There will be a future space for your voice when you’re ready to use it again.
I haven’t sent out a newsletter or published anything in almost a month. I thought it would be different, that I would feel more inspired, that I’d finally stick to my schedule that I semi-promised in my last mailer, that the pandemic isolation would be a good substitute for hiding up in the mountains while I worked on my next book. I can see a mountain from my house, does that count?
Turns out: it doesn’t. I haven’t even touched my novel draft. I keep opening my editorial calendar and then click away. I constantly refresh my blog feeds, hoping inspiration will come, but everything just looks like squiggles and runes.
Finally after some weeks and hitting emotional rock-bottom, I’m getting out of it. I feel better prepared to handle the next month(s) of isolation.
And with it, I refuse to guilt myself over the creative silence for the past month. If you’re in the same boat, feeling a strange sense of duty and shame for not producing more work right now substantially less than your normal, that’s okay. It’s fine.
You are not the same artist you were
This is a collective transformative experience that affects everyone on earth. This is not isolated to one specific region, government, or culture. It has changed all of us and it will continue to do so. Maybe the artist or writer you are now or will be later won’t be too different from who you were before, but one way or another you won’t be the same. For some, maybe you, that means like me, our voices are silent for a while as we adjust and figure out what we want to say and how to say it.
Your audience is also not the same
As much as we are creators, we are also consumers. Just like our expression and behavior will change and affect what we create, so will what we consume and what our audience wants and needs. Again, for some, these changes are minor and will take a while for everyone to settle in. For others, they will be vast as they reconnect with their audience.
Your audience is there and you have not lost your value as a creator but you may have to put some work into finding each other again — and you will.
You don’t owe anyone your art
Just because I have not posted anything and haven’t touched my book doesn’t mean that I haven’t been trying to write. There are several springboards and outlines floating around in my work-in-progress folder.
But everything was fleeting; I couldn’t reconnect with ideas I’d started pre-pandemic, much less adapt them. It seemed every hour that the news cycle changed, so did my emotions and opinions. I didn’t really want or have anything else to say that others weren’t already shouting from the rooftops, with the exception of maybe one thing that I’m not yet ready to say.
There’s a twinge of guilt still, for not using the past several weeks “better” and being more efficient and productive with my time, but there is no better to be had. There is no standard right now. I realized I don’t owe it to anyone, not even myself if I didn’t want to write. You don’t either. It doesn’t matter if it’s impacting your income or royalties. This isn’t your fault. We are traumatized and dealing with the haze of grief and disillusionment.
There is only one thing you need to do
And that is: help everyone survive by continuing to flatten the curve.
There will be a future space for your voice when you’re ready to use it again. It’s not finite. There’s no use-it-or-lose-it; your value as a creator will not wane if you don’t want to spend it right now. When the time comes, that will be the right one for you if this one isn’t.
Be patient with yourself: it’s okay if you don’t feel like writing or creating right now.