A Writer in Quarantine

by Gurpreet Sihat

When my friend wrote and asked me to share about my “writer’s life in quarantine,” my first thought was, what can I say about that? My life in quarantine isn’t so different from my regular life. 

I write.

I email what I’ve written.

I receive emails with editorial suggestions.

I re-write.

I email what I’ve written.

Repeat infinitely.

Writing is, by its nature, a solitary activity. No one else can pull those words from my head and, quite frankly, the presence of other people makes the entire process much more difficult.

But that’s not the whole story.

I love being a writer, but I also love being a wife, a mom, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a youth group leader, a church secretary, a community volunteer…

And daily life has changed. 

Here’s the part that’s hard to admit, because I feel guilty saying it: It’s changed for the better. 

I wake up in the morning, not to an alarm, but when I’m done sleeping (or, occasionally, when my dog can’t wait any longer to go outside and demands my attention). 

I take a shower and brew a pot of coffee, check my messages and emails, set out my children’s schoolwork for the day—they’re already homeschooled, so they’ve got the rhythm down and need little outside prompting—and then I write. Six days a week, I write a minimum of one thousand words on my current work in progress. I allow myself no exceptions. I know from experience that taking a little break here or there results in an inertia that is difficult to overcome. There’s truth to the statement, “An object in motion tends to stay in motion.” 

After writing comes lunch, usually at my desk while I take care of other tasks. These vary from day-to-day, but include editing, marketing, and managing my responsibilities as a Wattpad ambassador.

By early afternoon, I’m done. The next portion of the day is given to tending the garden, working on household projects, and other chores. 

That all makes me sound ambitious. I’m not. I’m literally the laziest person I know. I have to do those things first, or I will never do them. Those women who say, “I can’t possibly lay down for a good night’s sleep knowing the laundry hasn’t been put away.” Pssht! Ha! I could sleep like a baby right on top of that pile. But I feel the need to maintain a semblance of the illusion of being a functioning adult, so I do the grown-up stuff right off the bat, and I finish it as quickly as possible.

That usually leaves me from about 3pm until bedtime to play boardgames with my kids, watch Star Trek on Netflix, take walks, throw a ball for my dog.

My family eats a home-cooked dinner around the table every evening.

When I am tired, I read to my children, and then I go to bed.

Repeat infinitely.

That’s what life looks like in quarantine. I’m not rushing off to get the children to music lessons or sports practice. There aren’t half a dozen meetings to attend each week. Sunday mornings don’t require dressing up and getting to church on time. 

My family is in a position of vast privilege right now, and I don’t take it for granted for one single second.

Life is quietly full of all my favorite things.

But that’s not the whole story, either.

I find myself tearing up almost every time I look at social media. My friends and family are fighting bitterly over everything from the futility of wearing masks to the legitimacy of COVID19, to whether or not our churches should be holding in person services. One person says they’re desperate to open their small business, remaining closed will mean the ruination of their family’s life work. Another calls them selfish and greedy. How can business be as valuable as life? Who is right? How do you solve such an impossible equation?

Two of the four people in my house live under a cloud of anxiety that colors their words and actions. Each little cough is viewed with fear and suspicion. Every unusual tick a human body can produce prompts the inevitable question—is THIS the way coronavirus makes an appearance in our house?

I mourned with a dear friend who lost not one but both of his grandparents to COVID19.

I mourned the loss of a fellow Wattpad ambassador.

I mourned when one of the women I hold dear in my heart left behind two college aged children and a husband. She was young. She was healthy. She was active. In the early days of sheltering-in-place, I saw her driving. She rolled down her window and beamed at me. She waved and shouted a joke. A few days later she had a fever. Then she was in the hospital. Then she was gone, and I couldn’t even go to the funeral and hold her precious children in my arms and bear some of their grief.

I prayed with my friend whose young son was put on a ventilator in ICU. 

I prayed with her when his fiancé was also admitted to the hospital.

When they recovered, we couldn’t rejoice. Now the whole family would be exposed. Who would get sick next? 

So, what is it like, being a writer in quarantine?

It’s like walking on a balance beam. In one hand, I carry all of the best things I ever wanted from life. I’m in Introvert Heaven, and the stress of daily life in a world full of extroverts has melted away, leaving behind only that which I hold most dear.

In the other hand, I carry the grief of living in a world where human lives are snatched away, even while angry citizens march on the state capital with automatic weapons because they don’t like being told to stay home. The awareness of being a hair’s breadth away from catastrophe is never entirely out of mind. Will it come in the form of sickness? Maybe it will come in the shape of a civil war. It doesn’t feel like that’s impossible, as I used to think it was.

I don’t know what to do with that duality. Even as I write about it, it creates such a wild mix of emotion that I am weeping. It’s simply more than I’m able to hold in my heart, so a small portion of those feelings leak out of my eyes.

I don’t know what to do with all those feelings, so I sit down and write.

After all, no one knows how long this will go on, and, for now, I am a writer in quarantine.

Written by E. A. Comiskey

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