Even before I was published, writing, which to me has always been about the weaving of stories for other people, has been part of the very fabric of my life and my being. Since my first book was published, thirty years ago precisely, I have felt lucky, indeed, blessed, to earn my living doing what I’ve always felt I was born to do. Aside from my public work, working emotions out through writing them down in journals and diaries has always helped put things into perspective in times of personal crisis.
Two horrors happened in quick succession where we live last year: severe drought and wildfires. In an earlier Writer Unboxed post, What Do You Save? I wrote a bit about that—the first time I’d been able to write anything public about what it felt like, despite having written a fair bit about it in my journals. It had taken months to process those feelings into anything properly coherent, and during that time I also turned to a childhood love, painting. The feel of the paint on the paper, the sweep of the brush, was a calming and helpful thing, and as non-public as the journal writing. Then the fires stopped and the rains came, ending the drought. Everything turned green, gloriously green, and the joy of it ran in my writing veins like that life-giving water. It didn’t last long, that joyful respite. All around the world humans are facing another kind of horror, invisible this time, but more dangerous, unpredictable and baffling. Strangely, it’s reversed the previous situation for us here in one way: drought and fires made our home feel unsafe; now the pandemic can make our home feel like the only safe place.
Like most writers, I’ve always worked from home, at my messy desk in the lounge room. I have never had any problem with disciplining myself, or had writer’s block, though there are times when I’ve written more than others, or less, depending on what else was going on. Flexibility has always been part of my modus operandi. When working from home is no longer a choice for you but an absolutely must, and your family scattered far and wide, your friends, and indeed everyone else you know must do the same, even if they normally go to offices or other separate worksites, then it changes the story. Played out within a wider global plot-line of nightmarish intensity and bizarre, surreal twists, and against personal worries for the safety, health and economic well-being of loved ones, friends, neighbors and local communities, this story of a writing life transformed might seem little. It is the one I know best, though, and certainly the only one I feel qualified to expand on publicly. Here are some of the impacts that these singular times have had on my own writing life, and how I’ve tried to deal with it. I offer this in the hope it might help other writers struggling with similar things. [Read more…]