When You Can’t Write

The summer we moved to Nashville was a whirlwind. In mid-June, we found out my partner got the job he was hoping for and that we had three weeks to the day to pack up and move from New Jersey to Nashville. A mad dash to throw things away, stockpile boxes and drive 972 miles from one heatwave to another commenced. We threw a going-away party. We spent a weekend in Boston saying goodbye to family. We went to sleep just as the fireworks started on July 4th night. We found out there was a time change on the road. We didn’t lose our cat.

Eventually, we arrived. 

But the madness didn’t end there. My parents left. Our friends left. The bed frame came. My partner started a new job at a new location that hadn’t technically opened yet. I looked for full-time work.

And a week later, I left for Denver for my annual writer’s conference. I had barely unpacked my suitcases and here I was repacking them, digging through boxes for business cards and notebooks, slapping together outfits that might work, resigning myself to a week where I probably wouldn’t make or break my career, but instead I could learn and be inspired.

And I absolutely did learn and was inspired. Writer’s conferences and groups are incredible for that. But over the course of four and a half days of mad-dash networking, workshopping and fangirling, I never actually got the opportunity to sit my ass in a chair and write. 

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And sometimes, in life, you won’t be able to write.

Sometimes, a tornado hits your city and leaves you with a sense of confusion and wildness and anxiety you don’t know what to do with. And sometimes a pandemic state puts the world under a harsh microscope, forces sacrifice and discontent, requires us to make choices without all of the information. Sets on a path without an end in sight.

Sometimes, in life, you won’t be able to write.

I’m not here to condone writer’s block or procrastination or give you an excuse to binge-watch a new Netflix original instead of finishing your current work in progress. What I am saying is that sometimes you can’t write. And when that happens, you have to forgive yourself.

My mother always tells me not to feel guilty. As the product of a combined Italian and Jewish heritage, that isn’t really an option for me, but I do work to only feel guilty when it helps, when it pushes me to work harder, be better, strive higher. Most of the time, a little guilt goes a long way to getting that next chapter written.

business-3365363_960_720But if you’re on hour eight of a fourteen-hour car ride, you’re moving into a new apartment in a new city–sight unseen, a place where you don’t have a job and you don’t know a soul, you will have to prioritize. And sometimes, as much as it pains me to admit it, writing doesn’t always take the priority.

Sometimes, the schools are closed and you need to put on an optimistic smile for your children while the world panics. Sometimes, your partner and roommates are stuck home from work and you need to escape, to clear your head and your heart, and you simply can’t. Life cannot be predicted, no matter how much we try.

Naturally, get back to work as soon as you can. The longer you’re away, the harder it always gets. But those days when you really can’t, when you go from plane to taxi to hotel, when you’re so consumed with meeting the right people and getting to the right events that you feel like you’ve shown up to the first day of school with no pants on, allow yourself to live in those moments and don’t feel guilty about it.

Sometimes, we just can’t write. And acknowledging that finding a new place to live might just be a priority will help you to focus and clear your mind, so that the next time you do sit down to tell your story, it’s the best story you can possibly tell. ♦

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