Today I begin the third week of lockdown. A friend has just sent me the latest meme making the rounds of the Coronaverse. It is a notice put up in a book shop window ‘Please note: The post-apocalyptical fiction section has been moved to Current Affairs.’ I send my friend a smiley face. Ironically I’ve just spent the last six months on a fiction writing course where the tutor has been bashing the documentary writer out of me and re-forming me as a writer of fiction. Steeped as I have been in plot twists, character arcs, three-act structures and narrative points of view, I woke up this morning thinking that no one would have bought this cliched dystopian novel a few weeks ago. Global pandemics in fiction are so last year.
When Corona hit the shores of Lebanon, we were already suffering an economic meltdown. Five months after a popular uprising, calling for the downfall of Lebanon’s corrupt ruling elite, most of us, me included, were worrying how individually and as a country, we were going to survive the coming years. Now, all that fretting seems ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the revolution was ridiculous. What’s ridiculous is thinking that I couldn’t survive an economic meltdown. Don’t know about you but I hate being slapped by a change of perspective in the middle of a drama.
Then the virus came calling and we turned one of those unforeseen corners when everything that made perfect sense suddenly doesn’t make sense anymore. Those corners used to excite me. They were an invigorating challenge designed specifically, I thought, to get my creative juices flowing. I am not excited. More like dazed and confused. Slapped upside the head with a two-by-four. So what am I going to do about it? How am I going to cope? Who will I be when the world goes back to normal? Will the world go back to normal in my lifetime? These and other questions are occupying us all and there are no clear answers. What I do know is that the virus has changed our lives. People are confused and frightened, me included. So I’ve decided to write a diary, of sorts, in the hope that, through this journal, the answers will come.
The last time I kept an online diary, I was suffering from a herniated disk and a depression caused by miscarriage. Today, disc-less, pain-free and healthy (well apart from the sneezing and occasional coughing) I’ve decided to log what it is like to work from home and live cheek-by-jowl with my husband, mother, mother-in-law and three dogs, 24 hours a day while writing my first novel, and reevaluating my life, the universe, and everything.