Across the UK, many people have been working from home throughout the last year. When the lockdown was announced in March of 2020, I could not have predicted the path that I would follow from then until now. I was still in the midst of my undergraduate course in English, and was looking forward to graduating in the summer. With the lockdown came cancellation after cancellation. The future was full of uncertainties, as everyone was rushing to adapt to the new life of online working and learning.
In August when I got my undergrad results through and realised that I had the grades to be accepted onto the MSc Publishing course here at Edinburgh I was ecstatic. But, it soon dawned on me that the course would be run online for most, if not all of its entirety. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to reach my full potential and I would struggle to produce my best work because I was sitting in a room on my own. I soon realised though, that just because I am in my room on my own does not mean that I am alone. My course mates and I regularly interact with one another on WhatsApp. We’re constantly supporting each other throughout the course and by this point in the year, we have endless amounts of WhatsApp group chats. We have tutorial group chats, group project group chats, and even group chats for the groups we’re working in within the group project. As you can imagine, we’re in constant communication with one another. Something I appreciate hugely.
One thing that the Publishing Industry has taught me is its ability to adapt and adjust. The entirety of my course has been taken online. We have learnt to use InDeisgn in a virtual environment, which at times was rather tasking, and as a group, a bunch of my fellow course mates and I have been busily helping to produce a publishable anthology. With all of our correspondence and communications being done through a handful of virtual methods, such as WebEx and WhatsApp, if you had asked me a year ago, I would not have thought it would be possible to publish a book with a group of people without ever being in the same room as them. But, the publishing industry has moved from strength to strength, and I have been pleasantly surprised by how smoothly it has transitioned.
I guess you could say I’m more of a glass half-empty kind of person. I’m not one for optimism, and so, when the world is flipped upside down I’m not always the most positive thinker. With the cancellation of in-person events came the introduction of virtual events, and to say I was not thrilled would have been an understatement. With being a shy and quiet person, you’d think I’d be jumping with joy over the introduction of virtual events. No more awkward small talk and copious amounts of socialising, when all I really want to do is just sit back and listen. However, I am glad to say that I eventually began to appreciate virtual events, and now I actually look forward to them! It only took me the best part of a year.
A couple of weeks ago, I read an article on the cancellation of an in-person London Book Fair. Obviously, I was disheartened by the news; however, I am comforted by the fact that the publishing industry does online events well. To this date, I have attended several online events through my university. I have rejoiced in being within the comfort of my own home. In October my course attended The Children’s Bookseller Conference. This was my first exposure to the world of online conferences. I was hesitant to begin with, I have never dealt well with change and I was unsure on how I would take in the information. Whether I would tire from looking at my screen for hours on end. The outcome couldn’t have been further from what I had expected. I ended up really enjoying the conference, and learned so much about children’s publishing in the process.
As part of my course, we are working with The Edinburgh Literary Salon to publish an anthology. This entire project has been partaken online in a virtual environment. At the end of March, a lot of the members on the publishing team attended the Salon’s virtual event night, and this was my first time at an Edinburgh Literary Salon event. The night seen two talented writers, they were Daniel Allison and Lizzie Smith. Both provided us with a reading of their work. The evening was possibly one of the most fun evenings I have had. I’m beginning to find that online events are actually more fun than I had previously gave them credit for!
In addition to adapting to the new virtual life I found myself within, I also found myself trying to adjust to working from home. I know I am privileged to have good technology and live within a quiet town that allows little to no distractions when I am learning from home; however, the problems I found myself facing when working from home came from the fear of the unknown. As you can guess by this point, I do not like straying far from my normal routine, which did not involve taking my classes from within my home. Arwa Mahdawi published an article on The Guardian back in October of 2020 about introverts and lockdown. I found this article to be very different to other such articles I have read regarding introverts and lockdown. Most articles write about introverts thriving during lockdown, what with their being able to work alone and not need to interact with people unnecessarily. Yet, in Arwa’s article she explains that many introverts aren’t thriving in their current circumstances, and I think it is important to understand that lockdown isn’t more easy for one type of person than the other. As Arwa quotes:
‘No one is having a blast at the moment.’
Another interesting article I read, which was also published in October of 2020 by Nick Alford, again spoke about the myth around all introverts loving lockdown. Nick writes candidly about living at your work. This is a statement that I’ve heard on numerous occasions throughout the length of lockdown, and is something that I and so many others have struggled to balance. Nick states:
‘If you had to work from home, where you normally go to get away from work, the two colliding might be discomforting.’
Like so many other students, I have spent the university year on a makeshift desk in my bedroom. This makes it near impossible to separate work from leisure. Don’t get me wrong, I love my course and I love to learn, but my love for publishing doesn’t cancel out any levels of stress I get when assignments are due. My bedroom has become my classroom, my library and the place I relax in. So, as you can imagine it’s not always my most favourite place to be. However, I think I have gotten better at stopping my work life colliding with my home life (I would hope so though, as I have had a year to get better at it!).
(Image description: A cartoon display of two people at a desk working. A man is pictured on the right hand side of the image. He is holding up a flag with a sad face on it and he man looks tired and fed up, with a hot beverage beside him, possible coffee. He also has a dead-ish looking plant on the floor. On the left hand side is pictured a woman, she is smiling and has a bubble of ideas coming from her head. The woman has a cat beside her and two green plants.)
To cut a long story short, for those that may think lockdown has been a blessing for those of us who are more introverted, more quiet and/or more shy. It hasn’t always been the case. Lockdown has brought with it many challenges that have impacted both sides of the introversion and extroversion scale. With the ending of our third and (fingers crossed) final lockdown, the world is opening back up. Pubs and restaurants are beginning to welcome people through their doors, work places are bringing people back into the office, and kids are going back to school. While I am excited to get back to our new ‘normal’, I am aware that many of us are feeling a mixed bag of emotions. I’m sure many people are feeling a mixed bag of anxiety, excitement, and impatience, and I think it’s ok to admit that coming out of lockdown can be a bit scary. It’s a new world and there’s no set rule book as to how we’re meant to respond to it.