What Happens to a Writer When She No Longer Writes?

by Savannah Moore

“I picked up a book today,” I say hesitantly, feeling strangely like its a confession to a priest and not a statement to be celebrated with a best friend. Taylor smiles encouragingly over the small FaceTime screen, the only way we regularly communicate now that we’re no longer living together at college. Well, FaceTime and inappropriate gifs. 

“Hey, that’s awesome! What book was it?” She answers. My lungs unfurl in my chest and I can breathe easy knowing Judgement Day will not come today, at least not from Taylor. We chat for a bit about how I’m beginning the Chronicles of Narnia again, the series that awakened my creativity years ago, the series I’m returning to now that creativity seems all but lost. 

The conversation ends and I hang up, staring at the page of The Magician’s Nephew where my thumb marks the spot where I left off. I glare at the taunting number 6 at the bottom, feeling exhausted already from the few pages I’ve read. This is just sad, I think to myself, shutting the book and placing it on my dresser. I’ve loved reading since I could look at words on a page. I’ve wanted to make those words, my words, appear on paper for others to read for as long as I can remember. Where did it all go? 

I choose to get up and clean my room, text another friend about the Bachelorette, bother my mom in her office, really anything to not read the book sitting on my dresser or think about the long list of half finished ideas I wanted to turn into stories one day. 

What happens to a writer when she no longer writes? 

I stopped saying I wanted to be a writer around my sixth rejection letter from various publications. This was also around the same time that one of my sophomore literature professors told me my writing was good, but that I had to believe it was good. That I was good. 

I started telling people, “I am a writer” when they asked me what I wanted to do with my Literature degree. It felt odd at best, like downright fraud at worst. I, who had never had anything published, was claiming a title I felt I had not earned. But my professor had been right (as they normally are about such things); I began to believe that my writing could impact other people, and my words scrawled across a page, letters typed out in a text, and sentences strung together in a story began to do just that. I was published for the first time in my senior year of college (two different works!) and hired as the creative director at a local ministry where my primary job would be writing. 

And then I stopped. 

What happens to a writer when she no longer writes? 

I initially told myself I needed a break after graduating college. “No thinking,” I said jokingly, allowing myself a few months to breathe in cheap reality TV storylines and precious time spent with friends who happened to still live nearby instead of happily drowning in the unparalleled glory and agony that is creating something out of nothing. Overdramatic? Probably. But anyone who has ever graduated with a degree in the humanities will tell you that personal projects take a backseat to academic work for four years and returning to those personal projects afterwards feels a lot like returning to work. What once was “just for fun” is now a full time job that simply demands to be done. And you want it to be done, you want to do it, the Creator inside begs you to let it all out, except--it’s work. Glory and agony all rolled into one. 

“I picked up a book today.” 

It is a confession. My inner expectations are the priest, and I am hoping for absolution of my sin. The sin of not following the path of the new name I had given myself-- “writer.” Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. 

Ah, but Grace. It comes in the form of a friend admitting her own defeat in post-graduate creation and sharing in her frustrations and hopes. It comes in the form of allowing myself time to process a new transition in life and not counting it all loss. It comes in the form of structure at work, the ebb and flow of newsletter articles and sweet Instagram posts about the work we do in the community. It comes in the word “we” that I now use in reference to a new group of people, vastly different from my last “we” but still just as precious. 

What happens to a writer when she no longer writes? 

I don’t know the answers to my own questions, and some days I feel more like a writer than other days. But today I picked up a book. Today I picked up a pen. 

And wrote.