I’ve read, and even written, many posts extolling the virtues of writing through any hardship. A heartbreak, a loss, a tsunami, a zombie apocalypse. The act can be a healing one and often helps us sort out our feelings or minimally allow our minds to escape whatever chaos has firmly lodged itself in our lives. But I would also argue that there is a space and time when for some, we need permission not to write.
From about the age of ten on, I started a firm routine of writing in the morning. Every morning without fail. Back then it was loose-leaf pages in a worn neon Trapper Keeper that survived three years of middle school far better than I did. And during my wild college days I still managed to jot down things as the sun rose even if I’d only slept a few hours the night before. My morning exercises have found their homes on the back of Target receipts, across paper towels, and everywhere else all because once I’d read that Hemingway followed this routine, and he turned out to be a fairly decent author (understatement intended). His daily practice also seemed more palatable than Vonnegut’s push-ups to spur creativity.
Of course, in this sort of mandatory writing situation, not everything I write during those early sessions is good. Although even out of bad pages, I can often resurrect a few good sentences. Once, seven pages of junky writing yielded a title that I used years later and somehow, that seemed like a huge win.
However, there were a few moments in my life that tossed up some rather large blockades and writing felt like a miserable chore. It was painful, and after some Herculean trying I learned that as an author, there are absolutely occasions that make it ok to put the pen down.
Ultimately every writer has different challenges and strengths. Unique routines and mechanisms to carry them from Once Upon a Time all the way to The End in their manuscripts. While this blog might make sense to some, it could be a totally wrong fit for others. But at core I think most writers tend to be the toughest self-critics. We rake ourselves over the coals when we’re not writing enough, not publishing enough, not doing those writerly things that make us authors. So, if nothing else, I hope the takeaway is to be kind to yourself. And if circumstances are so that you find you’ve got to put the pen down, that’s ok.
Writing has always been an escape, a passion, and a friend. I look for other writers who feel the same.