For me, it’s been a little over a week. My last day on site at my day job was last Saturday, upon arriving back home that evening, I shut my door against the virus-ridden world and have only opened it a handful of times since then. I was very careful to get all the provisions I’d need ahead of time; I have sufficient food for myself and my cat, and a reasonable store of that most precious of all commodities, toilet paper. More to the point, my laptop and my fingertips all still work just fine. Clearly I can make the best of my sequestration, this time in exile, and get some writing done, right?
Yeah, um…no. Not so much.
I’m fortunate enough to still be working through all this; my office anticipated the likely need for a city-wide self-quarantine, and made provisions for all of us to work remotely. My monthly reading series, Dead Playwrights’ Society (which I haven’t been able to go to for a while now, but that’s a whole other story), has figured out how to conduct online meetings through Google hangouts, and is indeed increasing its meeting schedule to once per week in a desperate attempt to keep our membership sane. And over the past few days, I’ve been in online conversations and meetings with the Naked Angels leadership to figure out how to start up remote sessions of Tuesdays at Nine. (Which – spoiler alert – we’ll be doing tomorrow night!)
All of these things usually take place in separate corners of my brain, as well as separate physical spaces. I leave work, take the subway, grab a bite, and am at the theater, or the rehearsal studio, or the café where I meet with my colleagues for planning sessions. I can compartmentalize. That’s no longer the case. Absolutely every conversation I need to have, every ongoing dialogue, is happening at the same time, and in the same place.
It’s happening in my home. And it’s happening on my laptop. And if I’m participating in these converations, I’m not doing anything else. Like getting any writing done.
Most writers nowadays know the struggle of trying to concentrate on their work in the hyperconnected, digitally distracting world we’re living in. It can feel like a bell’s going off in your head every few seconds, trying to get you to tear yourself away from what you’re doing. Well, that isn’t how it feels for me right now – it’s literally what’s happening. I can’t write a paragraph without the digital ding of an incoming text message or email alerting me to yet another potential crisis.
I am definitely surprised, in this my hermitage, to have so many digital comings and goings. I wasn’t expecting to have such a busy social calendar during the middle of the apocalypse. It’s absolutely cutting into any writing time I’d hoped to have – though I guess that if all this was cut off, and I were completely isolated, I’d lose any psychological moorings I had left – and that would do much for my productivity either.