Don’t feel like writing right now? Or maybe you don’t have the time? Or maybe you’re just blocked as all get out at the moment? Whatever the case, there’s no reason you can’t still use what time and motivation you do have to feel productive about your writing—because “writing” is really about a whole lot more than just the writing.
I’m often asked if “write everyday” means you actually have to, you know, write every day. What about all the other important tasks you have to accomplish as a writer? What about outlining, researching, note-typing, editing, proofreading, browsing Pinterest, and all that other vital stuff?
First off, everybody’s mileage varies on this. However much writers sometimes want there to be Ten Commandments of How to Be a Writer, there really aren’t. There’s only what works for you and what doesn’t. But for my money, any task that is directly contributing to the creation of a story counts as “writing productivity.” This includes all prep work such as outlining and researching, and all editing work including proofreading. (Personally, I do not include publishing and marketing efforts in this category, since they’re more about product production than story creation.)
This broadening of the definition of “writing” to include all parts of the creation process is, I think, valuable for several reasons.
For starters, it eliminates one of the many possible self-recriminations with which writers like to flagellate themselves. We put so much pressure on ourselves. We tell ourselves we must write so many words a day, so many days a week (and they better be good words), or we’re failures. But realistically, daily productivity is about much more than just high word counts. In fact, sometimes the reason the words won’t come is because we haven’t put in enough time on other parts of the process.
Second, it allows us to better manage our time and energy. Sometimes it’s hard enough to find a solid chunk of writing time every day, much less additional time for the outlining, researching, editing, and Pinterest browsing. This is why I recommend devoting your daily writing session to whichever single part of the process you’re currently working on. If you have two hours a day set aside to work on your book, then you’ll use that time for outlining when you’re in outlining mode, research with you’re in research mode, and writing when you’re in writing mode, etc. This helps you better organize your process, combats the distraction of “monkey mind,” and takes away some of the pressure of thinking you have to “do it all.”
Finally, recognizing the equal validity of necessary “non-writing” tasks can allow you to tap into a powerful feeling of productivity even when you’re not lining up words on the page. This realization can be especially valuable in times when you don’t feel like writing, for whatever reason—as many people don’t in these ongoing weeks and months of quarantine.
15 Productive Things You Can Still Do When You Don’t Feel Like Writing
I have to admit I haven’t done much fiction writing these last weeks. But I’ve shown up at my desk every single day and moved the needle on my story projects in some way. I may not be tallying record word counts, but I feel good about what I’m doing because a) I enjoy it and b) I know I’m contributing to my ability to write later on when the time comes.
If you find that you don’t feel like writing right now—or perhaps that you just know there are other things you need to do first in order to be able to write—here’s a list of important writing tasks you may be more in the mood for. Not only can you honor your own energetic needs of the moment, you can do so without slackening your productivity and in a way that still lets you foster a daily habit of showing up at the desk and stewing in your story juices.
1. Journal About Why You’re Personally Blocked
Sometimes there’s a lot to be said for making yourself sit there and stare at the blinking cursor until finally the words come. But sometimes the more productive route is to stop long enough to figure out why the words aren’t coming....