Why the Pandemic Isn’t Panning out for Writers Like Me
By Larry Kahaner
(This article first appeared in Pandemic Diaries.)
When my state of Maryland went into full lockdown in mid-March, I did not see the carnage ahead. All I thought was: “Okay, I have to stay inside for a while except for trips to the grocery store, and I will have plenty of time to work on my novel-in-progress.”
I saw my foreseeable life as if I were living the proverbial writers’ dream retreat. No distractions, no calls, no one wanting anything from me. All I had to do was take care of my basic needs, and those of my wife, and I would be free to be creative.
Three-plus months later, my dream hasn’t happened, and I know why. (Please set aside the looming spectre of deaths for just a minute — if you can.)
Contrary to popular belief, not all writers, painters, poets, sculptors, and artists are introverts. An introvert isn’t someone who sits at home by themselves and shuts others out. An introvert is a person who gets much, if not all, of their creative energy from inside their head. In a way, they are self-propelling. Moreover, an introvert has a limit on being with others especially at loud parties or large events. At some point, they must retreat to maintain their stability. Introverts aren’t anti-social; there’s just so much they can take of others.
An extrovert, on the other hand, is someone who gets their creative juices flowing by being with other people.
I am an extrovert.
I get my inspiration and ideas from sitting in a café, watching and eavesdropping on other people (not in a creepy way). I receive creative power and narrative imagination from yakking in my condo parking lot with my eccentric and sometimes annoying neighbors, chatting with retail clerks, and most of all, having lunch or cocktails with friends and family. After a few beers at a pub and loud chatter, I am not drained but energized.
It’s not that I abhor being alone with my own thoughts. Hell, I’ve been a writer for decades and riding solo is part of the gig, but I fill up my creative tank when I spend time with others.
The pandemic has erased that.
Sure, I am still writing my novel, but my output has been poor, not my usual progress. On the plus side, I had my first humor piece published. After all, humor comes from pain, and I am in a lot of it. See: ‘Quality,’ not ‘Quantity’ of Infections is How I Judge my Work, Says Kevin the Coronavirus .
There’s another factor at play. Perhaps the biggest one. Sorrow. I find myself surfing the web too much, watching TV news too much and worrying too much about what’s going on right now. I need to keep tabs on the horribleness, and it saps my energy.
Lest you think I’m being a whiny-baby, I count my blessings. I have food, shelter and I’ve been working from home for many years, so I have an income from non-fiction writing. Most of all, I have not gotten sick from the virus.
I dream that when this is over — and it will be — we will see a surge of all kinds of creative works worldwide: Street art, concerts, public sculptures, plays, and people like me sitting in bars getting energized and creative.
Take heart extroverts. Our time will return.
Larry Kahaner has been a serious journalist and writer for decades. Now, not so much — serious that is. Except for this article.