I used to have really intense problems with getting out of bed too late and sleeping too much, but now that I have nowhere to be I get up at 9am like clockwork. The current context – that of COVID 19, and the resulting political, economic and social upheaval – has bizarrely meant that I have more time and less inspiration. I struggle with both motivation and culturally disciplinary forces (there’s a hell of a lot of “don’t you dare write about COVID/self-isolation/______” posts on Twitter these days, hey?), and yet at the same time I (like many of us) am turning to writing and reading as incredibly important forms of catharsis and action. There’s an incredibly rad thing happening these days as well, in the form of intentional book buying, cross-promotion and virtual readings/book clubs/the works. While I don’t want to overplay the importance of these things as some grandiose world-saver, I do think that these are critical sites of mutual emotional aid and solidarity. I’m proud to play whatever small part I can, and with that in mind, I’d describe my writing day as follows:
9am: Get out of bed. There’s a certain vertigo involved in this, of course – the realization of a new day in the same reality, only amplified enormously due to current circumstances. Nonetheless, one moves on.
9:05-11am-ish: I’m very fortunate in that I live with both my immediate family and one of my best friends, all of whom I get along with really well. Thus, for the first two-ish hours of the day I usually find myself having multiple cups of coffee and riffing on all kinds of subjects. This is great, both because it’s absolutely key in emotional and social terms right now, and because it provides nascent/nebulous inspiration for things I could write about.
11am-3pm: At some point I have lunch, but more to the point is the fact that this is a period where I tend to get some actual writing done. A key component of this is research, which for me is currently a fully holistic process: reading about anything and everything, and in so doing trying to create those spontaneous associations which are so critical to poetic writing. This is closely intertwined with my budding capacity as a book collector and seller – I spend a lot of time on AbeBooks and Biblio, and I firmly count that as productive time. All of this research eventually points me towards some shred of inspiration, and I try to run with that as best I can. Right now, for example, I’m finding (for the first time in my life) inspiration and motivation in formal, constraint-based writing. I’ve taken to writing rondels (a medieval French form which is highly variable, but which is often defined by a particular rhyme scheme and the use of a refrain) and am vaguely talking about doing a whole manuscript of them. I think that formulas and constraints offer, for me at least, a way to arbitrarily apply order to the chaos of thought and expression, and I think that that’s critical in this moment in time.
3pm-???: At the moment, the rest of my day typically lacks structure. More writing ideally gets done, more book browsing takes place, and so on. In summing up both my typical and my idealized day within the current circumstances, I’d really like to end by placing unconstrained emphasis on the importance of communication – checking in with your friends, doing online hangouts, playing a part in larger community efforts, and broadcasting messages of solidarity. As much as it gets dismissed and denigrated, I earnestly believe that Twitter is really important right now, and my days have increasingly been reflecting that belief. I’ve been trying to consistently drive home the fact that I firmly believe that we are all in this together, and that I am ready and willing to help both friends and strangers in whatever way(s) I can.
So, at the moment, that’s mostly it. Had I been asked to write about my typical writing day two weeks ago, all of this would have looked markedly different. We find ourselves in a particular moment in time, and I want to wrap this up by simply saying: Solidarity forever. Solidarity with the writers who’ve had book launches cancelled, with the publishers delaying releases, and the booksellers struggling to get by. As a community, we are going to get through this, thanks to the support and effort which we all provide for each other. As I write every day in these times, those are the thoughts that are guiding me, in terms of both content and practice.
Ethan Vilu is a writer, editor and fledgling bookseller from Calgary, Alberta. Their poetry longsheet “A Decision Re: Zurich” was published by The Blasted Tree in March 2020, and their play “Godspeed Fair Helena” was produced by Rocket Science Collective in Fall 2019. They edit(ed) the speculative journal Trouble Among The Stars (which is currently in the process of wrapping up with a final issue and chapbook), and they also work with NōD Magazine and filling Station. Passionate about material culture and weirdly obsessed with space stations, Ethan spends much of their time dreaming of buying books, selling books, and buying more books off of that. You can find them on twitter at @CNNSwitzerland.