In our semi-retirement, Phil and I are blessed: we each have a workroom in this house and we each have our work. We share meals but often spend mornings and afternoons in our rooms, me in the silence necessary for writing and Phil with old radio shows as background for his digital art projects.
As an introvert, I know social engagement is good for me and I try to take it regularly, like medicine. Some such activity, like a walk with a long-time friend is stimulating, but more than four to six people at a time makes me feel as if I’m bracing for the seventh wave. I come home depleted.
Anne Lamott says she was a young person who “accepted being alone quite a lot. I think that this sort of person often becomes either a writer or a career criminal.” Books were Lamott’s refuge, of course. I suspect that’s not the case with those lonely children who become criminals.
April is poetry month and the NaNoWriMo virus about November novel writing has infected the poetry contingent, so now poets pledge to write a poem a day (NaPoWriMo) in April. Some of those poems brightened my Facebook feed, since I count any number of poets as friends. I used to be one myself. They managed to write some decent poems, keepers among them. I suppose there’s a lesson in this.
“Literature owes a great deal to enforced idleness, whether the writer be sick or in prison.” Unnamed critic, quoted by Lydia Davis. Proust, confined to his bed. I would love to be as prolific as he was but would not like to sacrifice my health to accomplish it—or my freedom. Wilde, Mandela, Gramsci, from prison. Did the “enforced idleness” of the pandemic produce more writing?
An hour gone because an editor asked for three more changes. It’s been seven months since I submitted this essay. They told me they wanted it two weeks ago, along with a tracking changes markup, which I edited and returned the next day. (We had differences of opinion about commas.) Another exchange and we were supposed to be done. Today’s journals are mostly online, and editors can say things like, “this goes live tomorrow, so could you edit paragraph four by noon?”
I’m susceptible to a lack of light. If no writing has happened by four in the winter, when the sun sinks behind the school across the street, no writing will happen. Sundowning?
Observing my high school writers, long ago: as one young man starts a story, the words bloom fluently across the screen, flowing down the doc. Then stop. The child stares at it, cursor blinking, blinking. Clicks away, goes to a game, a candy crush kind of thing, cat videos, trailers for upcoming movies, email. Five minutes. Ten. I’m thinking I should give him a nudge when he clicks on the doc again. Cursor blinking. Words flow anew. This is how creativity works.
Four rejects in a row, soft body blows. Translations, my own work. The memoir essay I’ve labored over for months (draft 4) went to two trusted readers who both say, “I have a lot of questions.” As soon as I hear that, I see the flaws, the steep cliff I have yet to climb, feel the ache left by the rejections, spend a day despondent. What’s the point of trying to get published? I’m too old, should give up writing, take up knitting. The day after, I recognize that it’s the same old writer insecurity I’ve always had. I’ll wait until I get my trusty readers’ comments before I look at that memoir again. Meanwhile, I start chipping at a perhaps poem.
Prompt, if you choose: Did you write/create art more in the pandemic lockdown? Or do more of something else? Post replies on the blog, not Facebook, which will only bury them.