Splendid Isolation.

Shakespeare is thought by some scholars to have written King Lear while quarantined during an outbreak of plague in London.

Ben Jonson wrote his play The Alchemist in 1610, while the plague was still ravaging London.

Bocaccio lived through the 1348 plague that ravaged Florence and was inspired to write The Decameron, about a group of wealthy socialites who practice social distancing by holing up in a house in the country.

Samuel Pepys kept a very detailed and funny diary even though the Great Plague of London from 1665-1666.

Daniel Defoe was inspired to write A Journal Of The Plague Year, a fictionalized account of events of 1665, in 1719 during an outbreak of plague in Marseilles, France.

Thucydides continued writing The History Of The Peloponnesian War even through the 430 BC plague of Athens, which he also documented.

George Orwell wrote 1984 while suffering from tuberculosis.

So did Franz Kafka. I mean, he didn’t write 1984, but he continued to write, including working on his final novel The Castle, while in a sanatorium being treated for tuberculosis, where he died.

The Marquis de Sade wrote most of his works while in prison and most of his works probably should have stayed there.

Emily Dickinson spent most of her life in self-imposed solitude but still managed to be a great poet.

Robert Louis Stevenson suffered from a respiratory ailment for most of his life but started writing as a child and didn’t stop until his death at forty-four.

In two weeks I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. I guess there’s still time, though.


Facebook Comments


  1. Ann Koplow

    You’ve accomplished a lot, Chris, if you ask me.
    Ann Koplow recently posted…Day 2679: What are your priorities?My Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m always impressed by how much you accomplish every day.

  2. mydangblog

    Here’s hoping we all do our best work over the next couple of months!
    mydangblog recently posted…Creative Writing Wednesday – What RemainsMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s tough to stay focused at times now but I look back on all the times I’ve been working alone or with only a few other people in the office and how much I got done. This is a challenge but also an opportunity.

  3. Tom

    Maybe we only ever get anything done when we’re challenged. Modern life is too easy. I shouldn’t have said that. It’s hard. Modern life is hard, and burdensome. Don’t send me challenges, universe. I hate things just the way they are and wouldn’t change a thing.

    I’m screwed, huh?

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      There’s got to be a balance. If things are too easy then the stakes aren’t high enough to really achieve anything. If the burdens are too much then it’s impossible to really achieve anything. So, yeah, we’re pretty much screwed. As Camus said in The Stranger, “Either way you’re going to get it.”
      On the other hand now might be just the right time to reread The Plague.

  4. Kristine Laco

    Funny, as I was reading this I was thinking “and here I am, accomplishing nothing but getting good at being miserable.” At least I’m in good company from a distance.
    Kristine Laco recently posted…My Mocha Whip Introduction to Writing HumourMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      On the bright side misery can be very inspiring. I’ve also heard misery loves company, so it could even make being stuck inside with your family tolerable.

  5. Arionis

    I’m wondering if any of these writers had spouses that were required to work from home right next to them. I haven’t written word one on my novel since the quarantine began.
    Arionis recently posted…High On LifeMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Close quarters putting a cramp on your style? I know Robert Lowell shared a writing space with his first wife, but they had a wall up between them. I’ve had to do some of my writing outside.


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