places we’re used to going to – stores, banks, museums, sports settings, concerts, meetings and more), as well as issues with work and income.

Find ways to help – family members, neighbors, colleagues, total strangers. Whether it’s running essential errands or communicating through GrandPads, videoconferencing and physical windows, the more we do to help each other, the better we’ll feel.

Sort, file and pitch – business and personal records, checkbook registers, credit card statements, clothes, unpacked boxes, souvenirs, photos, outgrown or never-used toys, expired canned goods and other staples or medications, collections, books, etc.

Plan to give away – any of the above that you realize you don’t need

Garden – mulch, weed, clear, soil-test, start planting; it’s good for your mental and physical health, and the results could help cheer you up

Catch up – on reading (book piles, magazines, newspapers in real life; online; in Kindle and other phone apps), laundry, redecorating, mending, repurposing

Write – that book you’ve been meaning to start or finish, poetry, letters to friends for mailing on paper or electronically, blog posts for later publication

Update – your résumé, will and health directives, savings and investment plans, marketing projects

Resurrect an old or start a new hobby

Learn a new skill or program — the Internet is awash with YouTube and other resources for learning on your own or at home with family members

Clean – the house, home office, car, garage, etc.

Assemble – puzzles, dollhouses, workshop/building projects, knick-knacks into art

Get out – walk around the neighborhood or drive and then walk/hike at a park

Communicate – with family and friends by phone, e-mail and Internet, both to reassure each other and to counter false information. You might even learn interesting things about family and personal histories that never came up before.

Invent games – for kids both at home and around your neighborhood. One of my friends posted about a game for kids that started in his Chicago neighborhood: putting teddy bears in your windows and coming together online to identify where they are – like an Easter egg or treasure hunt that can be done virtually as well as physically. Coming up with creative outlets and activities will, again, be good for our emotional and mental health.

How are you coping? How is your work life going so far?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (www.communication-central.com), this year co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com) and planned for October 2–4 in Baltimore, MD. She can be reached at Ruth@writerruth.com or Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

 

March 13, 2020

On the Basics: Tips for coping with the current health crisis

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

Many AAE subscribers have been working from home for years, so the current movement to that model as a response to the coronavirus crisis (yes, it is at crisis level in many ways) is no big deal. Others work in outside offices and are faced with transforming their own or their colleagues’ work styles into being home-based.

Based on my many years of working from home, here are some suggestions.

At home

  • If you live with family members, let them know that you need peace and quiet, with minimal interruptions or intrusions, when you’re trying to work. Both spouses/partners and younger kids will think it’s great to have you at home with them, but might have to be tactfully educated about why you’re there, what you have to get done for work and when (or if) you can take a break to hang out with them.
    • Ask everyone to let you answer the home phone if you have one, so clients and colleagues don’t get your adorable five-year-old on the line or someone who forgets to take important messages.
    • Set aside a dedicated workspace and make sure everyone knows not to mess with your computer and paper files. If you have a room that becomes your office, consider putting a Do not disturb! sign on the door.
    • Have a laptop for work that no one else in the house is allowed to use, or invest in an inexpensive desktop setup that is also hands-off to everyone but you.
    • Get dressed in something more business-like than jeans and T-shirts so you feel like you’re working — and your family treats you accordingly.
    • Get out of the house every day, for a walk around the block, lunch with family or friends, trips to the store or library as needed or appropriate, etc.
    • Keep a schedule similar to your usual workday so going back to the office won’t be as big of a jolt when you get the all-clear.
    • If your company doesn’t have a template to log your projects and time, create one — even if you aren’t asked to provide it.
  • If you have children of about grades 5 to 9 (U.S. system) who might have to stay home because local schools close down, a Facebook colleague suggested using www.mensaforkids.org (there’s even a PDF of lesson plans for “Teaching Literary Elements Through Song Lyrics”) and the site Every-Day Edits to keep them busy.
  • Splurge on some new books, toys and games for kids, partners, parents, pets, etc., and consider subscriptions to online movies, e-books and other sources of information and entertainment that you might not have needed until now. If you have to stay home for any unusual amount of time, the usual entertainments could get old pretty quickly.

For the office

  • Set up regular phone or Internet meetings to track project status and employee health or needs — not necessarily daily, but certainly weekly.
  • Create a template for individual employee project activity.
  • Expand sick day guidelines/benefits.
  • Provide laptops for anyone who needs them.
  • Set up special passwords and login access so people working from home don’t expose company materials to access by family members and visitors.
  • Triple-check health-related warnings and recommendations before sharing them with employees.
  • Stock up on sanitizers, gloves and face masks for employees.
  • Adopt a heightened routine for cleaning surfaces throughout the office, including door knobs, stairwell railings, elevator buttons, desks, keyboard, phones, etc.
  • Remind employees that any and all communications, quotes and comments about how the company is handling this issue must come from authorized spokespeople, and ask (or tell) employees not to post about it to Facebook and other social media.

In general

Whether you work in-house or freelance from home, you might feel the urge to stock up on household supplies and find that your usual grocery or big-box store is running low. Remember that drugstores and department chains (Target, Dollar Stores, etc.) carry things like toilet paper, dry goods, pet food and supplies, beverages, over-the-counter medications and other healthcare products, etc. Many also have refrigerated sections with perishable or frozen foods. There should be a variety of options for keeping your home stocked with whatever you might need in the next few weeks.

Best of luck to all!

How are you coping with and preparing for this situation? What other suggestions do you have for colleagues, whether in-house or freelance?

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