Welcome to Jackie Carreira, my next guest on my new feature – isolation for writers, creatives, artists and book bloggers. How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.
How is award winning author, playwright, world citizen and huge movie fan Jackie Carreira coping with this enforced isolation?
Is she taking a leap of faith?
AN AUTHOR IN ISOLATION – Jackie Carreira
The day the lockdown began in the UK, I posted a comment on Twitter. It said: “I’m a writer. I self-isolate for a living!” In retrospect, that might have been a little trite; even unhelpful to those who are genuinely struggling with isolation, but the statement is true in essence. I’m used to spending days, even weeks sometimes, barely leaving the house. I even enjoy it.
What has changed? The answer is: Everything – but it took me a while to notice. For the first few days, I carried on working on a new novel as well as a couple of precious magazine commissions, but very soon found that I couldn’t write anymore. The planned projects, and even some new ideas, were still up there in my head, but I couldn’t get them out. It was impossible to focus and I didn’t understand why.
My husband is an actor. I’m used to him being at home when he’s ‘resting’ so it hasn’t been difficult having him around all the time since the theatres closed. We’re an unusual married couple, though. We actually enjoy each other’s company for extended periods of time! We have no children so the schools being closed made no difference, and earning an insecure living from the arts, we know how to be frugal and make cutbacks when needed. When most of our income vanished at the end of March, we turned the heating down to 15 degrees, put a big jumper on, and stopped throwing away that last piece of bread in the packet. On the upside, we’re saving a fortune in petrol and socialising, and every day I’m grateful that our lives are not tougher.
So, why couldn’t I write? I couldn’t work out what I was doing with all the extra hours, because I certainly wasn’t using them to sleep. I didn’t spend them cleaning the house either! However, I was speaking to people online and on the phone more, and that was an unexpected bonus. Friends I hadn’t spoken to for years were suddenly back in my life. The excuse of being too busy was gone and it was wonderful to reconnect.
Then a couple of weeks ago, on the first sunny day in ages, I had a breakthrough…
“That’s it!” I thought. “We’re all connected.” Somehow, we all know it but we so rarely get a chance to feel it. In these strange times, with planes grounded and factories closed and the streets eerily quiet, I was able to feel it in a new way. I knew that I had no personal reason to feel as anxious as those who are in far worse situations, and I wasn’t being overwhelmed by the extra responsibility that others now had, but we’re all connected because we’re all part of the human tribe. And, possibly for the first time in history, just about everyone on the planet is going through the same thing at the same time. It’s extraordinary. Maybe some of what I was feeling didn’t belong to me at all. I was simply picking it up from this human web that we’re all sitting on.
Armed with this thought, and being fortunate enough to have a garden, I took a new pad and a fresh cup of coffee and went outside. Perhaps all I had to do was START. After all, that was the only thing I wasn’t doing. I’m a huge movie fan and never tire of watching my favourites over and over. I remembered a scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade… if you haven’t seen it, there’s a spoiler coming up! Near the end of the film, Indiana Jones is faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. He’s on one side of a huge chasm, too wide to jump. He must get to the other side to reach the Holy Grail and save his father’s life, but it looks impossible. Suddenly, he understands that it’s a leap of faith. He has to believe or all is lost. So, he closes his eyes, puts out a foot, and takes a big step onto…a bridge made of the same stone as the chasm! It’s totally solid. He leans over and looks from a different angle, realising that the bridge had been there the whole time. He just couldn’t see it from where he first stood. (A dramatic analogy, I must admit, but then I do also write plays for a living!)
Back in the garden, I took my own small leap of faith, hoping that something might come out if I just start. I put the pen to the paper and began writing anything that came into my head. It was just rough notes at first, then the notes turned into prose, then a whole chapter…and before I knew it, I was a writer again. It was such a relief. I’ve since been in contact with other writers to ask how it’s been for them. Some had been writing more, most had been writing less, for a few it had been business as usual. Interestingly, I discovered that many of those who had started off writing less after the lockdown had also had some kind of breakthrough around the exact same time that I did. Did I cause it, or did they? It doesn’t matter. We truly are all connected. I wasn’t alone.
You might be wondering how on earth this helps anyone who’s not a writer. Well, writing isn’t just my job, it’s what I love to do the most. And spending time doing what I love is the best coping mechanism I have. I would recommend it to anybody struggling with this lockdown, not knowing how to lift themselves out of the fog of it all. Switch off the news for a while and pick up something connected to what you love to do: a pen, a baking tray, a trowel, a paintbrush, a book to read to a child, a phone to call your best friend. Whatever it is, just take a leap of faith – find a way to start and then do as much of it as you can, when you can. Inspire yourself and you can inspire another. We truly are all connected. Put a tiny piece of what you love onto that web. It already has enough of everything else.
Stay safe. Stay well.
A SHORT BIOG:
Jackie Carreira is an award-winning novelist, playwright, musician, designer, and co-founder of QuirkHouse Theatre Company. She has twice been a winner of the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Writing. Originally a council-house-kid from Hackney, East London, she now lives a million miles away in Suffolk, England, with an actor, two cats, and more books than she can read in four lifetimes. She is currently working on her third novel (due for release in 2021, if a virus doesn’t get her first!) and is a proud patron of Halesworth Library.
‘Photo courtesy of Andy Abbott’
Artistic Director at QuirkHouse Theatre Company
What a fascinating interview with Jackie. Her thoughts mirror my own in so many ways.
I am so glad I started this series on Isolation during COVID19, it has given me focus and a sense of purpose to help promote and share fellow writers and authors during this time. And I am discovering new authors to read! Awesome, smiling.
I will be continuing with the series until my YA fantasy is ready to complete. It is currently with final beta readers.
Stay safe and well.
Keep writing and creating. x
Social Media Links:
Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com
Authors Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L
Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/
#ABRSC: Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/m-j-mallon Collaborative Group: https://www.facebook.com/pg/5SpiritualSisters/
Great post and insight. Thank you. I too had a lightbulb moment, when I was re-reading a story that was getting a new cover. I saw where a new adventure could take place and even how it might begin. Now I’m back in business.
It’s great how that happens Richard. I had a bit of a lightbulb moment too this morning with the YA romance I’m writing. It started off as a short story but seems to be growing into a longer piece of work. Not sure how long as yet…
Yes I agree this is a great post 💜
Great post from Jackie. Thanks Willow. 🙂
A perfect post! Thanks. Nice to read about others dealing with the same thing. xo