How I Spent Lockdown How I Was Inspired In Isolation and Did It Last?
Eighteen months on, I’m revisiting and reevaluating a post I wrote during the first lockdown of the pandemic.
THE ORIGINAL STORY …
In deciding what I was going to do in the strange time of lockdown and isolation I asked myself:
How can I make the most of this time?
The self-feedback I received in answer was that I wanted to do the following three things — which are actually six things, because well, that’s what came to me, because they all seemed like good ideas, because they’re things I can combine, and because I can.
My Top Three Isolation Inspirations
1. READING/WATCHING TV
Embracing being at home and indulging in pure unadulterated me time, to my absolute delight, I discovered all thirty-four of the previously screened episodes of Inspector Montalbano were available on iPlayer. I’m a huge fan, so of course, I decided to work my way through them — there is a little work involved as it’s in Italian with English subtitles. As I’d watched them before, I wanted to create a sense of purpose around re-watching them, and so I decided I’d read each book first, then watch the episode.
My reasoning behind this was two-fold:
- I want to read more fiction, and mysteries are a life-long favourite genre. Beginning from a young age with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books, then moving on to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple detective novels, and many, many more in-between.
- I have an idea for a mystery book, but I have no idea how to go about writing it, and so I’m setting out to learn just that, and what better way to do it than by embracing my love of literature and film/tv.
2. LANGUAGE LEARNING/EXERCISING AT HOME
Before the pandemic hit, I’d planned a road-trip around Ireland along with exploring France by train. While this, of course, has to go on hold, I thought I could still prepare, and as this is something I could multi-task on, I thought the best combination would be with home-exercise. So, I got my Michel Thomas Irish and French Language CDs, along with my Jane Fonda and Callanetics DVDs off the shelf, dusted them off, put on my leg-warmers and got going.
I decided I’d use this time to learn how to take better photographs. This is simply because I love photographs, but I’ve never been very good at taking them. This seemed like the perfect time to try out my new iPhone that I’d bought because of the camera function, which reportedly is good for both photos and videos. I created a project which I’ve called ‘Capturing The Beauty In Everyday WorkLife’, and as we’re allowed to exercise outside of home, I thought I’d combine both. How am I doing? I’ll let you judge – from the photos I’ve shared in the original post: My Top Three Isolation Inspirations
So, what wisdom am I gleaning from reading mystery books, and how could this be helpful in my WorkLife? Looking at the first book in the series of Inspector Montalbano (The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri), Donna Leon, an American author of a series of crime novels set in Venice, Italy, said: “The novels of Andrea Camilleri breathe out the sense of place, the sense of humour, and the sense of despair that fill the air of Sicily. To read him is to be taken to that glorious, tortured island.”
Alongside exploring how to write a mystery book, I’m also working on my next book, called WorkLife Book Club. The setting for each chapter will be a different restaurant, as the group discuss WorkLife stories and featured books. I need to learn how to breathe out the sense of place for each setting — wish me luck!
Words of Wisdom
In the midst of times of uncertainty and disruption, powerful shifts are going to come about, and people are going to make big changes. You may not have the clarity on what you could, should, would do, if you only knew what that was, and that’s OK. Focus instead on how you could, should, would think about making decisions when the time is right for you.
Down moments are sometimes when the greatest opportunities arise.
This chapter of my WorkLife has just begun. In time I’ll reflect what it meant for me, what I learnt from it, and what changes it effected in my WorkLife.
I leave you with a couple of questions for you to reflect on at whatever stage you’re at, at this chapter in your WorkLife. In the moment or looking back – depending on when you’re reading this story.
What do/did you want to get out this strange, bizarre, challenging time?
What do/did you want to remember from this time?
Through reflection and self-feedback let the answers inform your isolation inspirations in whatever you choose to do.
In time should you choose to make changes in your WorkLife, ask yourself:
How could, should would I think about making these decisions?
Today’s featured book is: The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri
WorkLife Book Wisdom Stories:
The intention of the stories I share is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories, you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles, failures and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.
My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.
I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for
THE CONTINUING STORY …
1. READING/WATCHING TV
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the books and watching the episodes. I got so much more from them by doing this by way of observing how the storylines were structured and how the main and recurring characters were developed. The last books in the series were published and then screened over the last year or so, which brought closure to the story. It also left me feeling bereft – that feeling when you finish a good book or a tv series comes to an end.
A Side Note: Andrea Camilleri, author of the Montalbano series of books, sadly passed away in 2019.
Here’s a brief bio of his path as a writer (he was also an eminent director).
