Writing in Times of Crisis

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I am writing this post from my home by the ocean on the northern California coast. Our small local clinic has asked all folks my age to “shelter in place,” so I am doing that, along with washing my hands every time I turn around and taking other precautions. Most of all, though, I am thinking of all those students now attending classes remotely, all those people whose jobs are in jeopardy, and all the small businesses and arts organizations whose razor-thin budgets are already stretched to the limit and who are having to lay off staff and take salary reductions. And, of course, all those suffering from COVID-19. These are dark days indeed, and they are made darker by the utter incompetence of the current administration.


In such a time, as we know from decades of research, writing can help. Writing that expresses and gives vent to feelings, that captures and shares feelings, and that sets out ways to respond to a crisis—step by step, day by day—can ease tension, even lower blood pressure. So it seems to me like a very good time to think about using writing in these ways, and encouraging—even assigning—students to use writing in these ways as well.


In addition, I have found myself thinking of people I care about but have lost touch with, or of loved ones that I too often may take for granted. And I’ve been acting on these thoughts, taking time each day to write (text, email, or, my favorite, longhand letters and cards) to at least three people, asking how they are, if I can do anything to help, and telling them at least a little bit of how much they mean to me. I feel like I’m sending out messages in a bottle—messages of caring and of hope.


Might these weeks of self-isolation, social distancing, and quarantine be just the right time for such writing? I think so—and recommend it. In the meantime, stay safe.


Image Credit: Pixabay Image 828911 by Free-Photos, used under the Pixabay License

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.