Lockdown 2: Revenge of the Virus

I thought we were done with this shit.

You know, it seems unfathomable to me that this time last year I was a carefree, germ-spreading idiot who delighted in moving freely though crowds, coughing with abandon and hugging her loved ones. I often wonder how my 2019 self would’ve reacted if she could’ve seen images of what lay ahead in 2020; shoppers milling around supermarkets in decorated surgical masks, spare rooms transformed into home offices, all the stark visual oddities that would never have made sense previously.

I doubt my stupid 2019 self would’ve taken my time-travelling 2020 self seriously. I still remember talking to my dad on the phone at the beginning of the year… “It’s just a bad strand of flu”, I’d said, flippantly. “I don’t get what everyone’s freaking out about!” My opinion quickly changed when my husband and I both caught the bloody thing, felt like we were circling death and then watched the rest of the country fall into shambles.

In hindsight, the first lockdown wasn’t that bad. I mean it was bad, but at least we all sort of rallied together and did the “keep calm and carry on” thing that the British are supposed to be all about. Not being able to leave our homes except for work and exercise sucked, but it was made bearable by the springtime sunshine, the clapping for the NHS, the paintings of rainbows in everybody’s windows, and the universal expectation that this was just some weird state of emergency that we’d look back on with a shudder in a few months’ time.

Well, now it’s seven months later, and the second lockdown has arrived. It’s clear that this is a prolonged crisis that will go down in history. All our British morale has fallen by the wayside – I honestly think everybody’s too tired of the whole thing to be cheerful anymore, but who can blame us? I never thought I could be so mentally exhausted by the daily nothingness of living through a pandemic.

On the bright side, since I started working from home and my social life has been declared illegal, I’ve had loads of time to write…

…I’ve not written much. As it turns out, it’s a bit difficult to be creative when the world is in flames. I’ve been getting loads of ideas – short stories, novels, comics and (inexplicably) short films – but the process of actually getting the ideas out of my brain and onto paper seems to be much more difficult this year.

I’ve seen a lot of creatives talking about this issue on Twitter recently, and the consensus seems to be that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves, that we don’t need to be productive all of the time and especially not during a pandemic. Which is true, and yet a small voice in my head whispers “not you though, you’re just a lazy twat”. I don’t know about other writers, but if I go too long without writing something, it becomes increasingly difficult to get back into it as each day passes. I worry about how many great indie writers may fade away due to 2020 burnout.

As difficult as it is to be creative at the moment, it feels more important than ever. I can’t speak for other writers, but I write to disappear into something imaginary. Whilst the writing itself is a solitary practice, I always hope that my stories will find readers, and that they might also slip out of our grim reality and into something imaginary for a brief moment. Even though writing in 2020 feels like wading through mud, we need to keep going, even if it’s for no other reason than to keep ourselves sane.

I suppose the answer is balance, but we all knew that anyway. We all know the tired phrases about “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”, but it doesn’t change how tired we feel. For me, I find it helpful to focus on the other side of the pandemic (because we will reach the other side, even if the date is a bit uncertain).

I don’t set rigid goals for myself these days.

Did I write today?

Yes? Wonderful.

No? Oh, well. There’s always tomorrow.

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