When You Are Not Writing

Not-Writing“What are we both doing right now?” asked a friend during a Skype session the other day.

“Holding a conversation…”

“We are talking about writing. We are NOT WRITING!”

Oh! Yeah. I got the message. In our defense, the logistics we were discussing were important, but indeed, we were not writing. We continued to talk a few more minutes about all the things we do that aren’t writing, such as:

  • Run to the grocery store to buy last-minute items for the dinner we just decided to fix.
  • Finally remember to put in (or take out or fold) that load of laundry.
  • Finally remember to call and make a dentist appointment.
  • Send out publicity for an event.
  • Vacuum the floor.
  • Clean the car windshield – inside and out – and then vacuum the car interior.
  • Meet a friend for coffee.
  • Check Facebook.
  • Scan the news.
  • Work a Sudoku, play “one game!” of FreeCell, etc.

That’s a very short list. Then we logged off of Skype with the promise that we’d touch bases in two hours with reports of how much writing we had gotten done.

That’s a glance at my life, and I claim that I write all the time. Usually I’d rather be writing than doing laundry, fixing dinner or any of those things on the list. But sometimes things just jam up.

So what’s a person to do when things jam up?

In a word, JUST DO IT. Sit down and write! Here are a few other ideas, in no particular order, to help you power through when you jam up:

  • Make a list. Maybe it’s a To Do list that you can go back to after you write. The list will set your mind at rest, knowing you won’t forget anything. Maybe it’s a Story Idea List, or a list of topics or concepts you want to cover as you write.
  • Set a timer. Some of my best writing has happened when I know I only have ten or fifteen minutes. It’s easier to stay focused when you know the duration is short.
  • Switch modes. If you usually write on a keyboard, pick up a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. Writing with one hand on paper involves more areas of your brain. Each mode has advantages. Draw on them both.
  • Check your Story Idea List for inspiration.
  • Join a writing group. I actively participate in one group and mentor many more. Nearly all members agree that the group gives them a deadline that keeps them on track.
  • Start a writing group. This isn’t as hard as it seems. Send me an email if you want a how-to kit.
  • Take a writing class. This may seem like another delaying technique, but most classes encourage your to write and new ideas from class can jump-start motivation.
  • Find a writing partner. Online partners work equally as well as local ones. Make a contract with each other agreeing to hold each other accountable and cheer each other on. This doesn’t mean you have to write five hours a day. Even once a week can be enough.
  • Sit down and write. Sit in your chair. Open a new document or find a fresh sheet of paper. Start moving your fingers and do some free writing or writing practice.
  • Start a new story. If the story, chapter or scene you’ve been working on has stalled you out, put it in the stable to rest and ride forth on a fresh horse. You can come back and tend the tired one later, after you’ve both rested.
  • Make a mind-map. Use online software if you like, but I still like paper.

You can learn more about all of these and other tips in The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing.

Now, with all of these tips at your disposal, you have no excuse. Get those fingers moving.

Write now: sit down and WRITE! Add to a current story, start a new one, edit an old one, do writing practice. It doesn’t matter what you do or how long you spend, for ten times, ten hours or ten days, just WRITE!


Ainaa khan said...

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SuziCate said...

Thanks for these suggestions, Sharon. I've had a bit of fatigue lately and just can't seem to make myself write as I should. I do know that when I push myself to start I keep going a bit, and even feel better (energized) afterward.
I belong to a writing group, but an seriously considering starting one. I still want to do the memoir class at the library you told me about.....seems to never be enough hours in a day!

Sharon said...

Sorry to hear you've been feeling a bit under the weather lately. Health problems are another matter, and the most important thing is to take care of yourself. That's a good time to journal or write for the pure fun of it if you feel up to writing at all. Take care! Plan that class to start in October. That's a super time for it.

Joan z. Rough said...

Just do it is my way of dealing with back up. Writing is the most important thing on my list. If I give it at least an hour I feel free to fold the laundry or do the dishes. Most mornings I exercise and write for 2 hrs before anything else gets done.

Sharon said...

Thanks Ainaa. A unique voice is something we all strive for.

Sharon said...

Thanks for the additional suggestion Joan. Few people think of folding laundry as a reward, so perhaps many will find that inspiring. I'm all eyes and ears for stories about what works for others. Thanks for sharing yours.

Sherrey Meyer said...

Sharon, thanks for a great post on something I believe all writers face sooner or later. Good tips here in your post and in Joan's comment.

sherpeace said...

Sometimes doing our art, in our case, writing, can be the best way to feel better! That & eating the right foods.
Just sayin'.

sherpeace said...

I started my writer's group in October! We celebrate 3 years this year. Can you believe it, Sharon? I must have asked you questions for at least a year before I finally got up the nerve to "just do it!" No regrets at all!

Sharon said...

Congratulations on the long-term success Sherrie. Thanks for the testimony that it's doable!