#WFH Diaries: Tim Nudd, Angela Natividad and David Gianatasio of Muse by Clio
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc globally, shutting many of us in at home, we've been checking in with creative people to see how they’re coping. Answers are coming in from all over the world, and it got us thinking about how we, too, are spending this time.
Give us one-sentence bios of yourselves.
Tim: Writer, journalist, editor of Muse by Clio, ad nerd.
David: Muse senior editor, Lysol enthusiast.
Angela: The writer those guys edit, co-founder of Hurrah and founding contributor to Muse, collector of books unread.
Where are you living right now, and who's with you?
Tim: At home in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, with my wife Melinda and our kids (sixth, third and first graders), as well as our 4-year-old dog and 12-year-old cat, who are both black-and-white but that's where their affinity ends.
David: In an apartment outside Boston, with my wife Chelsea. Or else I'm in an apartment outside Chelsea, with my wife Boston.
Angela: In Paris, across the street from the (now-closed) botanical garden, with my dude Romain, who just burst into my office and proclaimed he is living his best life! in confinement.
What's your work situation like at the moment?
Tim: I've been working from home for 14 years, so I'm used to that part of it. But now the kids are here 24/7, which is a challenge. In terms of Muse, we saw the flow of new creative campaigns slow down temporarily, though it's coming back now. People are still creating, maybe more than ever. They also want to know what's going on with other creatives—personally and professionally. It's so bizarre that the entire planet is going through the same thing at once. This #WFH Diaries series has been interesting in that respect—every story is relatable, no matter where on earth it's happening.
David: I've worked from home, in the same space, for 10 years, so my routine hasn't changed much. Except for all the terror.
Angela: I've W'ed FH about 13 years, with in-office work interspersed throughout. This time is exceptional in the sense that I can't go for a sunny stroll and buy a crepe and a balloon; we can't leave home without papers, just an hour at a time, no further than a kilometer. And since, right before France locked down, I relinquished agency operations, I have way less work than before.
I'm taking this as an opportunity to live at the rhythm my body wants: No more alarm clocks. We're the only animal that interrupts a critical biological process on a regular basis. Some nights I'm up tinkering until 6 a.m., then asleep until midday. I like to imagine I'm living on Mars time.
Describe your socializing strategy.
Tim: We're having weekly Clio happy hours on Zoom, and the company Slack is 🔥. Zooming and FaceTiming with family a bit. Chatting with neighbors at a distance. We had a drive-in movie night in a friend's driveway—they have a projection TV, and we sat in the bed of our pickup and watched Back to the Future (totally holds up).
David: Luckily, my walls can talk.
Angela: We're loving confinement too much. For the first few weeks I relished in the selective nature of contact, but that's changing as the world finds its new normal. Now I have at least three regular weekly Zoom dates, WhatsApp is buzzing off the hook, and Marco Polo catchup vids are becoming a second job. Plus, for the first time in my adult life, people randomly call … ?!
How are you dealing with childcare, if applicable?
Tim: The kids are doing OK. The sixth and third grader only need a bit of help with their schoolwork. The first grader needs more, but has fewer assignments. It's fine. Our youngest is 7—I don't know how parents with newborns and toddlers are working at all. Luckily, our kids have also rediscovered their bikes. They head out a few times a day, under strict orders not to socialize. Then the house falls blissfully silent again, like the old days!
David: I'm a big kid, but life's less like a playground these days.
Angela: The WFH Diaries taught me how different confinement is for people with progeny. Respect! Romain and I have none, and manage each other's inner kid with sympathy.
What are you reading?
Tim: I was reading Murakami's After the Quake before all this went down, and with the library closed, I guess I basically own it now. It's also about societal trauma, though less Contagion-y than what we're going through.
David: I'm reading the room, mostly.
Angela: I just finished Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic. It's got this writing style that's become uncommon: evocative and leisurely, untinted by twitchy notifications. Next, I'll finish The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington. Carrington was a surrealist artist whose short fiction reads like her tableaux. They give me weird dreams.
What are you watching?
Tim: Did Tiger King, like everyone else. Also loved the new season of Curb, and wish it could go on forever. Larry needs to do a whole coronavirus season. Mrs. Fletcher is good on HBO. The kids and I also watched all nine Star Wars films, plus Rogue One and Solo. After that, I ordered the Ultimate Star Wars book, which just arrived—and will hopefully keep them busy for at least a week or two.
We also have a PS4. I finished The Last of Us, the original, right before corona happened (I'm eagerly awaiting The Last of Us 2, though it's been delayed due to the pandemic), and just picked up Death Stranding—both quite appropriate for the times.
David: H.R. Pufnstuf. He's my friend when things get rough.
Angela: Just finished binge-rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now we're watching Tales from the Loop. It's sublime. I will never do Tiger King.
What are you listening to?
Tim: Lots of John Prine this week (RIP). My older son has gotten into Reply All. We're also in the early stages of our own podcast project—though I'm in the process of moving my audio gear to the basement, as the neighborhood isn't as quiet as it used to be for recording, with kids home and playing basketball in their driveways.
David: If Muse did a podcast, I'd listen to that.
