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What do the day-to-day implications of working from home, no mass gatherings and self-isolation mean for our individual creative stimulation and output?

What do the day-to-day implications of working from home, no mass gatherings and self-isolation mean for our individual creative stimulation and output?

By John Bond |

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

I never thought I’d use the phrase in what should be a relatively sane industry, ‘oh that feels so last week’. But I think you might know what I mean. Against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the crystal-clear understanding that Europe is now at the epicentre of the outbreak, we’ve heard as much in the last few weeks about the role behind the scenes of the behavioural economists as we have from the expert epidemiologists. The Government has seemed to be as keen as possible to nudge our collective habits to help ‘flatten the curve’ as it is to base edicts and advice on pure scientific data. As nations enter lockdowns, there are so many unknowns as to how we will all adapt to arguably the biggest measures taken by governments – for many of us – in our lifetime.

‘I never thought I’d use the phrase in what should be a relatively sane industry, “Oh, that feels so last week.” But I think you might know what I mean.’

Whilst we are of course right to follow expert advice and take all necessary precautions to reduce the risk to everyone, including the most vulnerable in society, what about the behavioural changes we are choosing to make over the past few weeks? What do the day-to- day implications of working from home, no mass gatherings and self-isolation mean for our individual creative stimulation and output?

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At whitefox, we’ve been mulling over what it might just all mean for readers and writers and for publishing as a whole:

Eyes down

OK, you might be tempted to binge-watch box sets on your chosen subscription services. But if you’ve also just invested in The Mirror & The Light, the epic third volume of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, what a time to devote to navigating your way through more than 900 pages of the very best historical fiction. No excuse now.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

Do you really want to read more and more news alerts on your phone that basically represent a digest of fundamental existential threat? Maybe you’d rather escape into an imaginary fictional world, learn a new skill or language. Or drown it all out with an audio book? There’s some amazing, not very well signposted audiobook content within the BBC Sounds App, ranging from recent serialisations to timeless classics.

‘This unscheduled time could represent the gift of headspace and imaginative capacity’

Supply and demand

Even with your local bookshop closed, books can still come to you. The survival of bricks and mortar retailers is essential. And all sorts of inventive local initiatives have been set up to ensure you can still have enough tailored reading material to hand over the coming weeks of lockdown. Or there’s always digital. Just keep cleaning that screen.

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Trust the brands

It will be interesting to see what publishers do with scheduled book launches over the next few months. But I’d wager that more than a few first novels that rely on the oxygen of a coordinated marketing and PR push will be stood down. The reading public will gravitate to the comfort of trusted brands such as the forthcoming paperbacks from Jojo Moyes or Margaret Atwood, as well as timely niche non-fiction. Assuming dastardly Amazon get beyond prioritising food and hand sanitisers.

Scouring for viruses

Look out for more publishers trawling through their backlist for reissues along the lines of Dean Koontz’s The Eyes of Darkness. Never underestimate the public’s need to be entertained by fictional versions of the reality they are actually living through. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction at least usually does its best to provide a happy ending.

‘Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction at least usually does its best to provide a happy ending.’

What not to read

Don’t be fooled by the plethora of eBook guides to Covid-19 that have recently emerged online at Amazon, preying on public fear and containing dangerously misleading information. No good can come of this.

Typing The End

This unscheduled time could represent the gift of head space and imaginative capacity to concentrate on finishing that novel, memoir or children’s book that you’ve been putting off for months or even years. Agents are already reporting a spike in new submissions. It might sound a little melodramatic, but what a sense of achievement can come with typing the words The End.

Whatever you choose to do with your time, remember this. The world may feel as if it is changing a little more dramatically with every passing day. But when we come out of this, and we will come out of this, people will still want to read and write. And there will always be a place for books and the individuals and teams who create them.

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