by Janis Patterson
I used to have a dream… a dream of a place where I have no responsibilities, no job to go to, no social obligations to fulfill, no time-consuming errands to run, no organizations to which I have made promises… nothing but time and quiet in which to write. The archetypical ivory tower.
Well, I can tell you the archetypical ivory tower is very overrated. Like everyone else, The Husband and I have been pretty much self-quarantined at home for what seems like the last couple of aeons. Oh, we have gone to the grocery about once a week (a giddy exercise in freedom!) and once to the bank (drive-thru only) and occasionally to pick up a take-out meal from Desperados, our very favorite Mexican restaurant (food is good as ever, but just not the same experience), but to a modern couple living in a big city with lots of connections and work and organizations, our recent adventures have been pretty thin.
Which, you would think, would be wonderful for my writing. Aside from fixing dinner most nights and a load or two of laundry each week, I have nothing to do but write.
Except I can’t.
The Husband is very good – most of the time – about not bothering me while I work. It took a couple of years in the early part of our marriage, but he did learn that when my office door is closed no one disturbs me unless there is blood or flame! (I should say we’re an older couple, and it’s just the two of us and one very bossy little dog.) While we’ve been sequestered he’s been working his way through some stuffed old boxes of his stuff that date from the time of our marriage.
Me – “You need to go through those boxes and get rid of a lot of that stuff.”
Him – “I know what’s in every one of those boxes, and it’s all stuff I want to keep.”
Me – “Well, then, go through and pack it carefully in new plastic boxes – those cardboard boxes are yucky.”
Him – “I’ll get around to it.”
Repeat this conversation a time or two a year for almost every year – and there are a number of them – we’ve been married.
Well, the Chinese plague lockdown has taken away all his excuses. He can’t go to work, we have no meetings, and he can watch only so much idiotic TV, so he finally said he’d do one box. Of course, that led to another and another (we’re actually seeing parts of the storage room floor we haven’t seen in a couple of years!) and now it’s a treasure hunt.
Him – “Look at what I found! I’ve been looking for this!” is repeated several times a day. The first few times I was jubilant – and just a little bit self-satisfied – but after a day or two I decided I had to work and went behind the closed doors of my office.
Except I can’t.
I am facing two book deadlines (not counting my recurring blogs) and I need to write. Deadlines have been sacrosanct my entire life and I will do just about anything to meet them. Worse still, I pretty much know what I’m going to write, so it isn’t a real case of writer’s block, it’s just… just… The best description I can come up with is a non-religious accidie… a laziness or indifference to the entire process.
My mind wanders – and not creatively, as it should when you’re writing. I find myself either becoming fascinated with something that has nothing to do with what’s at hand or just shutting off and staring at something, such as the rose bush outside my window or the TV screen, and both are just about as edifying.
Perhaps the dirty little secret of this Chinese plague lockdown is a lack of structure. I’ve worked since I was in school, and most of the time done it well, but there has always been a structure. There have been structure-less days, of course, and on occasion a week or so such as in a vacation or an illness, but I always knew that at the end of a certain period of time the structure would surround me again and that knowledge kept me going. Or started me up again, to be honest.
Now, with no real end in sight and a tragically changed world waiting outside my (metaphoric) front door, I don’t know what to do. I was always pretty good at living inside a structure, but I suck at creating one. However – I know something has to change, and the only thing I can influence or change for sure is myself, so I have been working at writing out a schedule. Somehow that makes it the more real. It’s about time I learned how to schedule… oh, I’ve always known how. It’s simple. The hard part, the part I must master, is fulfilling it.
Hope all of you are staying safe and well. Please take care of yourselves.
8 thoughts on “Time to Write and Other Fictions”
IIt helps to set at least one goal a day, even if it’s a small one. That way you can feel good to accomplish it.
It definitely helps to follow a daily routine. Then you have a semblance of control over your life while things are chaotic outside.
Janis, It is interesting how each person/writer is either adapting to this change in their lives or stalling. Because I live in such a rural area, the only change I’ve had has been events cancelled and wearing a mask to go to the grocery store. Otherwise, my life continues the same. Taking care of animals, doing farm chores, and writing.
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You have certainly hit the nail on the head. This is what so many of us are going through. It doesn’t make sense to be wasting this time we now have, but how to get started? How to follow through each day? I have a dozen things that need to be done, or that are started and left hanging.
I think we are all waiting. Waiting for it to be over. Waiting for the next thing. Waiting for some real reason to get our “musts” done. I HATE this waiting room.
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I am probably older than all of you and I’m moving along pretty much as I always have except for wearing a mask to the grocery store and not going to any of my in-person events that were all cancelled. I’ve actually been quite productive.
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We have a lot in common. Even as a nurse, most of my career, I have been self-employed and working out of my home. The daily interruptions have decreased since the children grew up and went about their lives. But there is always something to distract. I never was a “gad about”. so that helped.
My regular job is sitting in front of the computer and my writing has me firmly in place. I do belong to several writing groups, so I see people on Zoom and that is great.
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You sound a lot like me. As older people we are hesitant to go out much. It is depressing. And it does affect my writing. But we’ll all soldier on.
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