|Wet hair, don't care: Work from home style.|
If you donate to charity, you may have received an email that I wrote. It would have opened with grave concern ... something like, "We hope you and your loved ones are well" ... and then went on to acknowledge "these uncertain times."
For a day or two, I actually thought I might be the first copywriter to put those particular words together. Then came the onslaught of marketing in everybody's inbox.
For every "We're here for you" email that you've received, there's a copywriter behind it who's (trust me!) just as sick of the sentiment. But still, I have clients who send my copy back to me with the same request: "Can you add more language about these unprecedented times?"
And I do.
Because I am grateful ... and frustrated ... and overwhelmed ... and worried ... and grateful again ... to be working as a writer during the pandemic.
The coronavirus didn't seem real to me until Sunday, March 15. I had friends who were already staying home and social distancing, but that day, my husband and I had just come home from the mall.
That's when I got an email telling me not to go to the office the next day. We'd been planning an office-wide work-from-home trial run to start soon, but our company President had decided that we should all start working from home immediately, for an indefinite period of time.
I was glad, but suddenly nervous. Just like that, the world outside my house seemed weirdly treacherous. We were all just being cautious, right? Two weeks later, the governor would issue a statewide stay-at-home order.
That first week at home was a blur of video conferences, urgent deadlines, and frantic re-writes. I write fundraising copy for a number of charities across the US, and suddenly, nothing was relevant anymore. I'd already written campaigns for April, May, and June, but they all referenced things that had become obsolete overnight: kids in school, summer vacations, communal gatherings.
And my clients were scared. As more people got sick and others lost wages, charities were challenged to serve many more people — without volunteer labor, while sanitizing spaces, without putting their staff or the people they serve at risk.
I wrote about hungry families. I wrote about little kids with cancer who could no longer have their mom and dad with them in the hospital. I wrote about people who were already battling a life-threatening illness, only to find themselves crushed by a new health and financial crisis.
Sometimes, my heart would break for them so much, I'd start to cry at my desk. Or I'd walk downstairs and tell my husband how horrible everything was. I'd go on and on about how our world was coming apart. After a while, he'd want me to stop, but I couldn't. Every day, for more than eight hours straight, I'd write emotional appeals about human suffering, and how my clients could barely keep up.
For a few days, I thought I was sick with coronavirus. I finally realized that I wasn't shivering from a fever, but rather, trembling from anxiety. It was all-consuming. I'd work until I couldn't any longer, then drink wine and fall asleep on the couch.
It might sound ridiculous, and yes, I felt ridiculous. I knew I wasn't on the front lines. I wasn't saving lives. And I felt guilty. The pandemic put countless people out of work. So many people were desperate to earn a paycheck and I was jealous of the people who suddenly had free time on their hands. I wanted to be like everyone else and clean out my closets. I wanted to bake banana bread!
Aside from dog walks and a few curbside pickups, I have now been home for 53 days.
It turns out that the stay-at-home life suits me. I'm getting more sleep, more exercise, and I'm more productive. I love being home with my husband and dog. And as unemployment climbs, I'm endlessly grateful that I'm able to take care of my little family by writing. But I'm worried for my clients, not just because they do good work, but also because I need them to keep paying me.
I did clean out my closet, AND make banana bread.
My summer fundraising campaigns have all been re-written, some with alternate versions waiting on the sidelines, because we don't know what our world will look like next month. We really have no idea.
Almost everything I write now acknowledges our "new normal," and "these uncertain times." Sometimes, my clients ask me to lean harder on the COVID-19 messaging, and I feel like I'm forced to dip into a well of overused phrases. "This is an unprecedented situation," I add. "Together, we will get through this."
Because we will.