The other day, I was revising one of my tea stories. It’s set on a tea plantation in British colonial India while an epidemic is taking place.
As I reread it, I realized certain things felt off. I had written this story well before COVID-19 appeared. Now, after months of living in the middle of a pandemic, I saw nuances I hadn’t captured in the story.
You see, I’d never had the experience of living when disease was spreading and people were living in fear of infection and death. I’d never been hyper aware of my own symptoms or worried I might infect someone I loved. I’d never been sick with something that might kill me. Rereading my story with my new awareness, I could tell that the parts about the epidemic weren’t emotionally right.
So now, with my new experience, I’m rewriting parts of the story.
This brings me to another thought: Although this pandemic might be hard–and can derail our creative work–it can also be a gift to our art.
Of course, I don’t mean to minimize the suffering people have been through. It’s truly terrible. Still, suffering has always been part of the human experience.
So while we can grieve the ways the pandemic has hurt people, we can also recognize: This pandemic has given us a deeper awareness of all it means to be human. And a deeper, fuller understanding of the human experience creates more profound art.
Whatever reactions you have to the pandemic are valid. Whether it’s fear or rage or despair, whether it’s peace because of a slower schedule, whether it’s loneliness or grief, whether it’s gratitude for the health and food and income you have… all these are part of your pandemic experience. All these are part of the human experience. They are part of who you are as an artist.
And you, as the magical creator you are, can bring them into your art–as a gift for your future readers, listeners, and viewers.
Of course, if you’re in the middle of serious grief or trauma, now is probably not the time. Take care of yourself, heal, and just be.
But if you’re well enough, take the fullness of this experience. Plumb the depths, and create something you never could before.
You can do the best work of your life.
Make it so.