You’d think global lockdown would have been an easy time in which to write. Indeed, if you own the hellish twister that is a writer’s brain, you’ve actually dreamt about times like this. Hey—what if everything just stopped for some reason and you had to stay indoors, and you had to be idle, and nothing was going on to make you feel like an introverted freak for not being there, and you could just …
But it hasn’t been like that. Not for me, sheltering in Passau, Germany. Not for countless other writers I’ve read and heard who say they can’t concentrate for shit and spend half the day consumed with a crippling ennui that can ground the entire day in sleep, inability to distinguish one day from the next, and general uselessness of body and soul.
And this is where you start to calculate the role of stability and certainty in any life, the energy it actually gives you just by lying there undetected underneath everything. The questions that normality asks and answers for you, leaving you blissfully uninvolved. Of course you can meet five friends for a drink. Of course you can take a long trip for the weekend.
But the stability calculation becomes particularly clear when the society you’re in, little by little, begins to open back up, performing its functions and follies again.
Starting in late April, Germany has restored bookstores and some shopping, worship services, and hairdressing salons.
But this week we got outdoor dining back, and it’s like Christmastime on ecstasy. The sense of restored communion and humanity—in myself, in the people around me, in the early summer air of old Passau—is astonishing.
Of course we still have to be on our guard. There’s a clear and present danger with every one of these readjustments back to a type of life as we knew it.
But this one allowance of breaking bread together in the open air, even though I’m enjoying it on my own, transforms my isolated existence from a serial noir into a rom-com shot in glorious Cinemascope color.
Whether imposed by the state or the self, the writer’s isolation is a razor’s edge. Yeah, I’ve gotten some writing done and I’ve even been published a few times in this whole mess.
But more importantly, I’m someone else now and you are too. Maybe stronger, maybe sadder, maybe more adaptable, maybe readier to make sacrifices for a desperately needed greater good.
Let’s hope so. Bon appetit.