The COVID-19 pandemic has really thrown us for a loop, eh? Everyone I know is struggling in some way, whether it’s balancing childcare and work, keeping healthy, or finding ways to keep busy. I’ve definitely been struggling too, but I’ve also been noticing some interesting ways quarantine has changed my writing.
It turns out that the isolation that comes from social distancing is perfect for writing The Quiet is Loud’s main character – a homebody outsider who doesn’t let people get too close – and my newer novel set in a city-ship in space, where people are always too close both literally and figuratively.
Solitude has a strange way of helping me sink down into my work and truly understand it, like I have to divide myself from the world in order to create it. I’ve always been curious about everything, eager to crack something open to see how it works, and solitude gives me a unique opportunity to delve into the bones of a question uninterrupted, from new angles.
I’ve also been writing poetry more and more, at least when it comes to new writing. My novel edits are going well, but when I feel like writing something new and personal it has to be poetry: jangly and primal and emotional and distant.
I think it’s to do with the way poetry fractures language, breaks it open and reworks it into something both nebulous and immediate. It suggests and reveals, expresses the inexpressible in ways that plainer words would destroy. It’s perfect for right now, when things seem indistinct and uncertain.
One thing that always surprises me is how visceral I want to write when I’m working on a poem. I can’t write romantic odes to a lover’s hair in a summer breeze. I need to have imagery about teeth, bones, animals, dust, empty space, the muscle of the heart, people going wrong with each other. It’s cathartic in the way a short story or novel can’t be for me.
A lot of the writing I do on @quietestquiet uses the poem-side of my brain, but lately I’ve been writing more of it for myself, and it feels nice. When I started to consider myself “a real writer,” I was writing poetry, and I did for a long time before I decided to focus on short stories. Writing poems again feels like stepping back into the most familiar warm environment, my cup of tea still steaming, almost the way I left it.
If you want to follow along to see how solitude and social isolation continue to influence my writing, join me on Instagram at @samanthakgarner!