Writing, Quarantine, and the Other

Writing, Quarantine, and the Other

All I want to do is write.

Okay, so I know that I haven’t gotten around to finishing writing about my experiences in Japan. Frankly, the last two years and change have been more than their share of rough on me. I did write about the end of my experience here, for the Gilman Experience Blog, but my own personal accounts for Bookruptcy just haven’t materialized. This is mostly due to the fact that I had my final two semesters of school to deal with, started in on a new job basically the day after I returned from Japan, and have now graduated into a mid-COVID-19 pandemic economy from which there seems no escape. Oh, and the whole northern half of California is on fire, as usual—nothing to see here, just another summer in the country with rampaging climate change running unchecked thanks to a government that couldn’t possibly care any less.

But none of this has negated my need or desire to write, only the difficulty I have in actually getting it done. I have many goals, but I can say with absolute certainty that what I want most is to write basically all the time. It’s an imperative. I’m doing it right now because I feel like I have to, even though I’m not entirely sure what I want to write about. I started out thinking of a story in which a narrator died in the parking lot of a fast food joint, having just gotten a meal, still uneaten, from the drive-thru. There was something about screaming kids and the smell of burning flesh, but then I lost the thread, and I came back to the fact that I’d just been thinking of writing about writing. So here I am.

It’s not great. I am, as per the inspiration for the above story, sitting in my car, drinking a coffee that I got from a drive-thru window. The beverage is okay, but not what I’d call great coffee, and the environment of my car leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to getting work done. I’m not writing on my laptop because it’s in the shop. As luck would have it, after just recently having it fixed (from the catastrophic mistake I made in installing Catalina—Apple’s quality control is just unmatched in its ineffectiveness, to the point where Catalina will prompt to install on a 32-bit machine even though Catalina is 64-bit only. Oops), I spilled coffee on it. As much as I love coffee, I do not always have the best track record when it comes to keeping my tumbler vertical.

So I’m in the car, writing on my tablet, which is connected to my phone in order to access the cloud, using a Bluetooth keyboard that is certainly functional but leaves a bit to be desired even when compared to a laptop’s condensed keyboard layout, with the tablet itself propped up not on the dash of the car, but on the top of the steering column, because that’s the only place I can get it to stay upright, and there just isn’t enough room between my overlarge belly and the wheel in my lap.

Why am I doing this? Because I need to write, and because quarantine has been sucking out one of the things I most appreciate about writing: other people. It occurs to me that others are one of the primary drivers of writing. We write, after all, for an audience to read, and especially when the medium is fiction, we write to process the world around us, to talk about other people and points of view, to discover the magic and terror in the everyday lives we lead and see others leading. Being stuck perpetually in your own basement makes that a difficult thing to interface with, and I’ve had it. As much as I want to stay inside to be safe, I am desperate for the interior of a restaurant or coffee shop, somewhere I can feed off of the energy of the world and all its serenity and insanity.

So I go to parking lots. Not frequently, as I have bigger worries on my mind most days lately—where I’m going to secure a job in the pandemic economy, how I’m going to keep myself afloat without being a drain on my fiancee until the next stimulus check comes in, how I’m going to overcome the massive surge of depression and anxiety that have piggybacked on the upending of the world, the President turning armed squads of secret police upon the free people of my country, and the fact that I have, as have many, lost my connection with the wide world that I love so well. And I suppose it’s an attempt to maintain that connection that sends me out into the parking lots. This one is right across from a hospital, and I’ve seen today all the greatest hits of small town America: injured and overweight people in electric wheelchairs, a couple walking down the road as they drink gallon-sized sodas, a homeless man suffering from severe drug addiction, and nurses in scrubs walking down to lunch or coffee.

What will I do with it? I honestly don’t know, but it feels good to be out, to be in the world, to be making observations that I can use for my writing. I was in the middle of a deeply personal horror story when my laptop went kaput, and the ending came to me last night over a pipe in the dark in my bedroom, but that’s stuck in a note in Google Keep, awaiting the return of my laptop so I can get back to finishing everything that comes between the middle and the end of the story, which is locked up in Scrivener 3’s proprietary format. I could access it on my PC at home, since there’s a beta version of Scrivener 3 available, but I abhor writing on my desktop. There’s something so concrete about it, chained to a desk like that, even if it’s only one workstation of several that I can access via the cloud. Something about that feeling holds me back, hampers the work. Even if it’s only an illusion.

So here I sit in the parking lot of a Carl’s Jr., drinking coffee that only dreams of being diner-quality, hot coffee on a day scheduled to hit 90 in about an hour and a half, wishing I had a soda. There’s a line of people behind me hitting the drive-thru. Squealing kids, idly smoked cigarettes while waiting to pull up to the window, almost no one bothering to wear a mask to protect the workers that serve them.

But these are the valuable details, the little pieces of life that need to make it into stories. It doesn’t really matter where we write, or from what experience, but it does matter that we feel some connection to the Earth and to the Other, both of whom we so urgently need to understand.

Without that, why are we writing to begin with?

I will try to get back to finishing the followups needed to get to the end of the tale started by my previous posts about Japan, but for now, there’s some other work waiting in the wings that needs to get done, in addition to a few more blog posts about Scrivener, Google Docs, and just what tools a writer needs or doesn’t need in their search for efficiency and convenience.

Oh, and hopefully I’ll have an announcement about something very exciting, at least for those of you who enjoy reading my fiction. But more will be coming about that secret little project down the line. For now, let’s just say it’s related to my new Ko-fi.com page where you can help me stay caffeinated (hopefully) long enough to get stuff written.

Until next time, guys!