Thirteen Ways of Looking at Not Writing

It’s a lifestyle choice, really


1. Accumulate streamlined notebooks and extremely fancy pens, the detritus of a writing life. Accumulate words; collect sentences and phrases and floating bits of dialogue, harvested from the speaker as carefully as organs. Accumulate books: stacks, heaps, cases, boxes full. Make of your literary clutter a vast nest, the messy kind that black kites and bowerbirds make, full of useless human things. 

2. Take long walks through lush gardens; pretend carelessness and indifference. Do not speak of mythology or renewal or seasons, except to say loudly that spring sucks the hardest. Look for a long time at roses without thinking of a single metaphor.

3. Talk about writing. Talk with other writers; declare your intentions and air your frustrations. Search for memes on social media that will adequately convey the loneliness, inherent failure, and built-in self-loathing that come with a life spent trying to eff the ineffable. Make your own memes, make your own jokes, make the point that literary failure is terribly funny - uproariously funny! - the great human comedy. In the end perhaps all we can share with one another is our small and faltering jokes. Remember life is a joke! But do not write about this.

4. Read other, better books. Try to remember the fairy tale-time before you wanted to put words on a page, when you were content to let other writers drive you to kingdoms you’d never been to and couldn’t have imagined for yourself. Before you wanted to be writer and took the wheel yourself, a lesser Greek tragedy.

5. Frequent favorite museums and practice forgetting about narrative. Stand in front of abstract paintings and admire brush strokes, contextualize texture, and praise the way the painter captured the loneliness of light. Resist the urge to create stories from shapes, to write imaginary notes in the white space of the artwork. Think how pleasant to be a painter; what a relief to put your feelings on canvas and feel your job is done! No need to explain or even title it.

6. Learn to tell the future. Use Tarot, palms, the stars, your dreams. Learn to interpret the past and the present without words, without these long sentences, these stops and starts that stand in for real understanding. Learn to spin stories that actually help people, for fuck’s sake, instead of just making them sad. 

7. Study the lives of other writers as a cautionary tale. Some of them had a very good time, but man, most of these people were a miserable bunch. Cassandras unheeded, or worse, talented people who liked to think of themselves as Cassandras. Ask yourself why books should be wrapped up in lives, when lives could simply be wrapped up in books? Remind yourself that when their lives are released, writers too will slip into the same oblivion as everybody else, and there are no book launches in the afterlife.

8. Take up a hobby: go hiking or running or make dresses or dolls. Find a simpler passion not so fraught with ambiguity. You play tennis or you don’t; you knit the hat or you don’t. There are no shadows over the shelves at Michael’s, no wrestling with questions of legacy in sourdough starters. (Or maybe there are; do not come after me, home cooks.)

9. Take refuge in capitalism instead. Remodel the bathroom, buy a new sofa, acquire a new book or album or lipstick shade. If you cannot defeat writer’s block, perhaps you can instead battle crow’s feet, laugh lines, sagging skin. Get a tattoo about writing! Get really into Peleton! Get more shit to write with! New inks and highlighters! Demonstrate that you could write beautifully, and in grand style, if only you could write at all. 

10. Acquire another life. Have a child, take a lover, get a pet. Assume responsibility for the life of another person or animal and resist the urge to make their life about you. Be forgiving of yourself: you are a writer; you will only resist this urge for so long before you give in. All writers are hungry vampires, eating the lives of others, even those we love most.

11. Hide from the light; turn inward; contemplate existence but good lord do not keep a diary. Sleep for days and wake to find the sky has barely shifted; use this observation to extrapolate your own unimportance and to pinpoint your sad dumb need to write about it. 

12. Court danger instead of descriptions. Get high, get drunk, jump out of a plane or make a trek up a treacherous mountain. Ask your body to make a poem instead of your brain, and if a pen should find itself anywhere near your hand, drink the ink and set your storytelling breath on fire with a killer skull-shaped lighter. 

13. Give the moon back to the night; instead make a habit of swallowing the stars. Drink of the constellations so deeply that you have no need of words; drink until your dreams combust, until your notebooks are ash, until you burn yourself back to the first uncomplicated place when you were unambitious and full of wonder, a vessel for the world’s stories instead of your own.