Writing Less, Doing More Can Actually Make You a Better Writer (Midweek Novel Update #14)

NRmidnovelupdate.8.19.15

I used to sit at my desk and write for hours. And hours. And hours. At the time, it was great. It was like a dream come true, having my own magic potion of sorts that could transport me to other worlds, introduce me to new people, force me to solve problems.

All fictional, of course. But it was better than dealing with real stuff, like dumb boyfriends and college applications.

Then something happened to me: I grew up. Well, as much as I can call myself a grown-up at 23. I don’t pay my own rent or even have a real 40-hours-per-week job (insert screaming goat clip here).

THE POINT IS, I learned something between the awkward hermit novelist life and actually having to leave my desk to do things like go to class and prove to future employers I cared about developing people skills.

I guess you could say I learned that sitting at a desk all day, writing, it’s great every once in a while. But you really don’t have much to work with if you don’t step away from your novel monster and exercise your brain a different way, or many different ways.

I never get ideas while I’m actually sitting down and writing, and you can probably relate. It’s always that second of eight miles running around my neighborhood; listening to a podcast; watching too many YouTube subscriptions; yes, even in the shower (you can’t deny that one, don’t even try).

Lately, I’ve been spending on average about an hour working on my book every day. That’s it. And I’ve made more progress in the past month than I have in the entire three years I’ve been working on it combined.

I have a theory that trying to work on a writing project for multiple hours at a time, days at a time, is actually quite harmful to the writing and creative process. From personal experience, obviously, so I can’t prove it.

But in the hours I could be spending on my book, instead I’m listening to and watching highly successful people do what they do, talk about how they got to where they are and inspiring me completely not on purpose. I’m also working 20 hours per week, writing blog posts (every freaking day of the week, you’re welcome), writing articles, volunteering with The Good Stuff and taking graduate classes … you know, in my spare time.

The more I do outside of working on my novel, the more motivated I am to work on it each time I sit down to open it. I always like to say ideas come from the most unlikely places, and my best ideas rarely appear when I’m busy working on another one. That’s why it’s so important to not get too caught up in your stories. You have to be able to pull inspiration from other places, other people, to build off of other ideas, to diversify your writing and make it believable. And intriguing. And relatable.

I would love to sit down, start writing and not stop until my book is finished. That urge will always be there. But every once in a while I go back to some of my old stories, the ones I wrote when I didn’t really like to do anything else or go anywhere unfamiliar. They’re missing something. They’re missing a lot.

It’s okay to love to write so much you don’t ever want to do anything else. But I’m convinced that’s not possible. I’m convinced the most successful people out there are the ones who are always moving, even when they’d rather be writing.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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