How to Get Away With Writing
What Happens in the Bubble: Writing in the Pandemic Demands Subterfuge and Lying
~These are a series of posts about my experience living through the pandemic.~
We have all had to make changes to our lives due to this pandemic; whether those changes are big or small, no one has been exempted from being impacted. It can feel uncomfortable to talk about the impacts, because there is the pervasive knowledge that your “complaints” pale in comparison to the true loss, grief and distress that so many have experienced. I choose to stay home because I care deeply about the people in this world who are bearing the brunt of this and I hope that by doing so, I can limit the spread of the virus. And yet, despite my worry that I will be misunderstood, I am writing this. But I want to be clear: I am not complaining, I am strategizing.
Prior to the pandemic, I had created discrete, though sometimes over-lapping, identities for myself. One of those identities was a writer. I had published two books in a four book series, and was working on the third. One of the things I loved about writing was the deep absorption I would experience as I submitted to the world of my imagining, and eavesdropped on the characters I’d created to chronicle the story that was spinning out. I would travel to some out of the way spot; the library, the Java Room, my friend’s dining room table- as long as it was somewhere else and I would put in ear buds and spend 2–3 hours writing. It was awesome.
But now I have no where to go. In actual fact. Since last March we have stayed home. Both my husband and I are lucky enough to have jobs where we can work remotely. Our college-aged daughter is home doing her studies remotely. The only times I have left my house is when my job required me to go someplace, and that has been extremely rare. And what I find is that the place where I live doesn’t have a lot of room currently for the writer identity, mostly because I am surrounded by all the evidence and detritus of my other identities. And they are not good with sharing.
Case in point: look at the photo in this article. It is the view to the right of my computer. And I think it represents the identities that are dominating my life at this time:
Exhibit A: A cleaning checklist I printed out after wasting an hour watching cleaning tutorials on Youtube. I did spend some time thinking about using the lists, but I haven’t yet…though I have managed to spill some coffee on them. In truth, I spend a fair amount of time cleaning the house, because it is the only space we are in and if it is not clean, then all three of us get discouraged. It is non-negotiable. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeDNVLP9jf9a2BDaLUQC7YA
Exhibit B: A label from a can of beer I enjoyed with my husband on one of three nights during the week when I wasn’t working in Zoom (do the math: that is four nights a week working in Zoom.) And even though we spend every day together -every day- we still laugh, but that takes time…and beer, sometimes. https://www.aeronautbrewing.com/beer/
Exhibit C: A painted stone bought from my godmother who used to run a small Etsy shop and definitely represents all the time I have spent on Facebook or Amazon or some other use of my computer that is not writing but is family and friends and shopping(note the tin that is also from Etsy, though that was a present from my husband)… shop small and local and online! https://artisans-exchange.com/
Exhibit D: The photo of my kids and my dog Dancer reminding me of, well, my love of my kids, though much older, and my dogs, both past and present, and the ways in which my life is inextricably linked to theirs’ despite distance or age and all of the time that takes up…in wonderful but real ways.
No wonder I would leave to write. When I am writing I don’t think about anything or anyone else. It is supremely self-centered. In the best way. And I have not had much luck carving out time for that identity- I have tried to write by scheduling blocks of time, committing to creativity clusters, and invoking my Catholic guilt, but to no avail. My other identities always had a way of interfering. So I am left with no choice but to use deception.
Deceiving yourself so that you can do something you want is kind of like how you convince yourself that if you eat McDonalds in the car then there are no witnesses and it doesn’t count. I know I can do that, so deceiving my other identities so that I can write should be a breeze.
I just need to clean out that tiny, cold room at the bottom of the attic stairs and tell myself that it is a coffee shop closed by the pandemic, and no one else can come in. Not the inefficient cleaning lady, or the boozy fun girlfriend, or the talkative cousin or the busy mom. And then I can put on my sweater, pop in the ear buds, and stay hidden until I get done with the book.
Or at least the next chapter.
So if you are a writer and can relate- let me know how you are writing in the pandemic. And if you aren’t a writer, but feel like you can’t live all your identities in the space you are sheltering in, feel free to unburden in the comments. We can all get through this together. Even if we have to use a little subterfuge.