In 1978 Camilleri wrote his first novel Il Corso Delle Cose (“The Way Things Go”). This was followed by Un Filo di Fumo (“A Thread of Smoke”) in 1980. Neither of these works enjoyed any significant amount of popularity.
In 1992, after a long pause of 12 years, Camilleri once more took up novel writing. A new book, La Stagione della Caccia (“The Hunting Season”) became a best-seller.
In 1994 Camilleri published La forma dell’Acqua (The Shape of Water), the first in a long series of novels featuring Inspector Montalbano, a fractious detective in the police force of Vigàta, an imaginary Sicilian town. (Source Wikipedia).
I didn’t write a mystery book (not yet anyway), but I did publish, WorkLife Book Club, in which one of the characters, Maggie, who is a police officer, has a love mysteries.
The following extract from WorkLife Book Club is Maggie’s response to being asked what she enjoys about reading:
Maggie: Reading benefits my wellbeing. By losing myself in a thoroughly engrossing book, I can escape from the worries and stresses of everyday society and spend a while exploring the world of the author’s imagination. Suspense fiction – thrillers and mysteries are my favourite nighttime read. They help me to switch off. It seems contradictory, but they help to relax my mind and unwind and feel ready for sleep. I couldn’t understand why this was at first, and as with all paradoxes, I had to figure it out. What I figured was that in the same way we need physical exercise to maintain good health and wellbeing, we also need to work out our brain to keep it in peak condition. Thrillers and mysteries help achieve this because they provide puzzles to work through. A good workout – physical and mental – aids better sleep.
I’ve heard it said that writers take bits and pieces from everyone in their life (I think that means fictional people, too), and put that into their characters. And also, just as writers like to take from those around us, we also write pieces of ourselves into our characters. That’s certainly true of me – there are bits and pieces of me in all the characters in the book, and also bits and pieces from everyone in my life, and most definitely bits and pieces from Montalbano – he’s such an interesting character, how could there not be.
#FunFact1 WorkLife Book Club is set in Shoreditch, East London and takes readers on a culinary journey as the members discuss WorkLife struggles and successes through the wisdom found in books they read.
… here’s the FunFact … food and drink play an important role in the book, it could be said they are unique characters. But, because I wrote the book in lockdown when all eating and drinking establishments were closed, I had to improvise … I had to learn how to breathe out the sense of place for each setting. So I wrote from memory about wonderful culinary experiences, and I also wrote from research, creating wonderful culinary experiences that I want to experience in time … I’ve added them to my Joie De Vivre list of things I want to experience.
A SIDE STORY …
#FunFact2 I’ve begun my culinary experiences journey, while also beginning my WorkLife Book Club For 1 – I’m taking Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast on a Moveable Feast, chapter by chapter – I read a chapter over a plate and a glass (or a cup) and then I write about it – in writing about it I want to explore if learning can be taken from each and every chapter of a book as opposed to my original premise from my WorkLife Book Wisdom stories, that learning is taken from a book as a whole.
I’ve added a little twist. It needs to be French cuisine. (because I love a twist).
And also, because, in A Moveable Feast, Hemingway is sharing memories of his life as a writer living in Paris. In the book, he has created a wonderful setting that transports readers back in time to the Paris of the 1920s. In my writing, a little French cuisine will serve to enhance the mood created by Hemingway. And add a little fun, too, pour moi.
Here’s a link to Chapter 1 I’m taking Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast on a Moveable Feast Chapter by Chapter. From there, each chapter will take you to the next chapter.
I continue to read a range of books (including mysteries). It’s an important part of my craft as a writer.
I continue to watch a lot of tv too, I tell myself that’s also an important part of my craft as a writer, and I think it is, though perhaps less so than books, or maybe as much, I’m not sure.
I continued the practice I had established with Montalbano (first reading the book and then watching the tv episode) with Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Poirot series of books and tv adaptations. And again I got so much more from them by doing this, by way of observing how the storylines were structured and how the main and recurring characters developed.
But reading and watching tv is also my way of winding down and switching off. And as Maggie said, that’s important too.
2. LANGUAGE LEARNING/EXERCISING AT HOME
Those road/train trips still haven’t happened, but I am still planning them.
I need a few things to fall into place, but I hope to move from London to experience life in a new and different country. France is on my list. And I also want to spend time rediscovering Ireland, the land I still call home.
BUT, and there’s a BIG BUT here, language learning/exercising at home was VERY short-lived. In truth, it never really got going. I don’t know why, because, in the past, these combined practices have worked for me. But this time round, I wasn’t inspired or motivated to dust off and play my language CDs and my exercise DVDs, leg-warmers or no leg-warmers.
