We’re nearly a week into lockdown now, and it has been pretty weird. I’m in the best possible position; I’m not ill, none of my immediate family are ill, and as a household we’re not struggling financially yet. I know a lot of people who are having a much harder time of all this. Having lived hand-to-mouth for most of the last twenty-five years, I understand how frightening this period of inactivity is for so many people.
Even if you're not worried about money, a lockdown is still hard. A lot of writers I know are being told that this is the perfect time to get work done, and on paper it should be. In reality, though, anxiety, whether it be over money or health or a less specific kind of existential dread, erodes focus to an incredible degree. I haven’t spent so much time staring listlessly at a blank cursor for years. I have a lot of work to do, I know what it is and how to do it, and yet motivation seems to have deserted me for most of this week. But it’s slowly coming back, as this new situation normalises and the fight-or-flight response seems to level out, and I’m hoping I can start to disappear into work again - the worlds we create are a nicer place to be than the real one right now.
And we have to remember that there is an “other side” to this, an overmorrow where we step back out into the world and the shops are open, and the cafes and bars and museums and galleries, and we can see our friends and family and put our lives back together. It’s going to be different, I think, but there’s a chance there may be benefits in the long term, if we can learn from this quiet time and find the upside to a planet given a moment to take a breath and regenerate. We have had a glimpse of what happens to nature when human beings just stop for a bit, and that at least seems to be a valuable thing to observe and learn from.
Anyway, you can get this nonsense from any one of a thousand newspaper columnists…
I’m writing this on the new iPad Pro (very nice, not vastly different from the old ones) in portrait mode, propped up on a Twelve South Compass Pro stand (a little wobbly when using the pencil on the larger iPad). I’m bashing it out on one of the old Apple Magic keyboards, the one with the really spongy keys, and I’m using a trackpad for the first time ever with an iPad. The trackpad is a revelation. I really didn’t think you’d ever need one with a touchscreen tablet, but it’s a game-changer; to be able to position screen, trackpad and keyboard independently makes for a really comfortable work environment. I think I could ditch my laptop now for the iPad IF ONLY Highland 2 had an iPad version - Slugline is fine but once you’ve used Highland, you never want to go back.
I’m working in IA Writer, once again. Every time the Ulysses guys send out one of their marvellous newsletters, I find myself opening the app and willing myself to get along with it. But it just doesn’t work for me. I prefer the minimalism of IA Writer and I like the flexibility of having text files that are right there and available to whatever app I want to edit them in.
A lot of my work is being done in Scrivener right now, but I really don’t love how it syncs (or doesn’t) with mobile devices so I’m using its “sync with external folder” feature to create text files that can be worked on away from the desk. Now of all times, I shouldn’t really need a mobile solution, but I’m increasingly finding I don’t want to be chained to my desk all day, and my laptop has been commandeered by the kid for home-schooling.
I’m using Zoom A LOT for face-to-face stuff and I love it - so much better than Skype and very easy to just keep open on the desktop for certain periods of the day so that people can just “drop in”.
And I’m slowly managing to wean myself off Twitter and the news, which are really great sources of panic and anxiety but not great for focus right now. The old idea that if something major happens, you’ll hear about it anyway, has never been more true.
I talked about The Necks on that post, and their 2018 album BODY is something I’ve been listening to this week. Highly recommended.
JAZZ IS DEAD by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad is a great fusion of old school jazz and modern production.
Poolside have a new album out. It’s called LOW SEASON and it’s a great, chilled, Summery antidote to the lockdown blues.
BIG VICIOUS by Avishai Cohen (the trumpet player, not the bass player) was released yesterday and has the most brilliant cover of Teardrop by Massive Attack on it.
Beauty Pill have a new album out in May. I only heard of the band this week, when Roman Mars played their song “Exit Without Saving” on 99% Invisible. Then my friend Pete Fraser recommended their new single on Twitter yesterday and so I went onto Bandcamp to check them out and have absolutely fallen in love with their 2015 album BEAUTY PILL DESCRIBES THINGS AS THEY ARE. This is amazing music and should be checked out by everyone. There’s really nothing else like this out there.
Most of those are Bandcamp links. Musicians are really struggling through this period (even more so than usual), so if you’re in the fortunate position to still have disposable income, try buying something from here, where the band get the lion’s share of the proceeds, rather than streaming or buying through iTunes.
A little taste of BEAUTY PILL
Disney+ launched this week in the UK and, alongside the wealth of obvious Pixar/Star Wars/Marvel product on there, a little digging will uncover hidden gems like 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH and THE BLACK HOLE.
If you really want to dig into some escapist TV during this period, I heartily recommend Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse shows (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl). They’re all brilliantly put together with interesting tonal variations across the shows and great crossover episodes. It’s a whole world to dive into; hundreds of hours of pure comicbook joy.
Read, draw, take pictures, make stupid videos, write something, make something, learn something. And communicate with people, by text, by phone, by email - get conversations going, people are lonely. This is a strange time but it could be a useful time. It’s natural to be anxious, and worrying is understandable. But it’s not useful and it won’t fix anything. Getting lost in a good book might not fix anything either, but it’s a lot more fun. This is what I’m telling myself anyway.