Why NOT Writing Might be the Best Thing for Your Writing
Post written by guest writer Lexie Axon.
My empty word doc stared at me. I stared back. It had been three days of this contest – and I was about to break. I knew the end goal of the battle scene I needed to write. Did I know how to get to that point?
I had tried sketching out the scene on paper. I had tried typing it on my laptop. I had even tried attacking it out (having someone walk in on you when you’re blasting an imaginary super villain with your imaginary magical powers is quite awkward.) But still—nothing.
I decided to take a break from writing and go on a run. I cranked on my writing playlist, queuing up my main character’s fight scene music. As I ran, my mind returned to the scene, and I started picturing myself as the character heading into battle. With no stress of putting words on paper, I was able to tune into the emotions and movements of the scene. I imagined myself in my character’s situation and asked, “What would I be feeling right now?” and, “What would I need out of this encounter?” By physically moving and exerting energy through running, I sunk deeper into my character’s mindset in the battle scene; I mirrored her energy and was able to further grasp her thoughts. My heart was pumping, my brow was slick with sweat, my muscles were burning—and I was no longer on the bike path behind my house. I was in a fantasy world, running into war to defeat my enemy.
Ideas flooded me about my character’s goals and how the scene would end. By the end of my 30-minute run, I had figured out the conclusion to the scene.
Whether you’re experiencing writer’s block or you’re stuck figuring out how to get your characters out of the sticky situation you put them in, sometimes the ideas don’t flow. The pressure of putting words on a page, the inner perfectionist who refuses to accept a messy first draft, and the real-life supervillain itself—Imposter Syndrome—can all stunt our creative brain. Sometimes, the writer’s best approach is not writing. Sometimes, the mind works best in times of mindlessness.
A few of my favorite tactics for these moments are going on a run or drive, taking a long walk or shower, or cooking or cleaning. All of these take enough focus that you aren’t aware of where your mind may be traveling—and often, when the mind isn’t being pressured to produce the Greatest Idea of All Time, it can produce quality. Whether you allow your subconscious to take control, or you put on a character playlist to draw inspiration, allowing yourself to let go and consider the possibilities instead of trying to force them can help you formulate new ideas or push past those roadblocks other stresses build up.
A downside of this technique is the threat of forgetting your ideas. If you’re away from your laptop or journal when you brainstorm, make sure you have something to record your brilliance. If I’m able, I’ll jot the ideas down in my Notes App; I have separate folders for each WIP. Or, if I am doing something where I’m unable to type on my phone (driving, running, etc.), I’ll use the Voice Memo App. My favorite method is recording myself on video. As I explain my ideas out loud, new thoughts always pop up. It feels as if I’m in a writing workshop with myself, bouncing ideas around and talking things through. Sometimes, I’ll set up the video first when I’m cooking, cleaning, or doing other monotonous activities even if I don’t have an idea yet. It’s always better to record nothing than to miss out on the amazing plot twist you thought of while making dinner.
Let your ideas come to you instead of forcing them—but make sure you have a way to remember them!
Lexie Axon earned her MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing from Emerson College. Currently, she is working to publish her debut Fantasy YA novel Forever and a Day. You can find her on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter as @lexieaxon.
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