May 23 2021

Embracing 'Read-Only' Mode During Covid

My friend Sally Kerrigan wrote this last year, about accepting that a pandemic is not the best time to be creative, and deciding to intentionally enter a “read-only” mode:

It seems like writing should be the easy thing to do as a quarantine project. I mean, all the ingredients every introverted writer dreams of are right there: no social obligations, mostly sequestered, possibly underemployed. But ideas meander, and while showing up to write every day does help (I’m told), the ideas won’t linger long enough to become realized in a creative work if you’re exhausted on a psychic level. Which, let’s be honest, most of us are.

I’ve experienced a sense of blankness this year, which I took a while to recognize as exhaustion. In theory I know how to have a writing discipline; I’m a word person. Shouldn’t I be writing, like, daily blog posts? Sometimes I’d look at a partial draft, recognize that there was good stuff in it, but my mind would be a total blank and a helpless despair began to roll back in.

If you’re too exhausted to do creative work, you need to find ways to fill yourself up. Yes, this is a self-care thing, but it’s more than that; when you’re in an environment where creative works are able to influence you in a passive way, your subconscious has material to work with. It’s time to take a look at what you’re feeding on.

Even now, more than a year into this, I feel this annoying need to make use of this time somehow, to fill it up and give it meaning. It’s so easy to forget that all of us are actively surviving right now, and surviving a plague is all-consuming while also feeling pretty meaningless, which I guess explains the urge to learn or create.

This idea of a personal, experiential read-only mode is really valuable; I hope it too survives the pandemic.