The Pandemic Pages: An Essay On [not] Writing

If I don’t recover the act of writing for JOY,
writing for myself again,
writing because I want to,
I fear I will never again write fruitfully. 


I listen and watch other artists talk and post about the discipline of writing, showing up, writing even when it isn’t good - and I don’t disagree with any of those things - but at this particular point in time, they’ve only helped me turn away from the Page. They’ve not been the voices to bring me back. 

Actually, I guess things had to get pretty quiet before I would come back. I’ve stopped reading those posts. Stopped listening to those voices for awhile. Today, I sat down because part of me simply missed the sound and feel of pencil to Page. There’s probably a little guilt mixed in, too.  

Abbye West Pates writes in journalPhoto Credit: Nathan Brasfield

I’ve been proud. Many times I’ve said, “I’ll always write songs,” even if it isn’t part of my job. Now I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know that it’s not true, either. I wonder if I said that then because I wanted to seem like a “real” songwriter, so committed that nothing could stop me. But, actually, a lot of things can stop me from writing. Anxiety, laziness, depression, apathy, pandemics - lots and lots of things can stop me.  

Judgment and criticism do not produce good within me
 so why would they produce good beyond me? 

I’ve been judgmental, critical. Of other performers, other writers. For no good reason. This is nothing new - I’ve always been critical, and I don’t like it. (Except when I criticize Memphis drivers. You can do better, people.) I know there is something to my judgment and criticism that creates a block for me. I know it. I can feel it. Judgment and criticism do not produce good within me so why would they produce good beyond me? 

I’ve been jealous. Ah, here we go. The embarrassment of admitting jealousy! But there it is, in all its pitiful glory. Why? Why am I so craving the attention and accolades of others? Why do I think that will complete me? The stories are told time and time again, how nothing is ever enough, how the applause and good publicity and attention fade away, leaving us wanting more, more, more…. Why then do I think accolades will suffice? 

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I sat down to the Page. Some days it is because of lack of time. Mostly it’s because I can’t find a reason to show up. What am I supposed to be writing again? What is the purpose? Why am I here? 


As you may have already said to yourself, all those things - pride, criticism, jealousy - were at work long before the pandemic arrived. I've just been given the opportunity and the forced stillness to face them directly.

Yet, here I am again today at the Page, perhaps because I remember the value of it in days past, when I used to arrive eagerly to this yellow legal pad.  

I know today that if don’t recover the act of writing for JOY, writing for myself again, writing because I want to write, I fear I will never again write fruitfully. 

So, I will write for myself. It may one day be all I have left. 

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