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Writing by not writing

Sometimes not writing is part of writing.

I know that sounds counterintuitve, but it’s true. Recently I spent a hard core month writing as fast as I could. I was very in the zone, and I got a lot of progress done, which was awesome. However when the month was up, I was somewhat burned out.

I gave myself a couple of days off, and agonised over not getting more words written. I mooched around the house, watched Netflix and beat myself up about not being productive. looked at my stack of ‘how to write’ books and realised I could be doing something more constructive than agonising.

So I gave myself an official Learning Week.

I spent some time each day doing the following:

  • Reading books on how to write
  • Doing the Judy Blume Masterclass online
  • Reading articles I’d been putting off
  • Doing the writing assignments from Judy Blume in longhand
  • Researching how to be a successful indie author online
  • Reading novels for fun

It was really pleasant – I love learning, especially when it’s stuff I want to learn. I wouldn’t have had the same amount of fun if I were learning accountancy, for example.

Anyway, over the course of the week some cool things started to happen. I had new ideas of how to solve some of the plot problems in the end part of my novel work in progress. I had new ideas for possible new novels. I had ideas for blog posts and bits of dialogue.

I also learned about marketing myself and self-publishing, which was the aim, but even while taking time out to work on a patchwork quilt (not even learning!) my sub-conscious through up an idea of how to make a scene better.

Sometimes, when you’re working constantly on something you’re too close to it. You can’t necessarily see the problems or the solutions to known problems because you’re putting all your time into getting it done.

When I stepped back a little and allowed my brain to do other things, I solved those problems. For example, I woke up at two in the morning and realised I had to change Point of View for a climactic scene. Like, ridiculous timing but such a good results.

I definitely recommend giving yourself dedicated time to learn, and I’ve actually kept it up with a couple of hours a few times a week. I figure it’s time away from writing, but it’s upskilling and it’s giving my brain some time to process problems.

Recommended reading, based on what I’ve learned stuff from reading. (Didn’t get all of them read this week…)

Unleash the Beast by Steff Metal

Emotional Craft of Writing by Donald Maas

Write to Market by Chris Fox

On Writing by Stephen King

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