Creating In the Time of Quarantine

Creating In the Time of Quarantine

About six years ago, I started a random Tumblr account and named it Shirt, Shoes, and Pants Required. I remember that the phrase just stuck out to me, but really think about it. You see that sign outside a random convenience store and immediately wonder, “why not pants?” Wouldn’t pants also be an important piece of the consumer equation? Shoes, ok, negotiable. Pants? I doubt anybody is trying to sell a Wawa pretzel to someone who strolls in their store without bottoms on.

Anyway, out of my narrator-like sidetrack. I had always been a writer. Every book fair, I would intentionally wait for the new Goosebumps or Anamorphs books. (remember those?) I always aspired to write the next great horror novel. Or just write in general. It gave me energy and joy to put things on paper. Before I became a journalist, Shirt and Shoes Required was a place for me to get thoughts down. Remember that Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel interview in 2013 which was more like Jimmy listening? I wrote something about it right after. (Yeezus Kanye was a trip!)

Emimen’s Marshall Mathers LP part II? Wrote about that, too.  I didn’t really care about views or hits. It was just about having something to say and a place to say it. It felt free. I just got back to the point in my journalism career where I felt that unbridled freedom again. (Hence, bringing it back from the dead in some form for this newsletter/blog Frankenstein.) Then, coronavirus happened.

The last movie I saw before the massive shutdown was The Hunt. I remember having an eerie feeling leaving that AMC. Movie theaters, albeit movies, in general, are a getaway for me. Like many. You get to fall away into another world for a two hour period. Now - it’s gone for a while. I can’t even remember a time where there wasn’t a movie theater open or a gym. When I left, it didn’t feel like things were going to be the same for a while.

It feels like we are living within the printed words of a sci-fi novel. The Body Snatchers comes to mind. We’ve seen plenty of stories of zombies and viruses threatening to wipe us out. By the third act of the movie, somebody miraculously finds a cure or Milla Jovovich and we all live happily ever after, right? The coronavirus is sneaky - you can be completely healthy and still be an asymptomatic carrier. Yet, we don’t know how long we have to stay away from each other. As a society, as technology grows more prevalent, there are so many indirect ways for us to talk to each other. Discord. Facetime. Social Media. With art, you need to live in order to keep creative ink on the page.

As more states shut down, perhaps when this is all over, we start to value the virtue of face-to-face conversation more. Looking each other in the eye and really feeling the emotions in every word. This isn’t to bash the advancements of technology. I don’t have a Black Mirror-like lesson to give you. I’m only drawing on the observations of what I’ve seen this past week. The streets are quiet. Nobody is bathing within the orange specters of streetlights. Patios are quiet and celebrations are altered.  I wonder about the psychological effects of all this once this all comes to a head. With all this prolonged distance, will we ever close that gap to find each other again?

I was looking toward this “downtime” to create, but it’s hard to ignore what’s happening outside my window. Many nurses and doctors are putting their lives on the line to treat this virus. Hospitals are desperately requesting supplies to do so. Many people are rightfully disoriented; wondering when we are going to get back to a semblance of normal. Many have lost means of income already and looking for ways to feed their family. Normal. What does that word even mean anymore?

Here I was; staring at blank pages. Sure, there is plenty of television and movies to write about, but most of that felt small. I didn’t really know how to tackle it. So, I took a break. I thought about how I could use my art in order to help some people. I started inviting friends to podcast with me and talk about their favorite movies. If we’re all going to be stuck in our places of residence, I might as well try to provide an hour of happiness. Like many creatives, in an uncertain world, we’re all just trying to figure it out. Figuring it out means taking a step back.

I know that the pressure of having “downtime” comes with people expecting to write the next epic novel. If you can, do it. Write your heart out. With everything that’s going on; it taught me that there’s this unrealistic expectation for us to be a production machine. We need to rest. We need time to think about things. We are more than what we produce.

So, if you’re a creator; take this time to create to your heart’s delight. The world needs it. Or don’t. Just be. The world needs you just as much.