On Not Writing


I’m about halfway through my inhale year  – twelve months with no writing outside of periodic blog posts and social media updates – and I thought I would let you know how it’s going.

Quick recap:  In January, I made the bold – and perhaps bizarre – decision to take a year away from writing so that I could concentrate on my writing workshops, private writing clients, submissions to my literary publication Thread, and other aspects of my professional life. (You can read my EBB & Flow post on the subject here.)

I can’t say I am recommending it just yet, but these past six months have been interesting, to say the least.

Right from the get-go I noticed that I had more available time. It was a bittersweet reminder of how lost I can get in a writing project, to be so full of concentration so as not to sense the hours passing was a confirmation of how much I love working in the form.

I wondered about the frequency of thoughts-that-become-stories. Would they slow to part time? Vanish completely? Neither. They are as active as they’ve always been. Which is very. I’ve since started a long and colorful list of ideas on my cell phone to address in my exhale year. My writerly approach to the world, even when I’m not writing, seemingly has stayed intact.

Third, and by far the most challenging during this year without writing, was that something was missing. That some essential part of me, something that separated me from others and made me feel unique,  was either in a deep sleep or … gone. I didn’t feel like I was fully present. Now that I’ve identified myself as a writer – which in itself took many decades (see my essay on this subject here) – I seem to very attached to the label, making me feel a bit anchorless without it.

Which strikes me as not such a good thing.

So I’m looking at the rest of this strange, self-imposed experiment as an opportunity to mull on two profound questions of artistic identity:

Who am I if I’m not writing?


Do I feel like a writer even when I’m not getting my work published or telling a story on stage?

At the end of the year, I promise to let you know how it all turns out.

Maybe I can help save you from squandering a perfectly good year. Or perhaps this hiatus, in combination with some personal discovery, will be well worth sharing.

Photo by Ellen Blum Barish. Copyright 2016.





4 thoughts on “On Not Writing

  1. Your post raises interesting and provocative questions (to me anyway) such as: professional identity vis a vis personal identity, what will retirement feel like, how does abstinence spur new ideas and inform future actions, how does written publication/speaking validate sense of self (compare and contrast to inner dialogue, English students!) . . . look how thought-provoking your update has been!

    More metaphysical questions: does a brief post count against your year of “abstinence”? Nah! But I may stage an intervention to get you back to writing – 6 months is an acceptable hiatus, and I miss your work!

    1. Delighted that the post stimulated so much thinking in you! Cool for me to see how my observations about not writing do, indeed,
      apply to other fields and aspects of one’s professional life!

      I must admit that I, too, see the irony in writing about not writing – it’s just that there’s a kind of writing that I’m talking about here. The kind that digs way down deep like an architect whose blueprint relies on a well-dug hole in the ground and a sturdy foundation. A strong structure.

      Know that I’m taking copious notes. My list of topics for next year is starting be quite long. Before you know it, I’ll be overloading y’all with stories and ideas. And I may just be cooking on a book idea too. More on that later.

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