Looking at the Bright Side of a Pandemic

March 16, 2020 Updated: March 17, 2020


I know—it’s hard to look at the bright side of a pandemic. But take it from someone who has self-quarantined for the better part of 50 years, it’s not always so bad.

That’s what professional writers do, sit alone in a room and work (or try to) for hours on end.

I didn’t realize at roughly age 15 when I fell in love with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler that the writer’s life was one of loneliness. I thought it was about attracting Bennington undergrads at cocktail parties by bragging about your (unfinished) novel when you weren’t dreaming up your Oscar speech.

I learned quickly.

Anyway, a life of working alone at home (with the exception of a three-year stint at Universal Studios and seven years as CEO of PJ Media) has taught me a few things that might prove useful in the present environment.

They won’t be nearly as important as whether there will be enough ventilators and hospital beds in our system or when and if you can get tested, but … for what they are worth for the days ahead, especially those working at home for the first time, and in the hopes of reducing at least some of the stress …

Have a private space, no matter how small. Make it yours. Decorate it with family photos, your high school lacrosse letter, personal stuff, but not too cluttered. This is a work area.

If you want to go Zen-minimalist, that’s OK, too; but be warned, if you’re the least bit a slob, like me, it won’t last long.

If you don’t have a good ergonomic desk chair, get one. It will stand you in good stead even if this virus lasts only a week (which it won’t).

A door is your friend, failing that, a screen. You have to be alone without distraction.

Make sure you have a fast and solid internet connection—it may soon be stressed with all the people working at home.

Speaking of stress (different kind), keep a little exercise equipment in your office—I have Russian kettle bells. Stand up every hour or so and use whatever you have or do some jumping jacks. Even a two-minute workout makes a huge difference and improves mood and concentration, not that I always do it.

On the flip side, a bottle of bourbon in your drawer is always useful, but stay away from it before 5 p.m. (I recommend Belle Meade.)

Have a significant other, better yet—a spouse. (Yes, this can’t be fixed immediately these days when you can’t even go to a bar, still I had to put it in because it’s true.) Hopefully, he or she will be healthy enough to visit with you frequently.

Kids are fine, too, of course, and, best of all, that great enemy of depression, Truman’s only friend in Washington, the ever-popular dog. Get him or her a nice little bed in your office. And keep well-stocked with treats. Unlike toilet paper, there are still plenty available on Amazon.

And remember, your time is your own, more than it ever was. It’s likely you can get more done and do it better in less time at home. I know I have.

Those three years at the studio I got nothing done (maybe that my office was next door to Cheech and Chong’s bungalow had something to do with it). But as soon as I got back to my place, I started writing like a demon and got screenplays made into movies by—you guessed it—Universal.

OK, that—the remarkable ability to concentrate and perform better at home if your conditions are right—is the good part, the “bright side of the pandemic” from my headline.

The bad part is the aforementioned loneliness and its handmaiden depression. Pay special attention to the latter because it can sneak up on you. We are, after all, social beings, not “social distance” beings.

Along with the aforementioned exercise, the best antidote is to stay in contact with the outside world as much as possible whether or not you feel like it. That means, if you’re new to telecommuting, stay in touch with your boss, even if you can’t stand him or her.

Also, stay in touch with family, friends—including those you have mixed emotions about—and anyone else you can think of. And don’t worry if you’re becoming a pest. That may be, but it’s your sanity we’re concerned about here.

And don’t forget to go outside. If there’s nature anywhere near you, hang out there as much as possible. The woods are your friend. Spring is practically here.

And, if all else fails, consider putting a television screen in your office. It may be a distraction, but I find Stuart Varney droning on about the great potential for the economy and the stock market after all this is over strangely comforting.

Roger L. Simon is The Epoch Times’ senior political columnist. His latest book is “The GOAT,” available in multiple formats on Amazon. (HINT: This is an opportunity to catch up on your reading.)

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.