April 30, 2020

Sheltering in This Place

In the middle of April, I turned 45, which was of course one of the least noteworthy aspects of the month. My birthday celebrations were not so different from usual: I did some baking, I enjoyed delicious food and drink with the loved ones I live with, and I connected by videocall and phone with far-away family. In a non-pandemic version of my birthday, we might have driven to Santa Cruz to watch the ocean while eating ice cream, then had dinner at a favorite restaurant. But sitting on our own patio and drinking margaritas from our own blender was also a thoroughly delightful way to celebrate.

I live in Santa Clara County in California, where some of the earliest US coronavirus cases were detected, and where public health officials were quickest to act. My household has been incredibly fortunate, remaining healthy and financially secure. We have a comfortable house in a suburban neighborhood that provides plenty of space for safe outdoor exercise. Everyone else has tech jobs easily done at home, and I've always done my writing at home.

I haven't been writing much. I appreciate and agree with all the thoughtful stuff I've read about how this is not the time to expect creativity from ourselves, when our brains are mainly focused on fear and survival. Still, I'm lucky to be in a good place from a practical and usually psychological perspective. My mind is enjoying the distraction of books, and the podcasts I listen to while exercising and doing chores. I would love to be in the midst of a writing project that I could get further absorbed in.

If I had already been mid-project, I think I'd be working on it, not as well or as often as in the non-pandemic version of life, but I'd be getting somewhere. In this reality, though, not only are we living through a pandemic, but it struck right while I was trying to figure out what to write next. I can't say how my figuring out might have gone in the other timeline, but in this one, I'm still without a clear idea that I can sit down and add words to on a regular basis.

I did have about three days where I thought I had something semi-promising that might eventually turn into a novel. But writing out the few scenes in my head didn't create sufficient spark to give me any more to write beyond that. I may eventually work out how to continue this idea further, but at the moment, it feels like a dud.

However, I suppose what I should really say is that I wrote a little this month. It's not quite what I was hoping for, but nothing is right now, and any step in the right direction is worth celebrating. I'll probably write some next month, too, and that will be cool.

So that's where I'm at. I hope this finds you in a place of health, safety, and at least occasional delights.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ At Literary Hub, Emily Temple shares some early thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on future novels: "And just like 9/11 reverberated throughout American culture, changing the tenor even of media that did not directly address it, the coronavirus pandemic is likely to infect even those novels that skirt it with a mood—'post-pandemic fiction,' characterized by a distrust of capitalism and authority, and an acceptance of corruption, instability, and danger as a shimmering, distorted baseline."

→ Meanwhile, at The Millions, Edan Lepucki peers into the future and returns with summaries and covers of the bestselling coronavirus novels: "This is a sweeping and searing tapestry of a portrait of an infinity pool of a novel about humanity's vulnerability, penned by one of our greatest contemporary storytellers, where even the virus's spiky genome is given its own consciousness and rendered in luminous yet mischievous prose."

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