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The Urge to Not Write

June 22nd, 2018

The most important thing a writer can do after completing a sentence is stay in the room. The great temptation is to leave the room and celebrate the completion of the sentence or to go out in the den where the television lies like a dormant monster or to go wander the seductive possibilities of the kitchen. But. It’s this simple. The writer is the person who stays in the room.

Ron Carlson, Ron Carlson Writes a Story


The day I came across this paragraph, I felt somebody understood me. Almost. I wish staying in the room were my only problem; usually, I’m reluctant to enter the room in the first place.

To some people, writing is like breathing: a natural instinct, a daily necessity. It makes them feel good, and they are eager to dedicate time to it. I am not one of them. In fact, most of the things I do in my everyday life are nothing but astute ways of boycotting my own writing process: I have studied exotic languages, learnt beautiful ethnic dances, baked sourdough, made yoghurt, brewed my own soymilk and shaped tofu out of it. All in the attempt to avoid writing.

I know other ‘non-practicing’ writers. We are constantly writing inside our heads, and constantly fleeing from keyboards, pens, any tool capable of turning our mental processes into tangible results. For us writing is not a joy, it is a battle. It amounts to sitting down to face a tedious cocktail of unease and doubt, hope and disappointment. It’s like being a toddler all over again. Feeling exhilarated at times, brimming with ideas, but failing to produce intelligible words, let alone valuable sentences. It’s finding yourself alone, in that very room, unable to say what you need to say. Why bother.

Yet, unwritten stories return to haunt you. There must be a reason.

It took me a while to realise that writing is self-inflicted duty. Short stories teach us that every word counts. I like to think that every voice counts too: each writer – whether published or unpublished – possesses his or her own unique lens, capable of magnifying a certain aspect of reality like no other lens. Writing is the commitment to hone your skills until you are proficient enough to share your unique vision with clarity and conviction.

I believe in toddlers. I can picture the sort of adult they will become, and it is terribly exciting. Perhaps first, second, third drafts are also toddlers in training. Perhaps compassion is the way forward. Tantrums and resistance are normal; necessary even. Toddlers need a lot of patience.


Michela Tamma began writing poems and short stories while growing up in Venice, Italy. She holds a degree in English Language and Literature and has lived abroad most of her adult life. Her writing often explores the encounter between different cultures. Her story Voyage, which won third prize in the 2018 Writers Bureau Short Story Competition, commemorates the events surrounding the 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck.







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