One of the best parts of writing is creating characters, telling their stories and in doing so, pretending to be someone else. It’s like having a second life, completely in your control. One of the worst things about it is everyone who knows you assumes that in some respect, you are revealing aspects of your persona that you cover up in public. When you write melancholy, disfunction or even downright malice into your characters, does that mean that inside you feel that way on some level as well? And why is it that it’s only those darker qualities that people question? Why would someone assume that if I write about a serial killer, that I have murderous tendencies myself? Or in a more realistic scenario, if a write about a character suffering from depression or anxiety, does that mean I am revealing my inner issues too?
The short answer is: of course not! The beauty of writing is being able to step outside yourself and into someone else’s life. To use your imagination in a more than superficial way to feel what it’s like to be another person with a unique perspective and a completely different set of circumstances. When we do that we have to be prepared to go to the dark side. To find those regions of human experience that aren’t pretty or comfortable. Because really that is life these days.
I’ve said this previously: being able to shine a light in dark places in our writing is a good thing. It creates the drama a novel needs. It makes our characters believable and relatable. It gives them depth, dimension. It makes the reader invest in the character, either in hoping for their salvation or their demise. But it doesn’t make the writing a confession. It just makes us better writers.
Image via John Haim
As a rather contented introvert, being isolated should not be such an ordeal. I’m used to not talking to anyone all day long until my husband comes home from work. And yes, we’ve made some new friends here and enjoy an occasional get-together. But my daily life is fairly solitary. Besides exercise and household chores, my routine consists of writing, researching, editing, and possibly art projects. However, in a strange twist of fate, isolation has completely disrupted this quiet existence.
Since we’ve been in lockdown for the last couple of weeks, I swear I have spent more time writing and answering messages, emails, and talking over WhatsApp and FaceTime than I ever have. We all feel the need to get in touch. It might be out of genuine concern, boredom or perhaps that dreadful feeling of I might never get to see you again if one of us gets sick. It’s probably a combination of all those things. I’ve never been a Facebook person but I find myself scrolling through it all the time now. I have joined local groups so I can find out what’s going on here in the village. This is not me!!!
It is not surprising that ‘people’ people [extroverts] are in constant contact. I get that they need to be connected to feel energised and fulfilled. But someone like me doesn’t normally need that kind of interaction. It also doesn’t make me a bad person or cool, aloof or uncaring. It just means I cope differently. I find peace and quiet rejuvenating. Isolation should be a piece of cake. Should be. Why am I losing my mind?
These are unprecedented circumstances. Even though I’m reaching corona fatigue, I still feel the need to pay attention, to wait hopefully for that good news to come. Until a return to normalcy [whatever that’s going to look like] we all need to talk, to vent, to connect and make sure everyone in our circle is doing ok. Even us introverts, apparently. I should be great at self isolation. But I’m not. How ironic.
…because I don’t feel like talking about Covid-19. It feels like everything has stopped and the things that are going on are spoken of and written about in relation to the virus and the measures affecting them. At the same time, it feels trivial to try to write about what I’m working on while ignoring the pandemic altogether, or writing about my activities in the context of how to keep busy while quarantined. Or should I say self isolation. I don’t want to give ‘let’s think positive’ advice, I don’t want to trivialize this epically serious disease, and I don’t want to tell you how I can’t seem to concentrate on anything for more than 15 minutes because of the low level dread I’m feeling.
But here I am anyway, just writing a little note to say hello. I send my best wishes for everyone’s health, safety and sanity for the duration. We’re doing ok in Ireland, so far. The government is being proactive and the people for the most part are following the rules. There, that’s all I’m going to say about it. My 15 minutes are up and I can’t pay attention any more.