Pandemic Productivity

Reading time: 3-4 minutes
Reading accompaniment(s): Another slice of homemade cake (go on, treat yourself)

Lockdown has the potential to be a time of unparalleled productivity. Less distractions. More time. No FOMO. It has been said that Shakespeare wrote not only King Lear or Macbeth or Antony and Cleopatra—but in fact all bloody (pun intended) three—during the plague pandemic of 1606. Four hundred years later, during the coronavirus pandemic, I, on the other hand, have written approximately, well, nothing much at all. I did write one blog post, at the end of April (a cracking good read, let me tell you), but with a grand total of nine hundred and sixty-three words, though each expertly selected and utilised, I don’t think it can be considered quite the same accomplishment as that of my thespian forefather.

The thing is—I have simply not had the inclination to write. Apart from in my journal in the wee hours when I cannot sleep (the result of which I do not wish anyone, myself included, the horror of reading). In fact, I have lacked any inclination to do many a normal activity during this unsettling but, let’s face it, equally tranquil period of time. Perhaps it is because of a lack of inspiration. A dwindling of social engagements causing a depletion of any interesting base material. Perhaps it is because of all of the internal, and increasingly external, discussions about big and scary topics such as life and control and sovereignty and racism. And Bill Gates. If it’s all still such a muddle in my head, how on earth am I supposed to write any of it down with any sort of eloquence? (That’s a rhetorical question, to myself; I’m still in the figuring-it-out stage.) Or perhaps it’s because I’m lazy. A state of being that I’m almost becoming comfortable owning. (As in: you own dat, girlfriend.)

I have had some non-literary-excellence achievements, though: I have completed two jigsaw puzzles (the first since around twelve years of age), and I have baked not one but TWO BLOODY DELICIOUS cakes (my first time ever!!!). A feat I am inordinately proud of, and clearly modest about. But the jigsaws have been dismantled and the cakes consumed. So what have I really got to show for my time spent indoors? Merely slightly more dexterous fingers and a COVID-19 waistline?

Perhaps a better way to quantify my quaran-time achievements is through looking at the thoughts I am unpacking, the conversations I am having, and the way I am treating others and myself. I mean, if my daily candle-lit bubble baths are anything to go by, I’d say I’m doing pretty darn well. Not sure the couple living below us would agree, whose bathroom gets leaked on every time our tub drains. But, you know, swings and roundabouts. I am beginning to try out meditation. I am journaling more. I am entering into those aforementioned uncomfortable conversations with a willingness to learn as opposed to a one-sided view with which to preach. I may still not always communicate my thoughts or frustrations or confusions in the best or most sympathetic way (something I have always done with greater ease via writing, with more time to think, than in conversation, with less time to edit), but I am trying and, hopefully, improving, and that can only be a positive.

But maybe judging everything on a scale of productivity or achievement is where we are all going wrong anyway. I have not written King Lear or Macbeth or Antony and Cleopatra during the lockdown. But what is the problem with that? Am I a machine in a factory? Do I always need to be productive? Maybe the most important thing I’ve discovered during this quiet time is that productivity is not the holy grail. Headspace is constantly telling me to just be, after all. Which leads me to ponder: is a pandemic the ideal habitat for productivity, or is the constant pressure to be, or often simply appear, productive a pandemic in itself? I’m not sure. But it’s food for thought, definitely. And great served on the side of a slice of homemade cake. (Carrot, if you’re curious, with a slathering of coconut cream.)

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