Writers Must Not Always Write

By Lauren Greene

This year, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs when it comes to writing. At the end of May, my publisher, Booktrope, closed their doors. Prior to that, I had been questioning my talent. I wrote a book, and my revision efforts stalled. I hemmed and hawed, did a lot of nothing, told people I was writing when in reality I was watching hours and hours of Netflix, exercising a crazy amount, and completely avoiding writing.

As writers, we all know the cliché phrase, writers have to write. And to a certain extent, I think the phrase is true. But I also think sometimes writers have to not write. Writers have to read, submerse themselves into new information, and idea-gather by experiencing life away from the blinking cursor of ideas not yet written.

We have all read books that did not ring true. The place seemed false. The characters seemed one dimensional. Something seemed amiss or not completely right. I think these types of books come from writers not giving themselves the chance to step back, breathe, and let the story take shape.

I’m reading The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney right now. My husband bought the book for our upcoming trip to Mexico, but I went ahead and started reading it. The subject matter drew me in, because it’s about four siblings fighting over an inheritance. I am one of four, so instantly relatable. I’ve also seen how inheritances can divide families. Automatic hook for me! One of the main characters, Bea, is a writer. She had almost immediate success printing stories, but then she could never get her novel off the ground. Years later, she’s writing again—whole-heartedly revived. I thought about Bea in relation to my own writing decline. She needed time and space, but mostly experience in order to make her writing pop again.

I think so many writers focus on just getting the words down and they forget the point of writing. The point of writing is for a reader to relate to what you wrote. In essence, the point of writing is to find a commonality in the human experience, to connect with people you don’t even know, and for the reader to go, “Oh yes, I’ve felt that way,” or “Oh yes, I’ve been there before and it’s just like that.” Writers want their worlds to be real, and sometimes the only way to do that is to take a break and experience life, with the caveat that they must return to the act of writing once their life feels inspiring again.

What do you think? Do you think breaks are necessary for writers or do you thinks writers should always write?

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