Editor’s note: We would like to thank Myfawny Ruiz from Appalachian State University, Boone (North Carolina), for providing this piece. If you would like to share your writing center’s experience during COVID-19, please submit via WLN.
It’s two weeks until Spring classes end, and I’ve developed an English student’s worst nightmare, writer’s block. I have papers to write, and I’m nowhere near where I need to be. My landscape has changed dramatically since we were all sent home to shelter in place. No longer do I have my favorite secluded desk in the library or my calculated study regimen. I’m at home, with my kids, from now until this ends. I knew returning to college at 34 wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t know a pandemic was on the table. Now my quiet hours of structure have been replaced with literal sensory overload. It feels like the TV has been on since the clock switched to A.M., and it drains my concentration. I have a virtual meeting with the Writing Center tomorrow and so far, I haven’t written a thing. In order to stay accountable these days, I have scheduled daily appointments through the end of the semester, even for papers I haven’t started yet. Tonight, after a long day of homeschooling my kids, housework, zoning out, calling my friends with nothing new to say, hours of YouTube videos to drown out the kids’ TV shows, and intervals of obsessing over our uncertain future, I will sit down with my blank Google document to write my half-gathered ideas into a paper that will support my “revolutionary” thesis. At 10 P.M., I begin writing. When I say writing, it is more like a Jackson Pollock painting of letters and words thrown onto a page in what I hope births something scholarly and significant to the already overfilled chasm that is literary study. I write until it becomes painful.
I call it a night and go to bed. I have so much left to do, but at least I’ve written something for my consultant. It’s the small pat on the back I can give myself at 1:45 in the morning. My meeting is at 10:00. These days my preparations for the Writing Center have taken on an entirely new form. Gone are the days of walking in 5 minutes early to greet the receptionist. I hustle to plate the kids’ breakfast and set them up with the TV, holding the faintest dream of having an uninterrupted session. I go upstairs to meet with my consultant. It’s two minutes after, but there they are in our little virtual meeting room smiling and happy to see me. To be honest, I’m happy to see them too. Since the pandemic, most of my professors have decided that asynchronous learning is the best model for everyone’s new, upended life. I have no doubt it was the best decision, but it has left me in desperate need of some form of social semblance in my isolated log cabin.
We start our meeting with pleasantries. We check in on each other and spend the first few minutes of our time discovering our new normal. We go over my draft. They have always made it a point to highlight the positives along with the parts that need work, but now, in a way, the praise feels more essential than ever. It substantiates that, somehow, even though it doesn’t always feel like it, I am making this imperfect situation work.
As we get halfway through our readthrough, my kids erupt through the door. I excuse myself away from the monitor as I attend to their cries. The cries soon become laughter, and I sit back down, apologizing to my consultant. They smile assuring me everything’s fine, and we finish the consultation.
After the meeting, l return to my new quarantine reality. Somehow, I am able to breathe a bit easier now. Life is just as manic as before, but now when I finally sit in front of my screen tonight, the one stress I won’t have is writer’s block.