I got up early today. It’s not that I had anywhere to be or anything pressing to do. God forbid! But now in my fourth week at home, I knew it was time to introduce a little structure into my world. Because, as the world fixates on the pandemic, my own world has felt unhinged. Structure, I’m hoping, is the remedy for my mental lockdown.
At the beginning, I found all I could do was read. My “to be read” pile had been beckoning for some time, and with libraries closed, I looked forward to tackling this growing pile of used bookstore finds and borrowed books. How great was this going to be?!
I allowed myself this guilty pleasure, certain that it would wear off and I could begin again to write. As the days went on, I worried that I was so rattled by what was happening outside my house that I could only turn to the imaginary world of books for refuge and rescue. While others offered Instagram pictures of sourdough bread, alphabetized spice cupboards, and CEO-worthy to-do lists, I could only lie on the couch reading. Sometimes I washed my face when I got up.
How was the rest of the world able to do so much?
My office upstairs sat silently ignored. My finished (and still unpublished) novel, my second and current work-in-progress, a couple of short stories and other assorted bits, all had much work to be done. I think about them constantly. But do nothing. The logical, productive part of my brain screams at me that this time of forced isolation is an opportunity I’ve been waiting for my whole life. Hours and hours of unrestricted time is a gift, not to be squandered. And yet I do.
There’ve been a few on-line video courses I’ve participated in and later this week I have a consult with a writer in residence, but no real writing has been going on. At first it was focus, now it’s motivation. A certain kind of ennui has taken hold. My imagination has let me down.
Others purge closets, scrub out basements, and bake endlessly. Painters, photographers, and songwriters hone their craft, continue ongoing work or, inspired by their muse, begin new projects. Reading seems the only thing I can focus on.
Creativity for many is its own escape from the frightening reality outside our doors. The world feels chaotic, unpredictable and overwhelming. How is it that many are driven inward to that vast space of thought and imagination, while for others, uncertainty is debilitating?
I’ve since figured out that reading has been, for me, a purposeful curative for isolation. I think my focus veers this way in part because I’m engaged in the lives of these imaginary characters and I care about what happens to them. There’s nothing I can do about what’s happening in the broader world - beyond what I’m already doing - and there’s just no space left in my imagination to do anything but seek escape.
Most of us are leading closed-in lives in our homes, tensed for the latest numbers of confirmed cases and lost jobs. Reading is my way of sustaining myself right now and I’m working on cultivating a certain kind of acceptance. Here’s hoping, my writing mojo will return. In the meantime, I read.
Stay safe, keep baking and purging. But please, don’t send me your pictures. My guilt is already running over.
Until next time, happy reading!