Sitting on the seat of my pants rather than flying by them, I settled in. Tucked in a corner of Casey’s, slurping off the Wi-Fi and staggering sips on a cup of Joe, my fingers danced on the keys. I tuned out the pitter-pat of the keyboard that so annoyed me when someone else was doing the pounding. The character driven novel I started had morphed into a plot twist like a pretzel. The protagonist was on the verge of becoming too becoming, and if I didn’t reign her back in, this could end up a screen play for a Hallmark movie.
The lockdown had siphoned off my Muse. Writing at home in the utility room sucked, plain and simple. Half-hearted attempts at moving the novel along became a droning, on the nose, word count. To feel productive I let my characters wander off the preverbal page as cobwebs and half empty paint cans looked on. The fact was, jealousy took over. With the world on fire and truth stranger than fiction once again, my novel couldn’t hold a candle to a media driven culture with all its flash-mob images. I envied journalists and all the morsels they stabbed at in 24 hour cycles.
A novel requires a long attention span, as opposed to sound bites, podcasts, and twit tweets. Without the coffee shop I relied on, putting on airs of fresh ground beans, and patrons shuffling in to order drinks with fraps and frills, well, my mojo atrophied. Casey’s was my bunker, my base-camp to revive and move a novel along. All of those coffee shop types of distractions became a wall around my imagination. It didn’t make sense, but it worked for me, and I was back with my butt in the chair. ‘The’ chair.
Something was off though. Maybe it was the hand sanitizer. Could be the masks we all wore. The extra effort it took to read people’s eyes rather than facial recognition. Tricky. Chairs were missing as well as half the tables. I was glad to be back, and yet after a while I felt like my imagination, like the invisible virus, was ready to find another host. The shop turned into a surgery theatre with all the Muses observing from the other side of the glass. The world had changed, or had been chained. For a moment I wondered if I had time to finish my novel. I could have written War and Peace 2.0 during the lockdown if my Muse hadn’t skipped town.
Fear crept in like I had left the door of my creativity cracked. The usual writer’s doubts marched past. “What’s the point?” “You don’t have what it takes.” “There are a thousand billion books at thrift stores everywhere, what makes you think…” I pulled my mask down for the umpteenth time to slug more coffee. I was tempted to find a tape measure and see if all the X’s really were six feet apart. I wondered if picking my nose was part of the cease and desist order. The public was much pickier now. It seems we all became Big Brother. George Orwell, smiling from his grave, a self-assured corpse of Christi, pointing his boney finger at all the points he made decades ago.
Damn. I guess I have to find a new normal. What a contradiction of terms…new—normal. The war of the words threatened by writer’s block once again.
I asked my protagonist her opinion. She offered me a cup of tea, shrugged atlas eyes at me, and demurred a smile underneath her N-95 mask.