Writing a Play in Isolation: 5 Reasons Why Quarantine is Stifling My Creativity.
I have been intermittently writing a one-woman play for almost a year, constantly making excuses about how annoying it is that my busy life gets in the way of my playwriting progress, only writing in cafés as I wait for friends, or in the middle of the night when my brain won’t sleep. Now I have all this time on my hands and for some reason I can come up with more reasons to rearrange my room, do my makeup, interrupt my siblings, and decide that my future success actually lies in becoming TikTok famous, than I can find reasons to do what I love: writing.
Procrastination? Writer’s block? Laziness?
Why is quarantine stifling my creativity?
While endlessly swapping between Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from within my isolation cave in an attempt to find some solidarity with others as bored as I am, I come across the meme almost three times a day that claims Shakespeare made use of his quarantined time during the plague to write King Lear. Every time I read it I have about three minutes of isolation motivation before I begin to procrastinate for another week. I cannot tell you how long I procrastinated for before I even sat down to write this. For some reason isolation has eliminated any motivation I might usually have to use my creative brain power.
In an attempt to make sense of a senseless situation, I have decided on 5 reasons why quarantine is stifling my creativity:
If you want something done give it to a busy person.
Given endless time I will do nothing. Given a deadline and I will finish three weeks early. Yes - I was one of those people at school who did their homework on the day it was set rather than the day it was due. I like being busy. When I’m busy I make time for the things I want to do, my mind is stimulated, I have more ideas and I #GetStuffDone.
Violet aptly describes my dilemma in her post ‘Theatre Closures: The Impact’ (30/03): “A couple of days ago it was looking like a few weeks, but now the number is verging on months and no one knows when this nightmare of inactivity will end.”
If I knew it was three weeks, I'd have a deadline and I would aim to finish my project in three weeks. Same goes if I knew it was three months before I start university, three years before I start work or three hours before I have to catch my train. The uncertainty has made me freeze. My deadline is nowhere to be seen and I will continue to procrastinate until I feel time pressured. Call me crazy.
2. Alexa – is ADHD a symptom of Covid-19 or do I just miss my friends?
My next symptom of isolation madness is my sudden obsession with fitness. For some reason every time I think “Okay - I’m going to do some writing today” my brain freaks out and demands a HIIT workout. I cannot concentrate anymore and have reverted back to my five-year-old self wishing I still had a trampoline. My adult brain has disappeared and along with it any kind of focus I pretended I had.
As I mentioned, my current project is a one-woman play. This means I have to essentially talk to myself in all areas of my life, including my script. I wonder what the other characters in my protagonist’s world are doing... perhaps they get dressed and go to work in the morning... perhaps they are having large social gatherings, maybe even standing less than two meters apart...
The madness of this unprecedented pandemic has given me FOMO. I cannot help but think that my playscript has become a strange isolation diary that, in years to come, will be used as an example to demonstrate how social isolation makes you go bananas.
I wonder if my friends are writing plays too...
4. My Guilty Conscience
Last week I attempted to continue writing my playscript before I got a sudden pang of guilt about lending so much existential angst to anything other than the Covid-19. What analysis of society’s systemic mistakes can I possibly conduct when this natural disaster is victimising us all?
Should I write about the pandemic? Should I write about isolation? Am I a cliché? Did Carole Baskin kill her husband?
5. Too much to overthink.
The subject of my play is inspired by a personal experience. I usually revel in the self-therapising nature of playwriting as the good millennial I am, but with all this endless time I don’t necessarily feel like diving into my subconscious 24/7. Apparently, I’d much rather completely avoid any deep thinking and watch one hundred 30 second clips and video a short dance to get immediate gratification and attention...
I used to pride myself on having a relatively long attention span and a distaste for all things hashtag – I am now my worst enemy. Help.
So, “Why is quarantine stifling my creativity?”
As you can see, this short excursion into my isolation brain has produced more questions than answers. I guess in my attempt to find answers, I got a little creative...
All in all, my conclusion is that quarantine isn’t stifling my creativity, it is just redirecting it. As a creative it’s easy to feel directionless when you’re not surrounded by your usual energetic companions, but it is important to remember that these are unprecedented times.
An important self-reminder: Although it may come as a shock, I am not Shakespeare, nor am I attempting to write King Lear. Cut yourself some slack.