Molly Thornton is a Seattle-based writer and poet who hails from the Southwest...


Is It Okay for Writers to Take a Break?


A couple of weeks ago I packed my bags for one of the biggest trips of my life--a week in Japan. This trek had been in the works for me and my mom since my brother moved to Tokyo nearly three years ago.

Despite a forecast of wet and chilly, almost-spring weather, I managed to pare down my sweaters and socks to what could fit in a carry-on suitcase. For the plane rides and anticipated downtime, I tucked away only three books. On the twelve hour flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo I didn’t open a single one.

After settling into our Akasaka hotel, we spent a day feasting our eyes on the wares of Harajuku and Shibuya. The next day found us on a morning train ride to the Tsukiji fish market for the freshest sushi, followed by an afternoon in an immersive, hands-on art exhibit dancing through sparkly light strands, wading through ponds of virtual fish, and squeezing through giant-balloon filled rooms. Later there was shabu-shabu with perfect wagyu beef and a night at a ryokan where I split my time between our outdoor hot tub with a mountain view and the hotel’s multi-tub women’s spa.

Another day we wandered the sculptures of the Hakone Open Air Museum, and solved trick doors and drawers at the puzzle museum when the weather turned for the worst. There was a little sleeping between all this, plus lots of walking, prayers issued at Shinto and Buddhist shrines, and a little bit too much matcha.

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A few mornings I managed to open my journal to scribble down a page or two worth of memories or preoccupations. On the flight home I read one Marie Claire feature story worth of words, watched Ocean’s 8, and slept fitfully. I returned with the three books still unread.

Do you ever find that you need a break from some of the things that matter most to you?

While some may find their holidays are the only time of the year they open a book, for full-time word lovers, a break from reality can sometimes mean a break from pages—personal and published.

The seven days I spent in Japan I attended with curiosity and deep absorption, transferring all the observation and analysis I typically devote to reading and writing to understanding and sensing the unfamiliar world around me. I feel better for having allowed the trip to carry me along, for shaking up my routines and encounters.

Now that I’m home, I’ve read two books and have a stack of new ones I can’t wait to dive into. My own poems and essays-in-progress feel enticing and alluring. I’m hungry to return to my words.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d never leave home without a book, but if all you do is give it a trip around the world, is that such a bad thing?


If a break from the books gets you in a rut, let’s talk. Coaching establishes and reboots habits that feed your writing and gets you back to your flow.

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