Those Old, Unfamiliar Places

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

To keep my sanity during the Pandemic, I take a drive to see places I used to go before COVID-19. I go past apartments I used to live in, stores I used to frequent, or parks I liked to hang out at. These drives remind me of what went on before and what can again.

If a place is safely outdoors, I may even take a walk. Vaccinated, double-masked, avoiding people, I pass silently through places I miss. If an area looks to be filled with people, or if I see reckless behavior, I avoid it. It hurts to avoid places I loved.

It also hurts me that so much has changed in a year or three.

Stores I knew are gone. Apartments have sprouted up in places I’ve never seen. New shops have opened with hope and caution. I’m passing through a world I know that is totally alien to me.

What happened? What is this place? Who are these people? Where did this place go? I want to know what happened, I crave the story of the year gone.

A joke passed among my anime-loving friends is that when we finally have conventions, it’ll be like an Anime Timeskip. Everyone will have aged a few years, everyone will be different. The metaphor is funny, but it also acknowledges there will be stories of what happened. There will be a narrative because we can talk and because we kept in touch as best we could.

The empty buildings and new places where I used to go tell no stories. I didn’t witness their shutting down or going up. I wasn’t able to say goodbye or hello. They’re tales I can’t grasp quickly, and seeking them may be risky.

I feel a gap in the way the landscape of my life changed. People need narratives, we need to understand why something is and what happened. We are also creatures of place and context, from a comfy den to a favorite coffee shop. But places and their tales are different after the Pandemic, and there are holes in the story.

So I pass by and through these old, unfamiliar places. I want to know, I want to understand, I want to connect. I cannot.

I am a masked a ghost haunted by the new things and dead years.

Steven Savage

Textured Thoughts In Text

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Gods I needed to see this article – Late-Stage Pandemic Is Messing With Your Brain. I feel so close to this author I never met, and far less alone.

This article is about what we’re experiencing during the pandemic and why. It’s filled with all-to-familiar descriptions of things we’re all dealing with. Such as:

. . . I feel like I have spent the past year being pushed through a pasta extruder. I wake up groggy and spend every day moving from the couch to the dining-room table to the bed and back. At some point night falls, and at some point after that I close work-related browser windows and open leisure-related ones.

These are words with texture. Though the article lists of science facts and quotes from experts, but these words remind you someone else out there is like you. It’s great to know why but this article also says yes, I am there as well.

We need articles and writing like this.

Earlier I noted I had gone from “please no Pandemic writing” to “let’s write about it.” This article is a grand example why, not just for the facts, but for the feelings. Facts explain, but feelings help us understand. Those personal words, those tar-sticky sentences that attach to our minds, create connection.

This is why even in an area that may be oversaturated – like the inevitable writing about the Pandemic – it is valuable to write and write well. Those deep connections you make with your textured words, those gritty little sentences, help people “get it.” They may “get” a scientific truth or just why you’re complaining, but they “get it” and take something away from the experience of reading.

Writing and writing well will connect you to people, even over things that may seem banal. So keep writing, as we all need that connection. If anything in these lonely times, we’re reminded of how even text from a stranger helps us feel understood and seen and be part of something.

Steven Savage

Actually, Let’s Write About The Pandemic

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I’ve been dreading that we’ll see an onslaught of “Pandemic tales” in the realm of books. Fictions with familiar plagues, quick books offering useless advice, and so on. I’m obviously and worried we’d see too many people jumping on the plague train.

I’d now like to take that back.

First, I want to take that back in that my assumptions were very negative. There are doubtlessly many people who will write about the Pandemic for good reasons. I focused too much on the negative reasons people might write on it, which was out of line.

My second reason is that I’ve come to realize that we need to look at the Pandemic in fiction, advice books, and memoirs. We need this so we can process the experience.

The Pandemic is overwhelming. Even those of us thinking we’re handling it are not functioning at 100%. Even after the Pandemic, we’ll need to understand our experience and that of others. The written word is a way to do that.

Fiction lets us understand experiences from a safe distance and even a different perspective.

Nonfiction lets us analyze and evaluate data and analysis.

Memoirs let us step into the place of another and see their experience.

Each written work is a gateway into another way to see what we went through.

Writing is a way for us to handle, understand, and share what we’ve gone through. Sure there will be bad work, exploitative work, and so on – but isn’t that happening anyway? I shouldn’t judge the Pandemic by the standards of what goes on anyway.

However, there’s a second reason I realized we should be fine with “Pandemic writing.” Some of us who write may need to write it. We want to get out our feelings, or our inspirations, or record our experiences. We as writers may need to write these books that will come.

Our muse is going to drive us to write these books, so why not? Hell, I’m even considering one at this point (from my unique approach, of course).

So, I take back anything I said about “oh, gods, not an onslaught of Pandemic books.” Writing is how we deal with, learn, understand, and experience things. The Pandemic is appropriate material.

(Besides, we can criticize lousy or opportunistic work no matter how it came to be.)

Steven Savage