You are a writer after all

Welcome to Austin Bat Cave’s Virtual Literary Salon. Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite writers reflecting on the current moment and presenting writing prompts and literary challenges that will hopefully get you inspired and creating. We welcome discussion and your input. Each week, you’ll be able to comment on the post and share your own thoughts, ideas, and challenges. Please tell a friend! And if you’re able to, consider making a contribution to Austin Bat Cave and help support our creative community.

Today’s writing prompt is brought to you by Jenny Tinghui Zhang. Jenny is a Chinese-American writer from Changchun, China. A VONA/Voices alumna and Tin House Workshop attendee, her stories and essays can be found in CatapultApogeePassages NorthThe Rumpus, and NYMag/The Cut, among other places. Currently, she serves as a prose editor for The Adroit Journal. She holds an MFA from the University of Wyoming and lives in Austin, where she is at work on a novel. Visit her at jennytinghui.com

She has new essays in the most recent issues of Passages North, Ninth Letter, CALYX, and The Cut/NYMag. You can also read her Wyoming column with Catapult


You know that phrase “a real writer writes every day?” Throw it away. Instead, I want to tell you that it’s okay if you can’t write right now, or for a while. The act of writing takes more than just a laptop or pencil and paper—it takes your mind and heart and belief not just in yourself, but also in the certainty of our world. 

You already know this. You are a writer, after all. 

In these unprecedented times, simply waking up and making it through the day could be called an accomplishment. Are you tired all the time for no reason? I am. My body is a raw bundle of nerves; my mind is constantly trying to make sense of everything while my heart is in mourning for what was and what could be. It’s exhausting. In the span of only a few weeks, we have all become little squares of video, connected by virtual conferencing and spotty internet connections. Normal isn’t normal anymore, least of all sitting down at a desk and cranking out words while the world seemingly falls apart. 

So, it’s okay if you can’t or don’t want to write. You were a writer before this, and you’ll be a writer after, I promise. What’s important right now is making some space for yourself to simply be a human. 

Writing Prompt: How do you create beauty for yourself?

As always, please share your comments and reflections in the thread! We want to hear from you <3 And if you enjoy Austin Bat Cave’s Virtual Literary Salon, please do us a favor and share this post with a friend! Maybe somebody who needs a little creative boost today <3