Let me fill you in on a little secret: Sometimes the editorials you see here just seem to flow from my brain, through my fingers, and onto the page. Other times, it's a real slog just coming up with the general concept of the editorial, let alone the content. When it came to the editorial for this issue, it was the latter rather than the former. It was a slog. The question came up: How do I get myself mentally out of the mud and onto a dry road toward an editorial?

My general strategy is to seek out material that helps me find inspiration either for the concept or to add material to my already existing theme. In this case, I was looking for inspiration to support my already existing theme which, by the title, you can see is: The New Normal.

I've been sitting on this idea for the last few months and was trying to find the proper words to start. This is where I got stuck. Generally, I start my editorials “old-school” by writing them on paper. If you look at Figure 1, you'll see that the start of the editorial had a bunch of crossed out lines. I was way stuck.

Figure 1: Making a few preliminary notes
Figure 1: Making a few preliminary notes

I pulled myself out of the morass by looking for inspiration. I decided to look at what I wrote for the Nov/Dec 2019 issue. The Nov/Dec editorial was an interesting one as I wasn't the author of that editorial. That editorial was written by my editor, Melanie Spiller, and is called, Sock, Sock, Shoe, Shoe. I loved this editorial, as Melanie wrote about her experience of taking her normal morning walk but being forced to reverse the route as there was construction on her normal route. What Melanie learned on this walk was there was a whole universe of things she never noticed even though she had walked the same route for years. Melanie's perspective had shifted.

This leads me to what I want to convey in this editorial, a discussion of the “New Normal.” Like it or not, we're faced with a lot of change, some of which may be permanent. For many of us, our world has been turned upside down and we've been forced to take a new route. This change in our world view isn't because of any man-made activity this time, but because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus sweeping the globe. There are so many changes to our way of life! The primary change is, of course, that we must now limit contact with other humans. This is probably the most difficult of all the changes to our world. I'm a social being and I bet that many of you are as well. This limitation has caused a massive ripple effect to the entire world's workforce and that's especially true of software developers.

As a software developer, I find myself on planes numerous times a year. Over the span of 25 years, I've flown 2,000,000 miles to attend user groups, meet with clients, or attend/speak at technical conferences. For me, this component being completely absent is probably the biggest adjustment. It's mid-September as I write this, and it's been a full six months since my last flight. That's a new record for me.

That leads me to the next part of the new normal: virtual technical conferences. The concept of in-person conferences is out of the question so we must have our conferences online. This's a big shift because it limits one of the best features of conferences: the hallway talk. Although it's easy to give a technical talk online, it's very difficult to replicate the hallway aspect of in-person conferences. How are you handling the social aspects of your technical regimen?

Another consideration is working from home. For me, this wasn't a huge adjustment as I've been working at home in one form or another for two decades. The biggest adjustment for me is that I now have a high-school-aged child home taking online virtual classes. I consider myself lucky not to have an elementary-school-aged child at home.

Those two areas are just the tip of MY iceberg. I appreciate the fact that we all have our own unique challenges difficulties to deal with. My hope is that once we have better treatments for COVID-19 and a vaccine to prevent its spread, we can take away the good parts of this new normal and build on them. For instance, if you've adapted to the lifestyle of working at home, you may want to re-evaluate where you live. Your choice of where to live might now be limitless. Or if you want to attend a conference, you may find that some of them continue to offer online versions and that you prefer that for a multitude of reasons. I may attend some at home and some in-person, once I have the choice.

I'm hopeful that we'll return to some semblance of normal in the coming months. It's yet to be determined what the definition of normal will be in the coming years but I, for one, am optimistic that we'll end up in a better place than before. That better place will partially be the result of taking a new and unexpected direction, much like Melanie talked about in her 2019 editorial.