Sunday, 24 January 2021

The Working Time Directive for Poets

I’ve recently seen several excellent articles and features on poetry in lockdown (and in the pandemic in general), advocating all sorts of useful approaches. These articles often focus on energising creativity, on organising time, on motivation, on finding stimuli that might help to generate a reconnection with art. This post is in no way intended to disparage or knock such features, because there’s no doubt they’re helping to bring people together and support in other in terrific ways.

However, there are other sections of the population who are probably beyond this sort of assistance right now, poets who don’t really have the chance to write in the pandemic and especially in lockdown, people whose route to writing has been blocked, such as stay-at-home parents who’ve lost the hours in the middle of the day when they carved out a bit of time for themselves. And then there’s a group who form the core of today’s post. I’m referring to poets that used to leave the house every day to commute and do a full-time job, but are now working from home.

It’s worth pointing out that I’m not among them: my working life, while tough, is also flexible. Nevertheless, I know of many friends who had an established writing routine that they’d built around the construct of the old working week. It made a clear-cut separation between their working time, family time and poetry time, their working space, family space and poetry space. That’s now disappeared.

All of a sudden, these poets are finding it hugely tough to defend their writing. Spaces they once used for poetry are now taken up by work, while timetables are fast becoming blurred. Bosses, colleagues and customers, who are also working from home, are now demanding constant connectivity and immediate reactions to requests at times that were previously viewed as unreasonable and/or out of bounds. In other words, work is intruding on periods of the day and week that were sacrosanct prior to the pandemic. And all of the above, of course, is before we mention home-schooling!

This last point brings me on to another key issue: family. In the past, husbands, wives, partners, sons and daughters might have found it easier to respect the fact that the poet in question disappeared into the attic, etc, an hour or two in the evening or at the weekend. But during lockdown, everyone’s already spending lengthy periods of time in separate rooms in the house over the course of the day, even before the poet dares to ask for more!

In conclusion, today's post isn’t a cry for help, nor a plea for recognition, nor a moan. It’s simply an attempt to open up the topic for discussion, to remind poets in this situation that others are in a similar boat, to lend moral support, to remember that sometimes poetry just has to wait until life gets out of the way….

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