Writing in Pandemic

Writing in Pandemic

I love to write. Nothing in this world makes me feel as instantaneously contented and accomplished as sitting down and working on a novel. Since 2011, I’ve always had a book I’m working on. I could have a bad day, hate my job, feel all alone, get terrible news and I would sit down and write. And after I wrote, I would always feel better, always. You would think then that during 2020, I would have written a lot.   

But I didn’t.

I look back and search for reasons: I chose the wrong projects, I made the mistake of hoping too much after a couple literary agents asked for a previous manuscript, I was too depressed after I lost my job. All of it feels true and yet none of it is satisfying.

2020 was a bad year for everyone. The pandemic still rages across the US and I’m very much in the same spot right now as I was a year ago (don’t worry, I got a new job). It’s hard to try and wring a lesson out of the year. When we frame the stories of our lives, they take the structure of cause and effect, they become struggles, battles fought and lost.

2020 doesn’t feel like a dragon I slayed, nor one that consumed me. It’s more like a dragon that I lived beside which occasionally snapped at me or blew smoke in my face. It changed the environment around me, made everything seems suspect and different. It was existential, proof that the rules of our time are so very arbitrary. It turned the future murky, robbing us of the gift of expectation as well as the necessity of other people.

My writing slowed in 2020, but it didn’t disappear. I found that the normal cycle of my ‘productivity’ where, I’m usually good for two weeks—to a month and then collapsed into a couple of days of funk, got supercharged. I’d write for a week and then spend all weekend playing video games or lying on the couch eating chips (poppcorners are my favorite). It got so bad at times that it felt like every other day I was hitting a ‘funk’.

I never found a solution to the ‘funk’ problem or 2020, but I kept going. I have a project now that feels light in tone and yet substantive enough to pursue and after a couple of rocky first draft chapters it’s starting to enter a good flow. I don’t know how long that flow will last.

It’s hard to hold on to much of anything during pandemic, everything fuses together. There is no slaying the dragon, no triumph that gives us closure, just a hundred thousand little struggles that stretch, and stretch and stretch. I don’t know when things will be back to ‘normal’ and normal itself will change from this. But I do know that for right now, today, that after I finish writing this, I will feel contented and accomplished and I’m going to hold on to that feeling for as long as it lasts.