I admit it. Three months of lockdown and relative social isolation, and my muse has flown the coop. “I’m outta’ here,” she cried yesterday as I tried for the 5th day in a row to compose a post that might inspire my readers to write. No amount of deep, mindful breathing, a walk through the tree-lined streets in our neighborhood, quotes from books and articles or frantic, whinny pleading to that creative muse worked. She disappeared, leaving me staring at the blank page.
I only just finished another online workshop for Gilda’s Club yesterday—part presentation, part offering short writing “bursts” and part encouragement on how to get started exploring the experience of cancer through writing. “Nothing to write?” I asked, then offered a suggestion: “Start with anything. Anything can be a prompt. Anything can provide inspiration. Or start with nothing, writing the line, “I have nothing to write, “over and over until you discover you DO have something to write.” It’s an approach I often use for myself, quite honestly, and in doing so, I stumble into ideas, questions, and inevitably, a blog post that I post on this site.
Well guess what? Even my own suggestion did not work for me this week. I haven’t even been inspired to write a silly poem or bake another batch of scones (now that’s serious). I blame it on the COVID blues…or, perhaps more accurately, COVID boredom. Here’s the deal. I’ve read so many books in the past three months that I have actually grown tired of reading. I’ve exhausted several seasons of my favorite British crime dramas. I’m weary of the monotony of having to stay so close to home, of seeing my husband 24/7, of the news reports of the current numbers of outbreaks and deaths, of the low level anxiety that accompanies me every time I encounter other people on the sidewalk who are unmasked and not honoring social distancing guidelines, of Zoom meetings instead of face-to-face and of course, the knowledge this kind of life is going to be with us for some time yet. That sounds like the blues to me, or at the least, a seige of boredom. Worse, all this is accompanied by an utter lack of inspiration, of even the glimmer of an idea to get me writing. Oh, I still write every morning as I’ve always done, but the pages of my notebook are filled with ideas that went nowhere, repetitions, and numerous attempts to find something “new” to get me going.
As I write this, I suddenly recall a folk song from my (much) younger days. I hear the song,“The San Francisco Bay Blues,” in my head. Originally composed by Jesse Fuller (who I saw in person in the mid-sixties) it was subsequently performed by the likes Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Eva Cassidy and many others. It begins, “I got the blues for my baby/left me by the San Francisco Bay…” Well, it’s rattling around in my head now, but my lyrics are different: “I got the blues for my muse and/ I’m far from San Francisco Bay…”
How about you? Perhaps you’re finding this time a little boring or difficult in other ways. Perhaps you have children at home and the fatigue of home schooling and providing ways for them to be entertained is stretching your patience. You may still be in treatment, but the hospital atmosphere is changed, almost surreal. What gets you through the long days of social isolation? Have you found new ways to be creative? New activities to occupy your time? Write about living in a time of pandemic. Write about how you keep the blues (or boredom) at bay.