Writing in the Pandemic Age, part 2


I’m due for another blog on the Cinema Houston site. Its last post detailed a part of Houston history: the 1918 influenza epidemic and how the virus shut down schools, theatres, pool halls, and social gatherings for two weeks in October. The Barnum & Bailey Circus was due to open in town during that time. Instead, upper circus management canceled the remainder of the season, and all the clowns, tightrope walkers, and elephants went home. The week-long run of Cleopatra, starring silent screen vamp Theda Bara, ended after four days. For modern movie historians, that’s salt in the wounds since almost all of Bara’s films, including Cleopatra, are now lost.

The similarities to the present are obvious. Once more, the city (the country, the world) is dealing with the fallout from a virus that knows no borders and pays no attention to race, religion, or economic status. Despite the advances in medicine over the last century, we following the same strategies used in 1918. Keep your distance. Wear a mask. Stay home when possible.

On the plus side, this has been the ideal time for the multitude of things one can do in the comfort of their own dwelling, from decluttering and home improvement to home videos en route to social media. It is also the ideal time for the creative impulse. Painting, photography, sewing, and culinary skills, please step forward.

So it is with writing.

In fact, the art of creating may be the most fun one can have alone without having to worry about masks and a six-foot minimum distance. There’s no bother about large crowds. The only limits are on imagination.

I mention all this as a segue since the art of creating is frequently a solo act. Ideas manifest themselves in a vacuum. It takes an individual to nurture them, molding them into something tangible before releasing them into the village. Even group endeavors begin with that one person and the lightbulb above their head—who then turns it into a party.

As mentioned in a previous blog, Shakespeare may have hit a creative sprint during the plague, writing masterpieces such as King Lear in isolation (or not. It’s old history and we may never know the truth about ol’ Will). However, as the saying goes, when the legend sounds better than the fact, print the legend.

On the other hand, as one reader quipped, “Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine… I myself will be writing a spec script about Britney and Ryan Gosling switching bodies at the Mouseketeer tryouts in Orlando in ‘92.”

Were Pet Rocks a great idea? Questionable. Were they memorable? Absolutely.

Were Pet Rocks a great idea? That’s still open to debate. Were they memorable? Absolutely.

Still, creation can strike when least expected if the usual day-to-day bustle does not get in the way. Might we look back at 2020 as a breakout time of originality? A new King Lear, anyone?

The world needs great ideas. They solve social ills, bring about change, improve upon lives, and bring about inspiration. One Idea leads to another, a falling domino triggering the next. Granted, some of these remain on the lower end of the scale. Britney and Ryan at the Mouseketeer tryouts may not cure hunger, bring about world peace, or resolve the issues tormenting us at this moment in time, but neither did pet rocks or planking, and I can’t think of a world without these diversions.

Ideas lead humanity to a far better place, and they all strike us all at one point or another. It’s up to us to set them free. As for now, I think I’ll write a little ditty and hope that Shakespeare grants me his blessings.

To read my companion blog, visit cinemahouston.wordpress.com.

Top image by pedro_wroclaw from Pixabay


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