On Not Writing

Blanco died on July 25th. It was awful and sad. The weeks that followed were also awful and sad, but I don’t want to write about that right now. I want to write about not writing.

After B was diagnosed with cancer, a lot of people advised me to write. Some suggested it as a distraction. Other writers encouraged me to use the emotion. A therapist, upon learning I was a writer, assigned me to write a poem or tribute to him for our next session, so I chose not to have a next session. It’s not bad advice; it just wasn’t the right advice for me at the time.

By the time I was hearing a lot of this, I’d found that the best thing I could do was rewrite sentences and rearrange words. I could be analytical. I could be an editor. For the life of me I could not free up enough energy to create. Even the last blog post took days to write.

I spent the weekend after Blanco died in a grief stupor. I watched Gilmore Girls. I played Tiny Wings and Tap Words and Running With Friends until I was sick of them. And I beat myself up about not writing.

When you’re a writer, especially one with the goal of publication, you feel the pressure of writing all the damn time. Of using every experience to fill the emotional well of your fiction. It’s drilled into you by teachers, writers, and even cheesy tumblr memes. I know very few writers who willingly take a vacation from writing, which is why I was back at the computer after a long weekend, staring at a deadline and feeling bad about wanting to immerse myself in Stars Hollow instead of the novel I should be revising. During that time I read an interview in Texas Monthly, wherein one of my favorite writers, Benjamin Alire Saenz recounts how, during a terrible time of his life, writing Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club saved his life. You read something like that and you think, well, gee, I should really get back to that manuscript. And maybe I could if I wasn’t so sad.

Sometimes I think the hardest part of being a writer is recognizing when it’s okay not to write. It took some time and a couple of conversations with friends for me to admit that it’s okay if the writing does not pick up this week or this month. It’s okay if I need to push words around for a while and it’s okay if I need to do nothing but read.

I went back and reread some stuff I’d written just before Blanco died. It was pretty awful. Stilted and boring and well, you could just tell that neither my heart or my mind was in it. I know some writers that say push through at all costs, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Otherwise, I’d be scrapping a whole first act today instead of a few measly paragraphs.

It’s been almost three weeks and I’m just now getting to the point that I even want to think about writing or revision in a serious way. I’m not quite okay with that, but I’m learning to be.

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