Writing in the time of COVID-19
Updated: Jul 9
I started a new novel a few weeks ago. Before the outbreak. As the numbers of infections and deaths rose in China, I began feeling overwhelming panic. So much of what I wrote in my first novel, Antigenesis, was coming true. And I knew what it meant, weeks earlier than others around me would catch on. I bought toilet paper and stocked up before it became mainstream. Slowly, with each passing day and new headline, my fears were realized.
Now that social distancing and teleworking are my new normal, I'm starting to feel less stressed. But not to the point where I feel good about writing again. My current project is another comedy, but perhaps more light-hearted than 'Creeps'. In a normal time, this would bring me joy and fun. These are not normal times and the story line seems silly and somehow worthless. And I can't get my brain to function in that other world, that previous world, where planning a wedding shower for 120 people could have a comedic plot.
So instead, I've been painting. I took up painting for the first time right after my 50th birthday, after a trip to Paris. I was inspired by all the art and decided to give it a try. During 2019, I barely touched my brushes. Instead, I was writing all the time. Now there's a 180 degree return back to art.
I never understood the term "art therapy" before. I figured it was some froo froo term that didn't really have an impact on one's mental health. Sure, art is fun, but did it actually help one mentally or physically? Well, now I understand. I get it now. After weeks of anxiety, I can honestly attest that painting is the only time I feel relaxed. No, more than relaxed. At peace. I forget about time. The active parts of my brain shut off and I'm immersed in the simple pleasure of mixing colors and experimenting with brush strokes. And this makes sense because we've all heard that making art uses a different 'side' of your brain. It wasn't until I felt unending distress that I could appreciate the ability to shut down the voices in my head.
I'll get back to writing eventually. Now I'm about self-care and taking life one day at a time. I still think about my story, characters and scenes to be written. For now, my book will have to reside in the recesses until it is safe to come out again.
Be well and safe everyone! Feel free to follow me on twitter at @ds_whitaker.