Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not Writing

A writer writes.

This maxim, like all the others, makes sense sometimes. I read somewhere yesterday, that 1 in 13 people in the US want to write a book. The only way to seperate the sheep from the goats, as we say at home, is to consider whether they write or not.

And then there's another type of "writer". The writer who doesn't neccessarily write but spends hours researching on the internet, goes to writers' events and book conferences, hangs out with authors and authors-to-be. All this with no definite plans of putting words on paper before "some day". Better than type 1 in some ways, but from the perspective that you have to write to be published, this writer is no closer than the first.

There is one more type of writer who isn't writing: the one who has written before and is not writing now. Call it writer's block, depression, burnout, life; that's not important.

This is where I'm at right now. I've got 3 "complete" MSs under my belt, but I'm not turning out anything new right now.

It's easy to be in this stage and think, "A writer writes. Holy crap-burgers, Batman! I'm no longer a writer!" Then you spend a couple days, months, weeks trynna beat yourself into writing, or even wanting to write. As opposed to wanting to want to write. But it doesn't really work.

That's okay. I'm here to remind you that there are few absolutes in writing.


It's okay to take a break. A lawyer doesn't stop being a lawyer because he takes a month off and lies on a beach in St. Lucia. Don't feel like you're not a writer, because you need a week or 6.

The other thing is that lots of professions allow you to punch out, both on the clock and in your brain. Some professions which use your brain (lawyer, teacher, etc) are conducive to work following you home. But you can usually check out at some point. When your writer brain is on, it's on 24-7.


Editing is a completely different process from drafting. Drafting is about putting together, while editing is about pulling apart. In drafting you create, in editing you destroy. If you're not up to writing, re-read older work and see what needs fixing.


Social networking is a wonderful distraction. It gets the blame for tons of hours wasted by people meant to be doing something productive. It's especially bad for writers, who do most of their work on computers and the internet, and are practically required to do some social networking anyhow. It's like an alcoholic working in a liquor store.

But even though social networking gets a bad rap, it's a good thing (in moderation). If you're not writing, why not take the time to make some new friends on Twitter or the blogosphere?

Also, these people go through the same things you do. And they may be able to help you get through it. I follow about 60 writers' blogs and almost every single day, there's a post that I feel was written specifically for me.

If you have the opportunity, go to a writers' event in your area. Maybe even a conference. Meeting other writers is fun. And writers' events always inspire me. Maybe you'll even feel like writing again.


If you're a crazy 15-day drafter like me, then maybe you don't have the time to read while you're writing. But you need to read: to keep abreadst of trends in your genre (I don't just mean marketing trends, but stuff like books getting longer/shorter, etc.), to keep in mind the kinds of books you love, to keep yourself grounded in the field.

There's no better time to dig through that eternal TBR list.


This last is not something you should actively force yourself to do if you're having trouble with writing.

One thing that most, if not all, writers have in common is the ability to think differently, to see possibilities. If you don't feel up to thinking about the project you were/will be working on, then just allow yourself time to imagine nsa (no strings attached). Letting yuor imagination play may be just what the doctor ordered.

Or you can imagine your characters from the current project or scenes from the next one.

And your thinking doesn't have to be in your head. If doodling or mapping or anything else involving pen and paper will help, feel free to do that.


One fallacy of the maxim is the implication that the actual writing is the only part of writing. It isn't. It's still the most important thing, but writers still need to read, and brainstorm and network. And like all other (non-Japanese) humans, we also need a break once in a while.

Don't worry about it too much (unless maybe it's been more than a year or so). When the time is right, you'll be back.


Sophia Richardson said...

Thank you for this. It's been six weeks since I finished my last MS, and I am slightly killing myself for not writing right now. I *want* to be writing, I just don't want to grab the first half-baked idea that comes to me and run with it because, y'know, that is probably not the best solution. So yeah, this reminder was well timed.

Marsha Sigman said...

It's absolutely cool to take a break. If fact we need it once in a while to reboot the creative flow. You can't stress over it because then you will get blocked. I would definitely take this time to catch up on the reading!

Michael Offutt said...

I take long breaks between writing projects. In those breaks I read a lot.

Sana Castellano said...

I wanna write too someday - but write now I am too short on time.

Sana Castellano said...

right* now