When Not to Write

Now. I know I talked about how to make yourself sit down and write regardless of whether the muse was visiting or not on Wednesday. However, I think it’s important to note, there are some times when it’s just not a good idea.

Here’s the thing. If you’re treating writing seriously, then writing is work. Work you enjoy, yes, but it’s work none-the-less. That comes with all the normal caveats. So we’re going to be referring to writing as work for a bit here, and the reason will become apparent later.

So when is it a bad idea to work?

  • When you have other things that need to be done that take higher precedence

Now be careful with this one. Our brains are very good at making up things that we “could” be doing, not “should” be doing. Do the dishes really need to be done? Probably not. Can you just decide you’d rather write than eat/feed your family/do your day job? No. So set aside time for writing, give up some things that don’t need to be done (TV, playing games, decide between whether your early morning time is for running or writing or half-and-half). But don’t write when you have shit that needs to be done.

  • When you need to take care of yourself.

I had a bit of a moment the other day which I now recognise as being sad. It wasn’t depression, because I was able to deal with it, I got stuff done, and I recognised and understood what was going on, but I was sad. There was a very identifiable cause. As so I got about 1k of words done, and then I decided that I was going to read fluffy fanfic for the rest of the day.

This is fine. It’s healthy, even. If you’re doing it all the time? It’s not a time management issue – it’s an issue you need to be seeking advice about.

  • When you’ve done enough for the week

Writing, when we’re talking about it like work, has a limit. That limit is different for many people. Some will tire of it after 2k each day, some manage only 500 words before they hate everything to do with it. I think each person’s daily limit reflects on how they write – I can comfortably get 2k in. But I write a fast first draft, don’t plan it, and use said first draft as my jumping off point, for the at least 4 rewrites I’m going to need. A friend only manages 500 words a day, but they’re not words she ever needs to edit.

So if you’ve hit your weekly goal (in my case 10k/week), feel free to stop. Go and do something else. Walk the dog. Exercise a little. Write something technical, just for kicks.

This leads me to my final point:

There is other writing than work writing.

The things above apply to “work writing”. Something you’ve told yourself that you’re going to get done. There are other kinds of writing.

One way that I dealt with my sadness the other day was creating a pretend memoir and writing out how I felt. Seriously. There were chapter headings and everything. Journaling, too, has a way of settling some people.

So yes. Take a moment when you need to. Don’t write when other priorities trump your writing work, and don’t write when it’s just a method of punishing yourself further- either because you’re exhausted, or because you need a bit of you-time.

But if a short poem is something that gives you joy after a week on a novel, then go ahead. It’s not work, and work is what we sometimes need a break from.


Image from Flickr, creative commons, attributed to Doctor Popular


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