Isolation

When I hear the word isolation, I am reminded of Stefan Zweig's novel The Royal Game.

It's the story of a clash between two chess players. One is an arrogant genius, the other was driven mentally insane after being put in total isolation in an empty hostel room by the Nazis.

During his time in total isolation, the protagonist encounters a book about chess that's been hidden from the Nazis in the apartment's ceiling. Having nothing else to do, he devours the book and begins an obsessive deliberate practice. Playing day in and day out against himself, he quickly reaches mastery but develops a second personality. After suffering from a complete breakdown, he joins an asylum but never completely recovers from his trauma.

I find this story fascinating because of its simplicity and contemporaneity.

The line between mastery and insanity is a thin one. You need deliberate practice to become great, but you also have to avoid burnouts. Boredom, obsession, or vision are no excuses: taking care of yourself is primordial, or otherwise, the things you love end up killing you.

Even if you're self-isolating, don't neglect to establish boundaries between your work and your life. The monastic life has its virtues, but don't lose sight of reality.