Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on the Texas coast. I evacuated during Rita and Ike, so this would be my first time since moving here that I had to ride one out. I set about making preparations – I filled the car with gas, figured out how to start the generator, stocked up on bottled water and non-perishables. I had my Kindle charged, booklight batteries replaced, Scrivener on my iPad. I felt ready, especially since I’d been snowed in in Colorado plenty of times. If I got rained in for a week, I would just hunker down and write, write, write. Right?
Wrong. Oh, I got rained in, all right. Hours upon hours of isolated time, yet I didn’t put a pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard. What I hadn’t counted on was the creativity-killing stress from a storm like Harvey.
For more than a week, the local TV networks were all Harvey all the time. At first I watched for information. Safety. Watches and warnings. Soon it became an obsession. Social media was a lifeline, a way to stay in touch, find out which friends had water in their houses, lost power, been evacuated. Even when reading, the electronics were on…just in case. We had 148 tornado warnings in three days. The phone/TV-blasting, hide-in-the-center-of-your-house type of warnings. Stressful.
Water edged closer to my door, lightning turned the night sky into a constant strobe light, thunder shook the house, winds brought down tree branches – all stressful. Then evacuations by boats. Rescues by helicopters. Curfews. National Guard trucks cruising the streets at 3 a.m. Stress. Full.
Once the sky cleared and the waters began to recede, I took stock and was ashamed of myself for wasting a whole week of productivity. Especially as I’d been lucky enough to make it through Harvey unscathed. But after talking to my fellow writers, I found I hadn’t been the only one unable to write. The stress of the storm had sucked the creativity from all of us. Stress is distracting. It affects our ability to focus. Even if we weren’t worried about ourselves, our concern for those who lost everything didn’t leave us with enough mental energy to create.
Life will never be the same for thousands of people in Texas. But we’re working toward recovery. Like many other people and organizations, our RWA communities in Houston have donated money, furniture, clothing, and food. Those of us physically able to have helped friends clean up damaged homes. The sun is shining. And we’re finally starting to put words on paper again. It’s a start.