Writer in Residence

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID: The writing process Part 5 of 9

By Christene A. Browne

In the isolation of lockdowns and social distancing where does romance go? For those who are romantically involve it could intensify the bond but for many the opposite has been true since there has been a record number of people filing for divorce and reports of an increase in domestic violence during this period.

So where does this leave the single person without a room mate to hook up and little in the way of friends. In writing the story, I wanted to isolate further the character who were living in isolation. This I believed would add further to the tension.

 When one spends too much time alone, they become socially awkward.  What if that person was already socially awkward to begin with it. Does it make them feel more normal as all the home bodies around the world must be feeling now – or does it do the opposite? I didn’t ask myself that particular question when I was writing the story but what emerged was some answers to some questions, I had been asking myself or wondering about at lease. Writing for me has always been about the uncovering of the subconscious. When I wrote about the cycle of domestic violence in my first novel Two Women, I didn’t write from any recollections of what I had experienced growing up in a house where there was domestic violence, since I had and still don’t have any memories of the violence.  I instead wrote from somewhere in my subconscious where those suppressed memories exist. I was able to capture some particularly violence scenes with such detail that it surprised me.

In the same way the actions of the character in my novel were dictated by something deep in my subconscious, the same is true when I was writing these characters. My ponderings about the psyche of people during this very precarious time is answered in the form of characterization of character who is living during these times. Someone who reacts based on their personality which is revealed to me during the writing process.

This way of creating may sound a bit haphazard but this how I approach almost everything in life- especially my art. For an onlooker, I may appear to be super organized and in control and I am super organized and in control when I need to be, but I’ve learnt over time that the best ideas come to me when I give them ample space to live and breathe.

The act of creation is not the act of breathing life into something that already exist. It is the act of making something out of nothing, allowing one idea to flow into the next and so on and so on. I’ve been doing this for so long that it becomes second nature. When I’m done with the sentence, the scene or the paragraph, I can revel in the fact that with just words I have just given birth to another human being, who acts and reacts in the way that I see fit. This character also lives in a world that I have designed. I play God when I write. I remember saying this to someone long time ago and they took offence. Blasphemy or not I still thinks its true. It is also lots of fun. The act of writing is many things to me, but it is also play.  I enjoy it tremendously.


    ‘Hello, this is Adam. We met at the grocery store a few weeks ago. I asked you where the organic section was.’ Adam began his text to Eva.  ‘I’m wondering if you would like to go for appropriate distanced walk sometime. Masked of course.’


     When Eva received the text, she was delighted. It didn’t even bother her that she had never given him her number. She was pleased that he had found her, the same way she had found him online. She was confident that now he knew as much about her as she knew of him. That comforted her somehow. Prior to COVID19, the invasion of privacy would have creeped her out, but it was all commonplace now.


     It took Eva three whole hours to decide what she would wear on her walk with Adam. It was the middle of winter and she would be wearing her thick parka so he would most likely not see any of her clothing, but she wanted to feel special when she was with him. She dug into the depths of her dresser drawer and found one of her frilliest bras, the kind that she had stopped wearing after the first lock down. She didn’t care how stiff it felt in comparison to her sport bras. It enhanced the sexy comfort vibe that she wanted to create.


    A pair of black jeans, a silky green shirt, black bra, silky soft burgundy panties and black thermal socks was the outfit that she settled on. Once she was dressed, it took her another half hour to find the lipstick that she had also stopped wearing. Lipstick under a mask made no sense but it added to the sensual mood that she was trying to create. The fact that Adam wouldn’t see it didn’t matter. Just having it on under the mask would give her the edge that she felt she needed. It had been a very long period since she had spent any length of time physically with another human let alone someone of the opposite sex. Just that prospect alone was titillating.


     Adam took almost just as much time to get ready. Since he did laundry so infrequently, it took him some effort to locate some clean underwear, and a sufficiently clean shirt and jeans. He succeeded in finding the underwear at the very back of his drawer but for the other items, he had to settle with things that had been worn at least twice. To make up for this he sprayed a tiny amount of cologne on each article of clothing, showered thoroughly and made sure to put on extra deodorant. He wanted to smell fresh but not like he was going out to night club. He knew some women didn’t appreciated the smell of over cologned men. He was also aiming for a sexy confident vibe.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Christene Browne, originally from St. Kitts, is a well-respected and internationally acclaimed Toronto independent filmmaker and was the first Black woman to direct a feature film in Canada. In 2011 she was awarded the Visionary award by the Women's International Film & Television Showcase for her ground-breaking documentary series Speaking in Tongues: The History of Language, which features Noam Chomsky. She recently completed a feature documentary on Toronto’s Regent Park, the oldest and largest Canadian housing complex, and is working on an animated documentary on the early life of famed Canadian author Austin Clarke. Her first novel Two Women (2013, Second Story Press) is about two women who share the same soul and deals with the cyclical nature of domestic violence. Her second novel Philomena (Unloved) (2018, Second Story Press) tells the story of a woman who lives a life devoid of love and deals with issues of sexual violence, mental health, and homelessness. She currently teaches at Ryerson University in the RTA School of Media and is developing her first libretto.