Swimming Lessons, out now, captures "different emotions, different heartaches and different loves I've experienced at different times," Lili Reinhart tells PEOPLE

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Lili Reinhart on Writing About Anxiety and Heartbreak in New Poetry Book Swimming Lessons
Credit: James Wright

Lili Reinhart can’t keep quiet.

“If I’m going through something — depression, anxiety, a breakup — I need to talk about it,” Reinhart, 24, tells PEOPLE. “I’ll talk to my friends for hours, I’ll write about it for pages and pages in my journal, I’ll write countless poems about it.”

The Riverdale actress just released her first collection of poems, Swimming Lessons,, a 229-page book of dreamy pose exploring love, heartbreak, anxiety and fame.

Back in 2016, when Reinhart began filming the CW series that would launch her career, the North Carolina native says her life changed “very rapidly.” Writing helped her process the new spotlight.

Swimming Lessons is an accumulation of poems Reinhart has written over the past five years, capturing “different emotions, different heartaches and different loves I’ve experienced at different times,” she says.

Many fans might assume the visceral prose about a love turned sour refers to Reinhart’s ex and Riverdale costar Cole Sprouse, from whom she split earlier this year — but the actress says her poetry doesn’t just reflect the most recent happenings of her life.

“People are going to try and draw conclusions from certain poems and be like ‘Oh, it’s about this!’ and sure, they can do that, but these poems are from multiple years,” she says.

Lili Reinhart on Writing About Anxiety and Heartbreak in New Poetry Book Swimming Lessons
Credit: Courtesy of St. Martin's Publishing Group

Swimming Lessons, Reinhart reveals, feels like revisiting a chapter from her past life.

“I’ll flip through the pages and remember exactly what I was writing about three years ago and how I felt,” she says. “It’s encouraging to see how in touch with my emotions I was.”

Reinhart has spent the pandemic hiking, puzzling, walking her rescue pup Milo and writing a lot of poetry on her back porch.

The actress shares she went through a “spiritual awakening” while self-isolating at home in California.

“I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my life,” she says. “It’s been very interesting to see how many people are not living in a conscious, present state.”

Now, Reinhart is filming Riverdale season 5 in Vancouver — a welcome reprieve from Los Angeles, which is “literally burning,” from ongoing wildfires in the region, and not working for six months.

The actress adds that her first day back was “jarring,” but she’s since gotten used to the new COVID-19 restrictions on set.

“I was a little scared and thought, 'I don’t know how I’m going to be creative in this environment where I’m looking around at 20 people in masks around me while I’m trying to be emotional,'″ she says. ″But as the weeks have gone on, it’s gotten easier, and we’re being extremely safe on set.″

Reinhart also jokes that she feels like she has “the plague” on set because many Riverdale crew members have been instructed not to get within six feet of the cast.

“People will see me, stop in their tracks and shield their face,” she says. “It’s funny, it’s almost like, ‘Damn! Is something wrong with me?’ It’s such a f------ weird, interesting way to work."

Swimming Lessons is out now.