Writing during the pandemic

I write all the time, but I didn’t writing anything from April 2020 to November 2020.

I had a brief period of lockdown where I didn’t go to work. It felt long at the time, but in the scheme of things, it wasn’t. My job locked us down for 70 days. I remember because I kept count on my instagram stories. Every morning, I would take my dogs into the backyard and snap a picture – the grass, the palm tree in my neighbor’s yard, the sunrise, the fig tree in our yard. The fig tree went from completely bare to having huge, green leaves in that 70 days.

And then they called us back. I’m a public librarian, it’s hard to work from home. My library system didn’t open, but we did offer a version of curbside pick up for nearly a year before the public came back inside in April 2021.

At the beginning of my 70 day lockdown, I did write a little. Sort of. I took an old story and rewrote it to be better. And then I wrote a little something new. And the one more new thing, short and sweet. No sweeping epics, nothing novel length.

And then I couldn’t, anymore. I couldn’t write. I didn’t know what to say. I was depressed. Every day bled together. I did normal quarantine things. Binged watched shows with lots of seasons. Baked bread. Watered my plants. Sat down at my computer, looked at it with dead, empty eyes, got up again.

I’m nearly always writing something. Pecking away at something. I’ve been consistently writing fiction for the last 20 years. I wasn’t this time. It felt like I was all backed up inside. Constipated with words, but I just didn’t know how to get them out.

While going back to work was difficult and scary and uncertain, I think having a structured day really helped me start to write again. With endless amounts of time to write, it was easy to say I could just do it later and put it off. With less free time, I knew exactly when and where I had to fit writing in. It was rocky to get back to it at first. I took some long abandoned starts and worked on them, things that were really no pressure. Then, I finally started something longer.

I think we have to be gentle with ourselves right now. I have a full-time job and we have been busy. For a while, when most places were closed, we were kind of the only entertainment game in town and we’ve been slammed for the whole pandemic. Just yesterday we were so backed up on shelving that it spilled down the staff hallway.

Every time I finish a long writing project, I swear to myself I’m not going to write anything ever again. It’s always a joke because I’ve been compulsively writing for most of my life. It’s how I process things, it’s how I view the world, it’s how I find my own place in it. It was scary to finish something and then not start something new for a long stretch. It was hard to be scared all the time, depressed, worried about the pandemic, worried about finances, worried about the election.

You can’t force out creativity. You can’t reach in and scrape out something that just isn’t there. For me, forced writing is bad writing, anyway. I guess my brain just needed the break. If your brain needs a break, too, take it. Guilt free. My gift to you.

Also, be nice to your librarians, we’re very tired.

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