How 'Call Me By Your Name' author Andre Aciman stays calm and productive in lockdown

Courtesy Andre Aciman

Thus far, quarantine has taught Andre Aciman, author of the novel "Call Me By Your Name," which was adapted into an Oscar-winning film, and the more recent "Find Me," to "love and accept routines that were more or less already in place," he says. 

Aciman has long embraced time alone as a way to be productive. "A writer needs and seeks solitude" to write, he says, and that's easy to find when you're sheltering in place.

Still, he says, the virtual interactions that have become commonplace as a result of social distancing are no substitute for real human interaction, which is necessary too.  "So many people have discovered Zoom because of Covid-19," he says. "People have social events on Zoom, and I teach my seminar on Zoom. But a cocktail on Zoom or a conversation with a cluster of friends on Zoom feels strained if not a tad sterile."

Here are a few simple, low-cost ways Aciman says he has been staying calm and productive in isolation, and his main takeaway from this difficult time.

Routines 'break the monotony'

[I find] myself creating routines to break the monotony of days that are otherwise indistinguishable from one another. I differentiate them by giving each a task: Monday shopping, Friday fish, Wednesday laundry.

I like doing things considered "useful" and find soothing comfort in repetitive chores that provide a semblance of order and harmony in this strange, soundless chaos that has redefined our lives.

'Six-feet-apart walks' with friends

What I have grown to like are the six-feet-apart walks in the park with friends, or walking by myself and speaking to someone who happens to be walking by himself in another city, the two of us with earbuds, masks on our faces, hands in our pockets. These [phone] conversations are long and heartwarming. 

[I find] myself creating routines to break the monotony of days that are otherwise indistinguishable from one another.
Andre Aciman
Author, "Call Me By Your Name"

'Joy in the kitchen'

At night, my wife and I find joy in the kitchen. We've each been working and haven't spoken for hours. Kitchens bring people together. We improvise dinner, have a drink. Later we'll watch TV. I no longer feel guilty watching TV. 

'Whatever the adversity, we will overcome it'

My life underwent many changes, most of which were unwelcome and threw my life totally off course. I've been kicked out of my birth country, moved to two others, suffered financial downturns, and have had to alter careers, when all I wanted since I was 10 years old was to be a writer.

But I've overcome these swings not through any strength of will, courage, or acts of foresight. I simply believed that at some point things would right themselves and that whichever crisis I was experiencing would have to pass.

I am not a man of faith, nor a Pollyanna — just a closet optimist who believes that we all find ways of moving forward, and that whatever the adversity, we will overcome it.

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