Maybe This Is Enough For Now
Among the unexpected by-products of the writing life in quarantine—along with the fear, anxiety, and overall stress of trying to survive a global pandemic with one’s physical, emotional, and financial well-being intact—has been something resembling creator’s guilt, born of the unique combination of more time at home and the expectation, real or perceived, that we use the time productively, creatively, and in service to our writing. I suspect this expectation is similar to the one derived, even in the best of times, from social media, wherein folks post messages and images of their best selves, no matter how invented or incomplete those portrayals may be, leaving friends and followers to compare their reality to a digital illusion. (It appears that at least one of my friends has read an entire book every day for the past eight weeks, to which I say, “Good for you.”) Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, most writers, myself included, could blame the daily grind if one’s creative output were somehow less than adequate. If only I didn’t have to blow two hours on my commute to and from the job, or run so many errands, or this or that, I would definitely write more. With the sudden alteration of one’s daily routine and the limits placed on physical activities, the perception is that now, finally, we have vistas of wide-open hours during which to create our art. For some of us, that may be true; for others it is most definitely not. While my life as a commuter and as a parent of two children has been simplified in one way, it has been complicated in other ways that will be familiar to anyone reading this. To combat the generalized anxiety and isolation, I have felt truly fortunate to be able to turn to the booksellers, event organizers, writers, agents, editors, and other literary professionals who are dealing with the crisis in their own fashion—as a response to the very real threats to their lives and livelihoods, but also as an occasion to double down or reimagine those things that are priorities in their lives: writing, literature, connection, community. And as simple as the message may be, it bears repeating: As writers we all have our own personal responses to the pandemic, and they are all valid. For now, maybe it is enough to know that you are a writer, to be a creative person attuned to the situation. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are receiving and processing enough stimuli—and learning enough about what it means to be alive in 2020—to fill your next five books. All in due time. For now, I wish you good health.