Do writers live in permanent lockdown?

Writers spend much of their lives in lockdown. I don’t mean since March, but all the time; about 60-65% in my case.

But what really goes on in the head of that person hunched over a computer grunting and tapping away at their latest masterpiece? Are they dreaming up new plots, imagining engaging or repelling new characters, working fiendish traps into the narrative?

Could they be tasting the salt air as they surf the Californian waves, freezing their extremities off as they hack up the Alps behind Hannibal’s elephants or half-dozing as their water-taxi drifts through warm lagoons? Or maybe they’re just fantasising about chocolate or the latest car on Top Gear.

Probably some or none of this. And certainly not in the past few months when distraction has dominated.

Dealing with the rest of the world

In Real Life, or “Before” as we must call it now, writers could keep up a good act giving the impression they were paying attention. They’d smile at you even though their characters are running around in their head and the plot is unravelling. Now, with distancing and face masks, you really won’t know what they’re thinking.

That frown in the eyes and on their brows could be at the sight (please, not ‘site’!) of the grocer’s apostrophe for plurals, ‘less’ instead of ‘fewer’ and ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ in the local supermarket. Their mouths puckered as if they’ve eaten too many Twiglets, their eyes narrowed and all around would brace for a grammar lesson.

But now they’re 2 metres apart…

To go out or not?

The stricter provisions of lockdown ease considerably as we enter Phase 2 of “déconfinement” here in France. We’ve been able to go out without certificates, for any reason beyond the five exceptional ones and for more than an hour since 11 May. And out we went, to a beautiful village complete with 15th century castle to the north of us. Sadly, their wine shop was closed. 🙁

But you couldn’t go more than 100 km from home or across the French frontier unless you were one of a specific group of workers. But I was able to get a haircut – glorious! But a bit weird having your hair washed when wearing a mask…

From tomorrow, 2 June, we in the green zone can go further than 100km and – relief of all reliefs – we can go to a restaurant or bar and spend the whole day at many beaches. No longer will we need to book an appointment at the tip. (You should see our cardboard mountain!) Plus we can actually meet friends! Well, a few of them.

And here’s the fix… Nobody knows several days beforehand – up to 14 days – that they have Covid19. And then there are the asymptomatic carriers. Even if your friends don’t have the virus, you don’t know who they’ve they been interacting with. We humans are such social animals that we hardly took account of the number of the people we met everyday in “Before” life – the postwoman, cashiers, neighbours, shop assistants, book group, coffee morning, doctor’s receptionist, garden centre staff and just people in the street.

Now, each could be a deadly disease carrier. Masks are de rigueur here and compulsory in most shops. A bare face in a supermarket is frowned on, at least in my small town. Handshaking and kissing just don’t happen. This is extremely strange in touchy-feely France and it was considered a social gaffe of large proportions if you didn’t greet people in either way.

Strict lockdown has worked here; daily death counts are now consistently below three figures. But the authorities will re-impose lockdown if this new relaxation leads to a surge in cases.

The Trait d’Union

So what is a writer to do?

I intend to go and eat lunch in a restaurant next week, if they’re open. My favourite one has been doing takeaways, but nothing beats sitting down and somebody else doing it for you. Plus I’d like to support them; solidarity is a very important value in France.

I shall contact a few chosen friends and we’ll sit outside over a glass of wine.

As Edouard Philippe, the French prime minster, said the other day, “Be meticulous, but not fearful. Please continue to exercise common sense and respect these barrier measures. We don’t want a resurgence.” (Full details here, in case you have insomnia.)

But I’ll still be spending 60% of my time in lockdown – writer’s lockdown.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. Double Pursuit, the sequel, is now out!

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

2 comments to Do writers live in permanent lockdown?

  • I miss my friends. Miss meeting up with you and Anna Belfrage (and a few others!) back at the end of April. Miss hugging people. Miss going out … and like you, I’m lucky, I live in a nice house with land, not a cramped flat in a tower block. What IS frightening are these countries that have, on the whole, not taken lockdown seriously, where many haven’t been observing social distancing … where Covid-a9 has been talked of as Fake News…


    • Alison Morton

      Yes, it’s been a great trial for everybody and we will have to continue to be vigilant. Luckily, writers are shy, retiring creatures(!) who are used to inhabiting their writing burrows. But we do like to get together and see people and that has been a great lack.

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