Writing Doesn’t Always Look Like Writing
When you think of a good writing day, what pops into your head? Perhaps it’s you seated in front of your computer, keyboard clacking, typing out line after line. If you’re partial to pen and paper, maybe it’s that day you finally break out that real special notebook and the words are flowing perfectly, filling up the page. Either way, at the end of a good day, you’ve probably got a decent sized piece of coherent writing that you can read back and be proud of. And those are good writing days, but they aren’t the only kind! Even when you don’t have the time, energy, or patience to sit down at your desk and churn out the next few pages of your manuscript, you can still end the day feeling proud of yourself and excited for your new progress.
All writing starts in the mind, so drum up some daydreams! Taking walks outside helps a lot of people get into a creative mindset, and something as simple as walking on the other side of the street or making a minor change to your route can feel mentally refreshing. On occasion, I like wandering through bookstores, thrift shops or other businesses with eclectic merchandise. Something about the thrill of impending discovery always sparks my imagination. If there isn’t any place like that near where you are, scrolling through Pinterest tends to have a similar effect on me. Find a few things that get you into a creative mood and then do it on purpose.
No matter how you spark inspiration for yourself, remember to take notes! Not only because you never want to forget your next great idea, but it can also really help to give yourself something tangible to look at by the end of the day. When ideas are still taking shape in your head, it can be so easy to feel like you’re not doing much, but you are! Notes can serve to remind yourself that you did make progress. And if you don’t really enjoy typed or paper notes, or if you just want to shake it up a bit, try recording auditory notes! It can be really helpful to just ramble into my phone and listen to the recording later. The speed of thought is crazy fast, and saying my thoughts before they flitter back out of my head is often quicker than writing them.
We are always learning, are we not? Thorough research is essential for creating depth and believability when writing about something you haven’t experienced first-hand. For wide, big-picture concepts, professionals have likely already done a lot of the heavy lifting for you. For example, anthropology is the study of human organization and culture, and the research is an absolute treasure trove for worldbuilding. Understanding the broad strokes of how human communities form makes it that much easier to create your own that feels real, and this is true for many subjects. Research isn’t always deep diving into scientific studies though, it can also just be everyday experiences you look at with your eyes open. When you go to the movies, pay special attention to how the teenage theater employees talk. Listen to unscripted podcasts to learn about voice and dialogue. Practice walking up stairs in a long skirt to see how your protagonist would do it. All of this is research! If it’s important that you know it, then it counts as writing progress when you learn it, however the learning comes.
In a similar vein, any writing progress is still progress, even when it isn’t exactly writing. Thinking up ideas, catching them before they disappear, and doing the research are all important parts of the writing process too, and they’re just as deserving of that glowy, proud feeling you get when you write a new page. So stack up those good writing days! You probably have a lot more of them than you think.