For many of us in the world of COVID-19, life is on pause. Excluding those who are working the front lines in health care, essential service employees, or parents who are taking on extra responsibilities, the majority of us who are sheltering-in-place, staying-at-home, and waiting out this pandemic, life is a little less busy. We have more time on our hands. We are sitting at our desks, brooding. We are lying in our beds, scrolling. We are running in circles around the neighborhood. We’re bingeing Netflix until our eyes bleed from staring at the blue light and then, to let our eyes heal, we start picking books off the shelves and thumbing through them. We sigh. The day seems to slow down. Time gets longer. Reading is a pleasure we forgot about. We are inspired. Maybe next we’ll pick up a pen and start scribbling something in a notebook.

I am of course talking about “we” in the general sense, meaning most people, the majority of whom are not writers. I, too, was once a non-writer, and it took a quarantine to turn me into one. The quarantine I am referring to is not COVID-19 but graduate school. Before I started my MFA, I was out there in the world, doing stuff. I was grabbing life by the horns. I was traveling, going on adventures, meeting people, making memories, having fun. My life was full of activity, but it lacked pause. It lacked time to write, or space to put energy into writing. I came to grad school to quarantine myself and that has made all the difference.

When the list of activities we have to choose from is limited to what is around us, we are left to resort to simpler ways to pass the time. A virus has forced us all to stay in place, and in giving up the things that used to satisfy us, we have to find something else to fill in the blank. I always knew that something else was supposed to be writing. I just needed a way to find it.

Hannah Barnhart is a first-year MFA student in fiction. She enjoys rock & roll concerts and mountain sports. | | Visit CSU’s Creative Writing MFA program at