How valuable is time spent not writing?

Christina Ranallo Opinion, Uncategorized 1 Comment

This is writing

This is writing

I am a cheerleader, not the pompom wielding sort, the constant advocate sort. There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing one of the writers associated with PPW finish their novel or screenplay.

I have used the phrase ‘writers write’ as in writer’s write every day and now I am about to add a disclaimer.

We are still writers whether or not we write every day; we are writers even when we are not writing.

There is more that goes into the process of completing a work than sitting at the keyboard. There’s everything we do every minute of every day before we touch a keyboard.

Edward Albee had a graphic way of describing his:

“There’s a time to go to the typewriter. It’s like a dog: the way a dog before it craps wanders around in circles—a piece of earth, an area of grass, circles it for a long time before it squats. It’s like that: figuratively circling the typewriter getting ready to write, and then finally one sits down. I think I sit down to the typewriter when it’s time to sit down to the typewriter.”

That image makes me smile and it encourages the cheerleader in me to back off a bit. There are many of us who need time to let ideas percolate, let plots run down a few alternate paths and characters develop before setting pen to paper.

The time spent not writing is valuable for what it adds to the growing confidence of the story we are nurturing. We write notes, develop timelines and outlines.

We spend time researching, reading about or visiting people and places pertinent to our stories.

We talk about out stories; try out endings, and plot twists, different characters.

And we do a lot of thinking.

The blank page shouldn’t frighten us while the words are forming in our heads even if it takes a while. Vladimir Nabokov had a reassuring way of putting it:

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

The words are there. Trust the story. Trust the writer. There is no substitute for getting the job done and no way to get there other than writing page after page.

But there is also no shame in coming to the right ‘spot’ as Albee described, before we start filling those blank pages.

And keep filling them we must, all the way to ‘The End.’ It’s all writing; the writing time and the not writing time and destination is the same, we want a first draft.

Whether you write every day or binge write or take long sabbaticals, don’t quit. There’s the cheerleader.

Christina for PenPaperWrite Next local 60 Scenes Workshop ATLANTA, GA March 11th 2017

Comments 1

  1. Thank you for this! I am in the fortunate position of being able to devote 2-3 days a week to writing, but I berate myself for not ‘getting up at 5 every morning’ or ‘writing 1000 words every day’. So even though I get through a lot of writing (and, as you point out, thinking – that’s not necessarily 3 full days of words on the page!), I beat myself up for not being a ‘proper writer’. Thank you for reassuring me that we all have our own ways of ‘getting there’ x

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