BUT, all that said, I still want to pick up on these practices. I’m not sure if I want to combine them, because I think I want to be in the moment exercising, to focus on what I’m doing, and not have my mind on something else, even if that something else is learning.
However, I also don’t want to overload myself, and time is a factor. I think I need to combine language learning with something else, in order for it to fit into my day – perhaps while I’m preparing/cooking my meals, cleaning my home, or taking a bath … I’ll perhaps explore these and see how they work/don’t work.
My next Isolation Inspirations will explain why I want to be in the moment more and why I don’t want to overload myself.
This started off well. I was taking lovely long walks, exploring, discovering and rediscovering London and capturing it on camera as I went.
Then I stopped walking. That was primarily because I got so into my writing that I wrote from early morning into late evening. First, I developed the 27 chapters of the book I had written just before the pandemic hit – Your WorkLife Your Way into 27 E-Books which became The School of WorkLife Book Series. Then wanting to develop my writing ability and raise awareness to me and my work. I wrote over 200 stories which I shared on my blog. Then I wrote my next book WorkLife Book Club, followed by a Learn Through Reading Series of Case Studies.
No walking meant no photographs. And also I lost my new phone! I got a newer model, but the camera function wasn’t as good.
I pushed myself so hard to develop a body of work as a new writer, that when I finally stopped to take a short break, having sent my new book to my publisher, I became really unwell. That was several months ago, and it has been a long road to recovery. But I am getting there.
Having been so unwell, I’m now focusing on recovering fully by dedicating 3 hours each day to my wellbeing.
I’ve made it that those three hours need to be focused on doing things physically and mentally that bring me to life.
At the moment I’m walking for 3 hours each day. Sometimes I think. Other times I switch my thinking off. Mostly I’m guided by my mind and go with the flow of where it wants to take me. I’m focusing on being in the moment, not overloading myself with any thinking that’s too cumbersome.
That includes OVER combining, but that said, I am taking photographs to capture the beauty of everyday workLife. This is a combination that seems to work well.
I still don’t like my new phone camera and in time I think I’ll buy an actual camera and learn how to use that.
A SIDE NOTE:
I’ve struggled to be disciplined in dedicating 3 hours each day to my wellbeing. I’ve fallen back into what has become a bad habit of overworking, and I’ve had to get myself back on track with my health plan.
Today is one of those days when I’m reminded of what I need to do. I, of course, knew it, but writing is, for me, a practice that helps to process things and reinforce what I need to do.
That and Ryan Holiday (who I follow on Twitter) sharing these very timely quotes:
“It isn’t easy for a man to force himself into a discipline of idleness, but it is essential. Life is not work: to work without stopping sends a man mad. Remember that. And to want to do so is a bad sign: those of your colleagues who could not stop working were by no means the best.” Charles De Gaulle.
“The mind must be given relaxation, it will rise improved and sharper after a good break. Just as rich fields must not be forced, for they will quickly lose their fertility if never given a break, so constant work on the anvil will fracture the force of the mind.” Seneca.
So, in answer to the questions I posed at the beginning of this post:
Did My Top 3 Isolation Inspirations Actually Inspire Me Longterm?
How I Spent Lockdown How I Was Inspired In Isolation and Did It Last?
In response to the question: Did It Last?
Yes, and No but Yes – that last Yes means revisiting and reevaluating the post helped me acknowledge the lessons I’ve learnt. My Top 3 Isolation Inspirations still inspire me, but they need a tweak here and there.
School of WorkLife helps you self-direct your WorkLife learning through resources that have been created to help you to take ownership of your learning in your own space and in your own time.
What is Self Directed Learning?
Self-Directed Learning is when an individual is motivated to take the initiative and responsibility on decisions related to their own learning. It is a series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint.
Resources to Help You Self-Direct Your Learning
You may find the books below from The School of WorkLife Book Series helpful in meeting your learning needs as a self directed learner. Tap the book title to see a preview of what’s inside each book.
How To Self-Coach, Direct and Lead Effectively
How To Start Something New in Difficult Times
Tap The School of WorkLife Book Series to view the complete collection of books. From here, you can tap on each individual title to see a preview of what’s inside each book.
Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning. These include a Collection of Books which originated from her first book, Your WorkLife Your Way and a Learn Through Reading Series of Case Studies. which originated from her latest book WorkLife Book Club.
That’s the power of writing (and reading, which is an integral part of the craft for writers). It helps you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations – in day-to-day communication: WorkLife and feedback conversations, presentations, talks, and negotiations, at interviews, and when socialising and networking in building and maintaining good relationships. The practice of writing helps you to tell the stories that express who you are in an interesting and engaging way.