Writing from Isolation: Then, Now and Beyond

admndaretwrtWriters at Home and in Isolation

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2020. As winter gives way to spring, the world changes overnight and things – I – fall apart. Work cancellations come thick and fast. I sit at my desk, unsure what I am meant to be doing now, who I have become. If I don’t have work, I wonder, am I still a writer? If I can’t see my daughters and grandchildren, am I still a mother and grandmother? I wonder, too, whether the world even needs words, now, when people are dying lonely deaths. I eat and drink too much, cry, force my body to move and stretch. I get up and leave the house and walk through furrowed, still-wintry fields, my feet sinking in thick mud.

       Like all of us, I begin to feel my way into this strange new world. My world shrinks to a small Somerset town: honey-coloured stone, swathes of fertile, green land, the sound of gulls. This house. The garden, all wilderness and weeds. My husband builds planters from pallets. I plant seeds, let earth get under my fingernails. I don’t care what I wear because there is no-one to see me other than my husband, who doesn’t worry about such things. I write, sometimes, pouring pain onto the page. Plants grow – new, green life, rearing towards the sun. Wildflowers sprout from the earth. I watch the bees. I watch the birds and listen to them sing.

       I adapt, as humans tend to do. The strange soon becomes familiar. I get used to seeing other human faces through a screen. Spring gives way to summer. In May, wild red grasses grow in the fields. Days are filled with heat. On top of one change, comes another – a black man gets killed in Minneapolis and shock waves ripple across the globe. Suddenly, everyone wants to hear what I’ve been saying for a long time. Racism is trending. Work, at first a trickle, becomes a stream becomes a river becomes a roaring sea, waves crashing over my head. I fall apart again. Then pick up the pieces, make myself whole again.

       In many ways I have always written in isolation. From the mixed-race little girl who escaped a traumatic childhood through reading and writing stories, to the single mother on benefits in her twenties who ventured back into education after being kicked out of college, to the woman in her thirties who found her voice, to the middle-aged woman and grandmother and writer I have become. It has always been me, alone, sat at my desk, plucking words from the air, ordering them into some semblance of sense on the page.

       And I write in isolation because of where I live. The rural south-west doesn’t have as strong a cultural infrastructure as other places, although it’s growing. Literary events, when they happen, can be few and far between, taking place in the little literary hubs dotted across the region, not easy to get to, rarely on my doorstep. The rural deprivation in the British countryside is a huge barrier – to normal life, let alone to engaging with literature.

       It’s always felt as though I’m on the outside, looking in, the ‘Other’, someone whose face doesn’t fit. This perspective has shaped the way I write, who I have become. The isolation I have lived and worked in has given me empathy for others. My life has been rich with experiences – some good, some traumatic. And it has led me to want to tell the stories of other outsiders, marginalised, quiet voices, who inhabit rural landscapes like mine. Who might feel the sense of loneliness I have always felt. Who face challenges some people can’t even begin to imagine.

       And now? Of course, I miss the occasional live events from the pre-pandemic world: standing in front of an audience, seeing people’s faces as the words I speak connects us. I’ve taken part in online events, and they have been wonderful, but it’s not the same. At the time of writing, none of us know what the future holds, what the new ‘normal’ will look like. Soon, summer will give way to autumn, then winter will be here. It will, no doubt, be long and cold. I will continue to write, alone, as I have always done, and hope for brief moments of connection.



Louisa Adjoa Parker is a south west writer of British and Ghanaian heritage. She writes poetry, fiction, BAME history and more, and her work has been widely published and performed.

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