Musings of the University of Dundee MLitt Publishing Writing students


Finding Words

It’s only a matter of weeks before I’m required to upload several pieces of important coursework for my MLitt degree. I was hoping to breathe a sigh of relief after submission, to take a well-deserved break from academic work before embarking on the mighty dissertation that’s due in August. But the universe will not allow me that relief or relaxation. For now, the universe has decided that no-one should rest easy, the entire human species forced into high alert.

Coronavirus has not only distracted me from my studies, it has entirely stripped me of my ability to concentrate on anything other than the rapidly unfolding news. I cannot write, I cannot think; the world as we know it has been hurled into a spinning frenzy of infection fighting, every one of us affected. The life my children enjoy will effectively stop on Friday as schools close, social distancing measures become more stringent and the fixed routine they rely on grinds to a halt. Despite our best efforts to remain rational we can’t prevent the inevitable nervous adrenaline that is slowly consuming our families and communities, anxiety rising each day, as we wait to see how this drama will develop. Many small businesses that have recently thrived in our local community will soon face ruin. Elderly relatives are frightened and locked away in isolation. Our brave NHS friends, game faces on, are eerily poised for war.

These are strange and startling times and I’m unsure if the tightness in my chest is viral or worry. Struggling to concentrate on my coursework, I thought I’d write some words in an attempt, at the very least, to expel some thoughts, creating a little more room in my head. But the truth is, I have no words. There is nothing eloquent to say at this moment. I am not a writer today; like most others, I am unable to articulate the enormity of a global crisis that promises to disrupt and devastate.  Your words are as good as mine.

As in any crisis, people always find opportunities to laugh. If we didn’t we’d lose our minds entirely. I chuckled today at the prospect of, three to four weeks into isolation, discovering what my true hair colour might be after years of dying it. And coming to terms with there being no toilet roll to be found in the shops of Dundee. And also the fact that my introversion has been secretly waiting for intervention that instructs no socialising for weeks. We will, of course, when all this goes away, begin to recover, albeit wounded and weary but hopefully stronger and united. Positivity can make all the difference in times like these.

I implore my fellow students to be gentle with themselves. If your essays don’t go according to plan, don’t fret. If you can’t get to the library, not to worry. These are unprecedented times and we can only do our best. Every one of us troubled by what’s occurring, we can only take each day as it comes. Keep your distance. Wash your hands, often. Don’t forget to breathe. One day soon, our minds will be less consumed with crisis and ready to document our experiences into words. Hopefully with a little more eloquence than I’ve shown here. Words don’t come easy in times like these.

Stay safe.