Before the latest coronavirus touched down, life in America was pretty good for most of us. Paychecks were getting fatter. Wall Street was booming. Unemployment was so low economists wondered if it actually could get much lower.
You’re probably expecting a “but” here, a contrast. A polemicist might argue that our quality of life wasn’t as good as we thought. A journalist might dwell on the story of how we lost so much so quickly.
There’s nothing wrong with those takes, but I would rather focus on something unexpected many of us just gained. A frequent complaint about modern American life is that it’s too fast. We have to go, go, go. This leaves us no opportunity to read a good book, relax, and think thoughts that are not tethered to things right in front of us, be it work or the kids’ soccer games or graduations or book clubs or weddings.
Those have been cancelled for most of us, indefinitely. This gives us something almost wholly unexpected: a big chunk of time.
People will use that time however they see fit. Some will scroll endlessly on their screens. Others will work out at home and get ripped. Still others will dive into that novel they’ve been meaning to read for years, and good for them.
What creators and entrepreneurs are doing is much more important than you might think at first blush.
Smart creators and entrepreneurs will use this time to focus. That’s one of the great things that will emerge from our isolation.
Books are being written that wouldn’t have been written minus the great pause. Music is being written, too. Crafts are being made. Art is being created. People who wanted to do these things if they only had more time now have nothing but. Many are using it.
All of this creative activity is intuitive. Of course people are going to fill the time with something that they enjoy, if it is at all possible. You would also expect great leaps forward in ways of fighting the virus and keeping essential things running while most things are shut down. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.
But necessity is not the only ingredient in innovation. There’s also time. Urgency helps to focus us. That focus tells us to how to allocate our time. Right now, millions of man hours by doctors, scientists, and technicians are being used to find ways to protect us and inoculate us against the virus.
Entrepreneurs are using this focus time to do their own deep thinking. They’re looking for ways to create and improve their own goods and services. They’re figuring out how to fund these things now that capital is scarcer, and how to deliver at a lower price now that we are poorer. They are also figuring out better ways of getting those products out to market — with new supply chains and with contingencies for future lockdowns, if it comes to that.
What creators and entrepreneurs are doing is much more important than you might think at first blush. We need great stories and great art, to delight us and expand our horizons — now that our horizons have shrunk. And we are going to need the new efficiencies being created to help get us up off the mat from the massive body blow our economy just took.
Jeremy Lott is writing comic books.