Lockdown isn’t totally unlike normal life for me. I get up, check e-mails, write, keep in touch with friends. Not so different from before. I think coping with the social distancing depends a lot on a set of factors that writers probably have in spades:
- Creating structure on your day and your week
- The ability to enjoy isolation
- The satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a task
My day, as I said, has structure. Though my writing group has stopped meeting, we continue to circulate drafts to each other as before once a week on Thursdays. Every Wednesday, I write a story for Friday Fictioneers.
Writing, though its product is an intensely social collaboration between author and reader, involves solitary hours communing with the keyboard. So the new isolation is much like the old isolation.
The act of writing is immensely satisfying, creating something that never existed before. For me, each story is an act of discovery, of wrestling meaning from an initial vague intuition. I accomplish tasks every day. And, with my novel The Tears of Boadbil going into production, I get to see my work taking physical shape. Last week I returned to style proofs for page layout. I asked for a change in font size, line spacing, and some other details, including drop caps at the beginning of chapters. I love drop caps. Working on my book production, publicity and marketing gives me a way to engage with a future beyond the pandemic.
I know, of course, that I’m immensely privileged. I can pay my bills, there are no small children to be entertained, and we have a garden to potter around in. For many others, it is much grimmer.
For writers this is a time to be producing. You’d think now is not be the time publishers will want pandemic books. But Penguin says sales of Albert Camus’ The Plague were up 150% in February compared with the previous year and at the end of March, the number two book on Amazon’s charts was The Eyes of Darkness by Dean Koonz, about the fictional epidemic virus Wuhan-400.
The impact of the virus on our lives and our societies will necessarily provoke thoughts about what matters and how we should live our lives. It’s inconceivable coming out the other side of this emergency that the answers to these questions won’t be changed. And who better to reflect on them than writers?