Angela: Podcast: Buffering the Vampire Slayer. (And soon the Musecast, obvs!) Music: Cibo Matto (which I discovered because Buffy!) and Beauty Pill. I'm trying to understand EDM and it's going poorly.
How are you staying fit?
Tim: Running around Fort Williams Park, which is just down the road, with the family and the dog. [Update: Fort Williams is now closed, which is understandable but sucks.] Melinda has EFH (exercising from home) mastered, though—she got a rental bike and is doing Jibe at Home.
David: Does sleeping count as sit-ups?
Angela: Cooking whole foods, uninterrupted sleep, meditation to stop the waking anxiety shakes, yoga daily-ish. Running once weekly, but now people say I shouldn't be running. [Update: We are no longer allowed to run between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., which pretty much shuts running down for me. Corona, you take everything!]
Have you taken up a hobby?
Tim: Nothing yet, though the homebrew kit I got for Christmas like four years ago might be the next step.
Angela: I learned to cook. I replaced all my face, skin and hair products with homemade stuff. I just made candles. Started some writing projects, doing some online classes. Thinking about Buffy. Trying to dent my to-reads. Creating a rhythm for my exciting new sleep/wake schedule has also been a hobby. I might start a new knitting project soon.
Any tips for getting necessities?
Tim: Melinda doesn't trust me to be safe at stores (which, obviously I would be, but it's fine!), so she's doing most of this. We've done curbside pickup from as many small businesses as we can (Rosemont Market, Foulmouthed Brewing, etc.) and trying not to hit the big grocery stores too often.
David: Tip big. They've earned it, you pre-pandemic cheapskates!
Angela: Mealime helps plan meals in advance, and auto-generates a grocery list that minimizes waste. This keeps shopping down to once weekly. We avoid big stores and go for local spots. Veggie dealers have an overflow of produce: People mostly hoard non-perishables, so if you cook, you can eat gorgeously.
Logistically, we wear masks or scarves. When we get home, we take Chong Kin's advice and leave shoes outside. We wash hands, get rid of outside clothes, and disinfect everything one at a time, from the keys to the food. Anything we can't disinfect, we leave in "quarantine," untouched for three days.
Most of this is Romain's doing. I get bored halfway through the disinfection process and wander away, and he lets me because he worries I'll do a bad job. (He's right!)
An awkward moment since all this started.
Tim: Having a birthday in quarantine. Just felt wrong, though we made the best of it.
David: When I go outside and see other people heading my way, I race across the street to maintain safe social distance. One time I did this and fell, tearing my pants and skinning my knee, so I was bleeding all over the place, hopping around on one leg, and began snarling obscenities like a maniac.
Angela: I feel awkward about how positive I feel about confinement. When I interact with people, especially those with kids, I can tell some are offended by how cheerful I am. It makes commiseration hard, and that's an important social lubricant. So I started doing this thing where I describe three things that have frustrated me since confinement began, just to have a ball to bounce back, and that seems like it's working.
Best work email you got since all this started.
Tim: Everyone who's sent a #WFH Diary. It's been weirdly moving to read through them all and learn everyone's coping strategies.
David: Am I supposed to read those?
Angela: David, you hurt us.
The #WFH Diaries have been a treasure! Someone told me she reads one every day. Apart from that, a guy at Hurrah sent the team a list of EDM tracks to listen to at different moments in a WFH day: When checking email, prepping for client calls, etc. It helped me systematize ways to incorporate EDM into my life. After which I de-incorporated it. I don't get EDM.
An aha! moment since all this started.
Tim: My wife is a teacher, so this isn't really an aha moment, but surely no one will doubt the critical value of teachers any longer.
David: Aha! I survived another day!
Angela: People have talked a lot about the impact quarantine is having on the planet and work, but this is also a good stress test for relationships. Having "a room of one's own" is survival, even if it's a desk the other person doesn't touch. We accommodate each other's experiments and coping mechanisms. There will still be days when you just can't do anything right by the other person, so you have to be able to fight and recover quickly without making psychic wounds that get carried around.
Ending the day in good faith has been a good rule. It makes it easier to reunite without worrying about slamming into the other person's protective forcefield.
What's your theory on how this is going to play out?
Tim: It feels weird to be hopeful, given the scale of the suffering right now. That said, we're sharing an experience globally, which in theory should lead to greater empathy and respect across the board—for each other, for science, for the planet. Whether that actually happens is anyone's guess. It could certainly go the other way. Creatively, it's an interesting time. Being forced into new boxes, and into trying new systems, will have some wild effects on people's outputs. I'm curious to see how advertising evolves in the next six months. And we should get some great art out of this, too.
David: Since I always WFH, I guess I'll just keep writing from the living room. With less terror, hopefully. And I'll get a fucking haircut!
Angela: The #WFH Diaries have shown me there's an attitude of mourning beginning to flower, and that makes sense: Even as we find our footing, and even if not everything changes when this season passes, it's dawning on us that an entire living reality has ended and will not return.
Pandemics have a way of ushering in change that seemed impossible just prior. The Black Death is one reason the feudal system vanished. The Spanish Flu crash-tested early Darwinism and kicked off Indian independence. The Great Plague of Athens corroded Athenian democracy. Right now I'm changing in leaps and bounds. The world is changing, too. It's going to be interesting when we finally meet, interesting to discover what new reality we build together.