This morning, I was inspired by this blog post, written by a writer/photographer who realized quarantine is making him numb and unproductive. The way out of his funk?

Do. The. Work.

Or, as his own Inner Voice told him during a recent sleepless night: Get your mind working again.

Since quarantine began, I’ve been more productive than ever — for my employer. I’m writing scripts. I’m using Zoom to shoot short interviews with colleagues. I’m hosting virtual town halls. I’m spending hours in this little chair, in front of this little iMac, moderating calls and reporting progress.

I start early, sometimes by five-thirty in the morning. My schedule is frequently packed with conference calls and online meetings. I’m taking ten-minute lunches.

On good days, by four-thirty, I squeeze in a twenty-minute walk in the woods with Clyde and the dogs. On bad days, I find myself struggling to make time for bathroom breaks. Sometimes I catch myself still going at it, still sitting here, twelve hours after logging in. I have to force myself to get up, to shut down, to disconnect.

I work like this for others. Why haven’t I ever worked this hard for myself?

By most standards, I’m a prolific writer. I bang out successful proposals, engaging corporate video scripts, speeches for officers. It’s not unusual for me to crank out tens of thousands of words a day. The truth is, though, that the vast majority of these words are ephemeral — useful in the moment, but quickly forgotten as days become weeks become months become years.

I’m grateful to have spun my way with words into a way to make a living. I’m disappointed, though, that so few of the words I’ve written found their way into books.

During the first decade of this century, I published a string of non-fiction books on things like Tarot cards and computers and lucid dreams. But those credits are dusty now, and the days are sailing by, and the books I dreamed of writing languish on my computer, abandoned, unfinished.

This morning, I feel like I’m waking up from a decades-long dream. Writing used to define me. I wrote a dozen books. I posted almost daily to for fourteen years in a row. At some point, though, almost without realizing it, I gave up that part of myself.

I miss being that person: that writer, that blogger, that author.

If there’s an upside to quarantine (beyond simply “not dying”), it’s this: a lot of distractions have been stripped away. I’ve never been better positioned to show up, sit down, and make a book appear. I’ll certainly never have more time.

It’s time for my words to break quarantine. It’s time to prioritize creating something that will outlast me. It’s time to reclaim my identity as an author.

It’s time to Do. The. Work.

Image: A photo I shot when visiting Pompeii, Italy — a city built thousands of years ago that has long survived those who created it.

Mark McElroy: lives in Mississippi | is blogging again | is author of a dozen books | works as a professional storyteller | has a husband | is working on a novel | is an engaging public speaker | lost fifty pounds in 2017 | is a little obsessed with pizza.

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