Before the alarm sounds, I wake up and read the overnight alerts on my phone. Non-essential businesses closed, economy collapsed, 15,000 infected. Good news, nothing unexpected. Then, I turn over and scroll through my email. NBC Rundown. Donald McNeil. (Praise the Lord for Donald McNeil.) Rejection letter. Elated, I put my feet on the floor and get up. At least the magazine is functioning.
I have been writing fiction for the past few months. It is a liberating pursuit, having covered real people and actual happenings for all of my career. My first short story was accepted for publication this Spring, and I hope that the production schedule is still intact. Meanwhile, I’ve been having a hard time pressing on with the collection from which it comes, as the themes don’t directly relate to isolation facilities or protective gear or community spread. It feels that creativity now should serve the greater good, but then again, creativity by its mere existence has always done that. So, I am stuck. Is what I’ve been writing about important enough right now? Appropriate enough? Responsible?
Each day, I tutor my students on the computer and think about the characters under the keys. I know that I will return to them soon. My expectation is that the work will change, having experienced this, having observed this. The words will just sound different, as they have in the past, emerging on the page after struggle or upset. I suspect, too, that new meaning will surface from what I’ve already written. Isolation, protection, community…the characters have contemplated these ideas. Now, maybe, they will sing them out. And that is good.