Writing doesn’t just happen at that moment when pen glides across page, when fingers strike the keyboard. Most writers know that writing happens even at the most unexpected of times: as you daydream in the shower; as you struggle with a blank page; when you’re eavesdropping on that couple fighting on the subway; when you’re not even consciously thinking about your writing and then, suddenly an idea pops into your head, as if from nowhere.
And yet for myself, and I suspect many other writers, there’s an ever-present twinge of guilt whenever we’re not in the physical act of writing. A feeling that we’re somehow not doing what we’re meant to do.
I’m pretty interested in this idea – this question of how it would feel to let go of all of the preconceptions about what we should be doing and embraced doing what feels good. What if our definition of writing was broad enough to encompass all of these things which nourish our writing; what if we could accept the natural ebb and flow between frenzied production and thoughtful pondering; what if we could actually be a little bit kinder to ourselves, not always be beating ourselves up?
Here are some of the things that make up my writing life without being explicitly writing: naps (vital for resetting the consciousness); tea, in near industrial quantities (luckily I have a good selection of herbal teas, otherwise I might be a nervous wreck); daydreaming; staring at a blank screen; doodling; finding new notebooks (see also: finding new pens); drawing up character sketches; reading books set in the same period as my story; reading books I love and have nothing to do with my story; watching documentaries; listening to podcasts; noting down random ideas in the middle of the night; talking through my ideas or the writing process with someone who understands; writing something that isn’t my main project; knitting; listening to music; and did I mention eavesdropping? (Honestly, I think half the reason I am a writer is because it gives a certain loftiness to my nosiness about other people’s lives)
Some of these things may sound more productive than others – some of them might even strike you as being perilously close to procrastination. But for me, allowing myself to daydream, to let my mind wander, is a key part of my creative process. And if I’m honest with myself, I know when I’m daydreaming because it feels good and right, and I know when I’m daydreaming because-I-just-don’t-really-want-to-write-that-scene. I can tell the difference, and that is how I am able to give myself permission to indulge when I need to.
So, what about you – what are the non-writing aspects of your writing life?
Photo credit: Annie Spratt