Well, we did it, Constant Reader – we made it to the end. 2021 comes to a merciful end this week, and with it, the second year of this pandemic. Yes, we’ve all now spent multiple years of our lives trying to survive Covid-19, so the usual soul-searching and second-guessing we all do at the end of December has a new component for us to deal with. A new question for the end-of-year checklist: have I gotten better or worse at surviving a plague?
I would have hoped the answer for me would be “yes.” I’ve started to get the hang of the whole zoom theater thing. I managed to have one of my pieces produced at a real live theater this year (just for a single night, during a lull in the whole raging pandemic thing, but still it counts). More and more of my life has come back “online,” as it were. I’ve been able to see my friends again, and even collaborate on new projects.
And yet – I haven’t exactly been able to write those new projects. For the calendar year 2021, I’ve managed to write two 20-30 minute one acts, one intended for live theater and one intended for zoom. And that’s it. About fifty pages total. Which isn’t nothing, but isn’t exactly the proverbial “Lear in quarantine” we keep holding up as an example of how we should be productively using our time in quarantine.
What chagrins me is that I’d written significantly more last year, when we were all still in shock and denial at what was going on and scrambling to find ways to stay focused and productive. I wrote two short one acts then as well – again, one for zoom and one for in-person performance – but also completed a one-act and wrote another one-act from scratch. And I don’t seem to be alone – many of my writer friends have told me similar things, that it’s this second year of the pandemic that’s sapped their energies and reduced their output.
The reason, I think, is that it’s hard to stay motivated without specific goals in mind, even if those goals are just “get produced somewhere.” So far this pandemic, the only play I’ve written without a specific home in mind was the first full-length, which was already underway and which I wanted to finally finish while I had the chance. Everything else was written for a specific contest or production opportunity. They might not have been accepted for those, but at least there was an incentive for their creation. There was a particular thing to shoot through, to guide us through the fog and murk of a world in limbo.
Without those incentives? In a world where we keep exclaiming “Broadway is back!” only to cancel performances left and right due to omicron outbreaks? In a world where theater companies in precarious financial conditions scale back their productions and their outreach to new writers? Where the challenges of the pandemic are causing a profound retrenching, a revanchist movement towards the most basic fare? The fog and murk is returned, and often seems stronger than ever. Much of my non-writing time has been spent in aimless researching, doing preliminary readings for projects that I know I want to tackle eventually, but for whom an actual chance of production seems nowhere on the horizon. At least, that’s been the general pattern of the year that’s coming to an end. A month or so ago, I found a submission opportunity suitable for an idea of mine, with a deadline of February 1st. So whatever the rest of 2022 may bring, it looks like I’ll at least have a busy January.