Creative Quarantine: Strategist, Writer, Philosopher Matt Herlihy

Matt Herlihy | Photo credit: Mark Smalling

1. How are you holding up?

Feels odd to say, but never better. Grateful to have my health and my work. As 2020 began, I found myself coveting more time with my wife, more peace and quiet at home, and more space for creativity. Really wish it hadn’t taken a global pandemic to get here, but I got everything I wanted.

That said, I’m deeply concerned about our collective situation. Resolving a mass crisis takes leadership, empathy, and self-discipline on a national level. Outside these four walls, I’m seeing a lethal shortage of all three.

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

Big time. For all of its many shortcomings, a period of immediate global uncertainty is a philosopher’s dream. I’ve been writing essays that grapple with how a pandemic reveals the core of who we are—as people, as practitioners, and as a culture. 

Since we know so little about the future ahead of us, I’ve done a lot of speculating. How will this experience lead us to work together differently? How will it affect the way we experience sports? And once normalcy is restored, what if some of us choose to continue staying home?

It’s always risky dabbling in futurism, since any writer can easily be proven wrong once time catches up. But thinking through scenarios gives me something to look forward to, even as the days and weeks blur together.

It’s always risky dabbling in futurism, since any writer can easily be proven wrong once time catches up

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your work practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

I’ve grown fascinated by the changing role of the home. For most of us, the inner sanctum now plays many new roles beyond its original design: office, school, gym, bar, maybe even clinic. 

Around here, we’ve designed our place to serve these purposes quite effectively, and I’ll admit I’ve grown accustomed to the perks of staying put: more time, more control, and more productivity. (A lack of offspring probably helps—as does a stout supply of top-notch home cooking.)

So I may end up as one of the “homers” who stick around awhile, even after the smoke clears. At least until they let me back into Wrigley.

I’ll admit I’ve grown accustomed to the perks of staying put

4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

I’ve been thrilled at musicians opening up their performance archives to fill the void of live music in a collective setting. I’ve been dipping back into many of the acts I enjoyed live in my younger years, particularly Dave Matthews Band, the Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin. 

Here in the present day, Neil Finn and Crowded House have released a number of new remotely performed recordings that have warmed my heart. Plus, the new Bob Dylan album has been a real gift.

5. What else?

While this has been a tragic period—and remains so, with no end in sight—encouraging elements have begun to reveal themselves. 

More of us now appreciate the importance of good government and collective sacrifice, especially when confronted with their opposites. More of us are now acutely aware of the dangers of systematic racism and law enforcement overreach. And hopefully, most of us are now willing to take personal action toward correcting the wrongs of both.

That said, whatever your stance on such matters, we’re still in this together, like it or not. So please, wear a goddamn mask.

Matt Herlihy is a strategist, writer, philosopher, speaker, and instructor based in Chicago.