If we, like James Thurber, don’t know when we’re not writing, why do so many of us have a nagging sense that we’re not doing enough? How can we always be writing, but never moving forward?
If all James Thurber did was write in his head – if he never brought “The Unicorn in the Garden” to life, if he never revealed “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and those fantasies remained only in Thurber’s mind – he would have been just a daydreaming curmudgeon. And we wouldn’t care what he had to say about writing or not writing.
If all you do is write in your head, the nagging sense that something’s wrong is right. On the other hand, if all you ever do is put words on the screen or page, your writing will most likely be self-absorbed and tedious, but this is a much rarer problem.
It’s not that you can never write in your head, it’s that you can’t write only in your head.
Take a look back at what you’ve been doing with your writing. If it’s been several weeks (or more) since you’ve done anything but write in your head, you’re either incubating a very large project (and I suggest you break it into smaller pieces) or you’re stuck in resistance.
Either way, you need to do something different. Get out of your head and into the tangible world:
- draft something
- do some research by interacting with people, places and things (not just the internet)
- make a rough approximation of the structure of what you want to write with a mind map, cluster, outline or scene cards
- write a character sketch
- draw a map or make a collage
- make something up
Here’s How in 3 Easy Steps
Step 1. Go to your writing space.
Step 2. Get a pen and paper or open a file in your computer.
Step 3. Write one sentence. Don’t worry about how awkward, silly, incomplete, illogical, imperfect or flawed it is. Just write one sentence.
And now you’re writing. You’re putting the unicorn in the garden. Repeat as necessary.