Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Writing, Not Writing

Jessica Nelson

It’s that time of the year when everything gets hectic beyond belief. There’s barely a moment to catch your breath, let alone sit down and get some good writing done. It gets harder and harder to follow that timeless advice that all writers get:

Write every day.

Every time I hear that, I feel guilty, because I don’t write every day. The guilt gets even worse during November when other people are kicking out entire novels for NaNoWriMo.

So today I’m pulling a page out of Rhonda Browning White’s book. Last week she wrote a blog entitled “The Hiatus: Taking a Break from Writing” on her personal blog. That post inspired this one, because she made an excellent point: writers are always writing.

This idea that a writer is always writing in their heads is what I have deemed “writing, not writing.” It’s a little like “sorry, not sorry” which is what you say/feel when you should be sorry for something but you really aren’t.

“Writing, not writing” is two-fold. On the one hand, it describes when we should be writing, but we aren’t. On the other, it describes when a writer is writing, though they may not be physically typing on a computer or putting pen to paper.

I am notorious for “writing, not writing.” It feels like I rarely get anything written down. But I find there’s a certain freedom in “writing, not writing.” I’m the kind of writer who likes to get it right the first time I put it on paper. I get attached to my words, and it pains me to do deletions and rewrites. So when I write something that I don’t really like, I feel as if I’ve wasted valuable writing time, which isn’t something I get very often.

But when I’m “writing, not writing” in my head, I can redo the scene a hundred times over, trying every permutation of action and dialogue, perfecting every little detail—and I’m not wasting time. Well, okay, so maybe I waste a little time. But it is totally worth it.

I’d like to say something really important—especially to all the writers who get crazy busy: it’s okay if you don’t write every day.

Let me say that again.

It’s okay if you don’t write every day.

Do a little “writing, not writing” instead. It’s still productive, and it still exercises those creative muscles. You can do it anytime, anywhere. Even while you’re fixing a holiday meal. (Just be careful not to burn anything.)

Tell us your favorite way/place to do “writing, not writing” in the comments!

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