I am a writer and I am an extrovert – not the usual trait combination. Most of my writer friends are introverts. When we go to a gathering of any kind, I look out into the crowd, think “new friends,” and plunge in with joy and gusto. They look for a quiet corner and begin to plan their escape.
It is not that I don’t also enjoy being alone; I do. Every writer needs long periods of solitude to get the work done, but I savor the energy of a crowd and come away fueled with ideas to explore during those quiet times.
A Writer’s Confession
So, while we are advised to practice social distancing, my introverted colleagues are in their happy place. I am feeling isolated in a not-so-happy way. I miss being in public places where I can practice a trick every writer uses for inspiration: eavesdropping!
In lines, restaurants, grocery stores, on public transportation, well everywhere really, people talk to one another and say the juiciest things! I always have my phone and a small notebook with me to either dictate a voice memo or jot down what I overheard.
Then I use these as prompts to inspire the muse when stuck or as the basis for the story triggered in my mind. For example, “As soon as I met his mother, I knew why he needed fixing.” Plenty to build on there! I miss that inspiration.
Video chats, Facebook, Netflix, and hugging my dogs helps but after a week of seclusion I am starting to feel not myself and my productivity is plummeting. What to do?
Time for a mindset shift! I realized I need to change the way I perceive this isolation. So, I did a little self-coaching and came up with these three tips to shift my thinking.
See the Love
This isolation is an act of love. All around the world people are staying in their homes with the sole purpose of stopping the spread of the virus. That is beautiful! A literal global circle of people united for one purpose.
I am leaning into the energy of that!
It is helped by the videos of people singing from their balconies in Italy, the thunder of clapping at 8 PM in Spain every night to thank and encourage the health care providers, by the dolphins back in the canals in Venice, by the pollution reduction in large USA cities, and by the thousands of ways people are stepping up to make masks, set up phone calls for people living alone, and switching Tiny Libraries to Tiny Food Banks.
So much love! I am grateful and inspired. With this shift, my mood lifts and my creativity surges.
Savor the Silence
I replace the eavesdropping with attention to silence. I’m turning off the television, the radio, and the computer, even my play lists. Now, I listen. What I used to believe was silence, is not. I hear the birds singing outside my window and I am reminded that spring is here, the time of rebirth and renewal.
I hear sounds in my home that I do not usually process. I am aware of my furnace and the reassuring sound of warm air being gently pumped into every room. I hear one of my dogs whimper softly and look up to see her paws moving. She is dreaming.
Those soft sounds remind me of her devoted companionship and unconditional love. She is always at my feet as I write. I hear a truck in my cul-de-sac and know mail and deliveries are still happening. I am not alone. Living creatures surround me, and I am safe and warm. My home is my atelier.
Change One Word
This is one of the simplest mindset strategies yet one of the most powerful. Change just one word, change have to get. When you make that substitution, the thought that follows shifts. Here are a few of my changes:
“I have to stay home because of forced isolation policies.”
“I get to stay home and help stop the spread of the virus.”
“I have to cancel all my outside appointments.”
“I get to reschedule all my outside appointments and now have huge blocks of time for my writing.”
“I have to stop eating out with my friends.”
“I get to order delivery and support my favorite restaurants.”
We can’t pretend there is not a worldwide pandemic. We can’t change that our lives are altered. We can’t deny that it will take time to recover.
But we can choose how we think about it, how we frame it, what our mindset is. And in choice there is power. I am choosing to see the love, savor the silence, and change one word to open the door to the muse, beckon her in, and write.