A Writer Writes. Except When She Doesn’t.

I’ll admit it. I commit the cardinal sin of writerdom.

I don’t write every day.

I know, I know, I know. Get into the habit, blah blah blah. Writing requires dedication, blah blah blah. You’re not a writer unless you’re writing, blah blah blah.

Good for those people.

I prefer the words of one Burton Rascoe:

“A writer is working when he’s staring out of the window.”

Or perhaps this quote from Donald M. Murray:

“Even the most productive writers are expert dawdlers…”

Here’s the thing. I don’t think sitting with my fingers on the keyboard is the only way to write. I am writing all the time. What I call ‘future-writing.’

I think it’s fair to say that about 75% of my writing happens in my head. It’s collecting experiences, bits of emotion or imagery and filing them away to use later. Jotting a few words in a notebook that will form the basis of a novel. Remembering the rawness of receiving bad news, the delayed shock and feeling of betrayal that follow. Taking an extra few seconds to really look at a piece of graffiti in a foreign city, or the way tree roots crack through the mortar of an ancient stone wall. These things are all writing, to me. They inform the words that are yet to come. I think they’re just as important, because they make the words feel real.

That’s not to say that the actual word-writing part isn’t important too. I go in fits and spurts between the two – sometimes I’m only at the laptop, sometimes I’m taking in the world around me. These past six months have taken me all over the world – to Iceland and Vancouver and California and Hong Kong and Japan, and I’ll see Belize and Wales and Scotland and Amsterdam before the year is through – and the things I’ve taken away from those places, whether they’re specific to a location or just an encounter with someone who I wouldn’t have met had I stayed home, make the words that I have written brighter. Last year I visited a coastal town that’s going to be the inspiration for my next novel. Could it feel half as real if I’d never been?

Now that I have a bit of a lull before I hit the road again (two whole weeks!) I’m eager to reconnect with my laptop, for although I’ve lugged it around the globe, I produced nary a sentence. Who would want to travel such distances to keep their nose buried in front of a screen?

You can’t write unless you’ve lived. Right now, I’m doing a whole lot of living, word count goals be damned.


On the Benefits of an Honest Critique


A Side Project/Shameless Plug


  1. I agree; life experiences add to your mental library for future reference, and to your understanding, or even confusion, about human beings and their motivations behind their behaviours. I think that’s why many writers keep a notebook and pen handy to scribble down the different things they see and hear. I guess now many of them keep a laptop handy, or their smartphone to capture images which speak volumes.

    I hope your travels abroad will give you much fodder for your future stories or novels. Enjoy!!

    • Yes! I always have a notebook with me, and take tons of pics too. I find I do some of my best thinking while I’m driving though – I need a dictation app on my phone!

  2. This is so true. I tried getting into the habit of writing every day when I took a creative writing course but everything I produced was utter rubbish that I hated on reading it back later! When I gave myself the freedom to write when I wanted to write, it came much easier and actually much quicker. Plus I didn’t feel the urge to rip my notebook to pieces!

    • Agreed, it’s so discouraging when you don’t like what you’ve written; makes it that much harder to sit down the next day. I wrote for the first time in six weeks last night (with a little bit of mental “just go on already”) and it went well, if a bit slow. But I’m happier for it. I think everyone has to do what works for them – the ‘write every day’ method isn’t for everybody!

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