I just got back from a few days vacation in Key West. It was wonderful: I went to the Hemingway house (and his favorite bar), sat out on the second story porch of the old guesthouse we stayed at and read Faulkner while the breeze rustled through the overhanging palm and mango trees, and walked up and down Duval St. in the evenings, weaving through packs of drag queens, small children hyped up on key lime flavored ice cream and tourists from the Midwest who clearly had never experienced giant fruity margaritas in blinking, neon fishbowl-sized glasses. I ignored my Twitter account, abstained from Facebook and did not respond to emails. And...
I did not write.
And yes, there were times when I felt guilty, even anxious, about this. When I gazed in wonder and awe (and not a little jealously) at Hemingway's writing cottage, I thought about the essence of writing. When I saw parents desperately trying to compromise with their sweaty, sticky-fingered kids, I thought about an interesting scene. When I observed very drunk, middle-aged and overly tanned women who had stuffed themselves into cut-off denim shorts and neon tube tops, but were still walking, though sometimes stumbling, in their strappy high heels, I thought about character sketches. And when I watched the sun dip ever lower toward the horizon, painting stretched shadows across the brilliant white buildings, I dreamed of settings. But I did not write a word.
Sometimes writers need to write. And sometimes they need to put the pen down and push the keyboard away. Sometimes writers need to be still, and absorb the world unfolding around them and know that the words will be there another day, but the actuality of what they are trying so hard to capture is, indeed, right there before them.