I was writing my follow up to “now moments,” a previous post, when I found the writing meandering. The twists and turns reminded me of the “crooked street”, Lombard Street in San Francisco, where I lived in my thirties. I didn’t know why I was experiencing a lack of focus. Now that I have loads of time with no demands of it, why can’t I produce a simple blog post and more pages of my novel-in-progress? One would think writers now would have oodles of time to write, one of many silver linings being discovered daily from our C19 experiences. But maybe you are a writer like me who also thinks just because you’ve got more time doesn’t mean you’ve got more writing completed to show for it.
If you’re a writer, you probably have heard, “You must be able to get a lot of writing done now,” from family and friends. I’m not sure if this is a statement or a question, but this has come up in conversation when talking about good things coming out from this pandemic. With a knee slap and a hint of sarcasm, I reply, “Sure, and book number three is on its way! (It’s not. Number two and I are limping along) I know writers who can produce work, and a lot of it, at any time and perhaps they answer “yes” quickly. But for me, the question doesn’t do much for my writerly, self confidence.
Before C19, I scheduled writing time like I would any appointment. I relied on a daily schedule that kept me moving through the day, organized and focused, so when my seat met the seat of a chair I was “ready, set, go” to write.
I thought about “to-do” lists and how we’re forced to make the most out of every minute. Scheduled days called for focus to get tasks completed. There was anticipation of what was to come next.
But that was then. Now, I’m sparring with distraction. Sudden changes to my schedule from once having my hours allocated and accounted for in structure, now I’m called to find new ways of doing things, from grocery shopping to exercise routines, from working and playing outside the home to online participation. The only thing I’m anticipating is the unknown.
It’s grief for John Warner, author of Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities. Despite lots of time, he says he hasn’t been reading much. He has at least ten books in his TBR pile but he can’t seem to focus on the writing in the book he is reading, let alone pick one up. Warner feels too grief stricken to read as he realizes how much of this is out of his control when he remembers how free we once were to move around in our world and now we must self-isolate.
While venturing out on a recent agreeable weather morning. I migrated to the nearest bike path for a brisk walk, sewing seams among the trees to see the forest within them. And on my way there, people greeted each other in passing with smiles and waves, joining in laughter with the playfulness of a child’s actions. Some walked briskly; kids rode bikes; seniors strolled. Children happily engaged perhaps because they were at home with their parents, though parents maybe not-so-much happy. And dogs looked confused by it all as it wasn’t the weekend, but their tails wagged with gusto anyway.
My awareness focused on hands empty of cell phones. Acknowledging one another through eye contact, waves hello and smiles was connecting despite a mandate to distance. This has made for a nice silver lining!
With more time and a reallocation of our minutes, distractions from the outside or grief blooming from the inside affects us, especially this writer, as I see my thoughts on paper mimicking the pattern of my day, pulling me in different directions where I soon hope straightens out just like Lombard Street does at the Presidio, where I once lived. But as time ticks by unrestrained and free of schedules, more time has given me more reason to be aware and to connect, to make new friendships and rekindle old ones, to find engagement with my world despite an enemy that is pulling us apart.
Perhaps there is a little gold to be found in the folds of a silver lining.