In isolation, my wife and I sit in our 630 square foot house—two rooms—in Denver, Colorado. She is recovering from surgery—very nicely thank you—and I am, as always, writing a book. The novel is a work of historical fiction and it has absolutely nothing to do with what is happening in the world, and what is happening to the world—you have noticed—is that it’s going to hell, quickly.
It’s hard to think about what I am doing. It’s my work, of course, and since I’ve been doing it for so long the process is truly habitual, though as always, each book, this book, has its own problems, its challenges.
But the news—the horror of the pandemic—keeps pounding on the door. I think of the people who can’t get any help, the poor, the homeless, and the already ill. The people who can’t get tests. Or buy food. I think of those who have lost jobs and have no idea where the next paycheck will come from—if it ever does come. I think of the ignorance, which amounts to the cruelty of our national government, and of powerful people. I think of those who are alone and frightened. Who are discriminated against. The people who have no legal standing and can’t get any help. I think of my daughter, a doctor, working in NYC, and wondering what will happen to her, and her infant daughter, and her husband. And as I wander the empty streets—trying for a little exercise—I wonder what are people doing? Are they reading? Playing games? Watching TV? Doing nothing?
To be writing at such a time seems a kind of self-indulgence, except I try to remind myself it’s not. It’s what I’ve done for most of my life, and while I live—as I intend to—I’ll do it. In one sense, it’s a way of reminding myself that I am living as I want to. I’m lucky there. I can. Most of all, as I work on this page and that page, I’m thinking about my readers. Will they understand? Is this exciting enough to pull them along? Will they keep turning the pages? Is it interesting? Will they laugh? Or cry?
Today I made a decision about the plot that took me by surprise. That pleased me because as I’ve referenced many times, it’s all about something Robert Frost said. “No surprises for the writer, no surprises for the reader.” Oh, I’m thinking, that surprise will surely catch the reader.
You see, there are all these readers around my head, too. As always, they are invisible. But maybe, just maybe, it’s they who are pounding on the door. I like to think so. And so I continue to write. Not isolated. There are readers—waiting. I’m trying catch up with them. I’m not waiting for the waiting to be over.