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Input Mode: Why You Don’t Need To Be Writing Now

a letter board displays the word's "it's okay"

A writer writes. True enough. But a writer does much more than writing. A writer observes. A writer listens. A writer reads. A writer imagines, and thinks, and feels.

A writer lives.

So if, in this crisis—or in any crisis—you need to focus on survival rather than writing, then absolutely do so.

If you do not have the physical or mental space to write because your limited energy is needed to get out of bed and feed and clean yourself, that’s okay.

If your writing time has become time spent caring for someone else, that’s okay.

If you’re concerned for yourself or the world at large and writing isn’t helping you feel better, you don’t need to force yourself to do it.

The most comforting advice I’ve ever received when I was having trouble writing was to remember that a writer has two modes: output mode, when the words come out, and input mode, when you observe and absorb everything going on around you. Always remember that input mode is just as important as output, as creation, as production.

And the great thing about input mode is that it just happens. When you can switch to output mode and get back to writing, your experiences—the things you binge watched, the books you read, the feelings you felt—will inform you.

So if you’re feeling guilty about not working on your manuscript or not polishing up your poem drafts, maybe reframing the situation will help: You aren’t just “not writing.” You’re just on input mode.

Be kind to yourselves. The words will come later.

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