How to write when you’re not writing

writing, Kindle, phone, laptop, writers, authors, books

Ask any aspiring author what their biggest challenges are, writing-wise, and I’ll be willing to bet that one of the top answers would be, “Finding time to write.”

There are all kinds of suggestions for making time to write (including this post by yours truly featuring six tips on how to make time to write!). But there are is also a way to write without writing – and I’ll show you how I do it today.

Create your plots in your mind. 

One of my all-time favourite children’s books is L.M. Montgomery’s Emily trilogy, the story of a girl who, quite simply put, was born to write. But Emily faced all kinds of obstacles to her pursuing her career, including right from the beginning when, as an orphan, she had to go to New Moon Farm to live with her aunts and uncle, including strict Aunt Elizabeth. In the beginning of the book Emily of New Moon, Emily is forced to burn her beloved account-book, a notebook which served as a personal journal, to keep her Aunt Elizabeth from reading her most private thoughts. With the loss of her book, Emily was left with no material upon which to keep writing. But she could still write in her head. And that was what she proceeded to do.

Crime fiction queen Agatha Christie once said, “The best time for planning a book is when you’re doing the dishes.” And I can’t agree more with her. I find I come up with some of my best plots when I’m washing the dishes, cleaning the house, in the shower or driving! There’s just something about these ‘mindless activities’ that are so conducive to creating story plotlines. In fact, idleness of the mind has been proven by science to boost creativity. 

Also, one thing I really like to do when I’m running is to work out knotty plot problems. If you’re a runner, you’ll probably know that old adage, ‘running is 90% mental and the rest is physical.’ And how true is that! To take my mind off how many more kilometres I have left to run, I spend the time working out my plotlines in my head. It’s a win-win because I can get so caught up in this that when I look up, I realized I’m almost at the end of my run, plus I’ve got a beautiful new plot in my head, ready to get down on paper.

Now jot down the plotlines.

It’s amazing how beautifully everything comes together in your head, but when it comes time to translate it on paper the words desert you! So now I’ve worked out my plotlines and my characters in my head, it’s time to write it down. An ideal time to do this is when I’m, say, on public transport or waiting in a line at a cafe or for an appointment. Then I whip out my phone and flick to my Notes app or my e-mail drafts and begin jotting down everything I’ve come up with in my mind. This serves two purposes – 1) to capture everything down while it’s fresh in my mind and 2) to at least get the bones of my story/plot down. So when I finally actually sit down to write, all I have to do is to, in a manner of speaking, add flesh to my bones. Plus it also saves me precious time when I finally sit down to write because I’ve already got an outline and know just what I plan to do with my writing time.

So that’s how I find time to write even when I’m not actually writing my story. I hope this helps all my fellow writers out there! Do you have any ways of writing even when you’re not actually writing? Share them below!


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