Way back when, during the first COVID lockdowns, I felt a bizarre optimism in the face of a very dangerous situation. I could take advantage of all that time stuck at home and write! I’d finish Book Three of my trilogy, and then work on that chick-lit novel I started. Then I’d teach myself Italian, refinish the basement, and finish ten new paintings. Yay! This downtime would not be wasted!
In reality, my writing output has been close to zero. (I also know only a few words in Italian, and the basement is still a mess.)
During the first few weeks after we flew back from Las Vegas in March, I limned out a couple chapters for the DARK EARTH series, but my concentration was stolen by the scary events outside. The words refused to flow. Paragraph after paragraph, I wrestled to convey my ideas with some kind of compelling rhythm, only to re-read and then delete them with a disgusted sigh. What was the matter with me? Where was my elusive muse?
Okay, then. I’d go back to the basics and start a journal, my “COVID Chronicles.” As most writers know, any time putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) can kickstart the creative process. Every morning, I’d curl up on the couch, coffee close at hand, and record the frightening statistics and my musings about the pandemic and its effect on our lives.
Damn, but that journal got boring in a hurry! There’s only so much one can write about doing the same things day after interminable day. Sure, I released some angst about not being able to travel, and missing my friends and family, and not going out to dance to live music. It also helped me reflect on how lucky Tim and I are during this disaster. Neither of us had to leave the house to work, and we kept the bills paid, food on the table, and the wine stock replenished. I certainly had no basis for whining. Unfortunately, all this makes for a very dry narrative, AND the exercise in writing did not translate into new enthusiasm for my novels. After five weeks, I tucked the journal away for good.
I also haven’t written anything for this website in . . . oh my god . . . eleven months. Wow. I’ve been nibbling at the edges of this post for over a week now, coming up with a few sentences only to stall. After that, it’s easy to disappear for a few hours down the black hole of TikTok. It’s funny. I think back to 2012 when I was traveling solo through eastern Europe. On the train to each new destination, I’d hunker down over my iPad, writing a post for my travel blog describing the last stop. Then upon arrival, I’d immediately find a café with wifi, upload the essay, and be off for new adventures. It was easy, and not just that, it was fun. But now, with endless hours to take advantage of, I struggle.
I think the problem lies in that for the last nine months, I’ve felt as though I’m in limbo, waiting in a station for a train that may never come. Trapped in the role of impotent spectator, I pace, uncertain as to the outcome of this year’s insanities, and helpless to do anything about them. But why would this stymie my writing? You’d think that my creating a timeline of events for my characters, one that leads them to a defined future that only I can decide, would be the ideal solution to the mental stagnation that fogs my brain. But so far, no joy. I’m just . . . stuck.
It’s a damned good thing I’ve still got my painting to keep me occupied. God knows what kind of craziness I’d be capable of committing without some form of creative outlet. As Shakespeare wrote in KING LEAR, “Oh, that way madness lies.”