There are a lot of people feeling pressured to write right now.
But I’m here to tell you that it’s OK if you don’t. You can. But it’s not a tragedy or failure if you don’t.
I know this is a blog about writing, and I will always encourage anyone and everyone to write if that’s what they want to do (hey, even if they don’t think they want to, too). But it’s a weird time. Also the perfect time to offer some encouragement to anyone who feels they suddenly have to write more when they’re not quite prepared for that.
Just because you have more time for writing doesn’t mean you have to write more. Or that it’s somehow magically going to get easier to write more than you’re used to.
Yes, there are many people who need to keep writing because it’s how they’re going to be able to afford necessities in the weeks and months to come. Writing isn’t always a choice depending on the specific circumstances, and if that’s the case for you, you really have to make the most of it and just do the best you can.
But for those who feel like they need to write because they don’t have the same time-related excuses as they did before … well, you’re technically not wrong. Time management (or lack thereof) is one of the most common reasons people struggle to write. What if you suddenly find yourself with more time in your schedule for writing? Do you have to do it? Is it a requirement?
No — it’s not. For one thing, many people forget that just because schedules and routines change and free up time doesn’t mean that time won’t be filled with other responsibilities. Additionally, not everyone is capable of adjusting quickly. Yes, you might have a few extra hours for writing. But you might legitimately need that time to let yourself mentally and physically rest.
Writing is still hard, it still takes a lot of time and effort even if your days have the space for it. There are a lot of people who are going to tell you (if they haven’t already) that this is the “perfect” time to write that book you’re always talking about. And maybe it is. But maybe it isn’t — not yet. And that’s OK.
Even if you don’t write more than usual though — or at all, which is also OK — you can still take this opportunity to exercise your mind and creativity. THAT is something everyone should be doing.
Never underestimate the power of ‘free thinking.’ This is what I call the “essential” type of meditation for writers. You don’t have to sit still and stare at a wall or anything like that. But I do encourage you to engage in at least one activity throughout your day without occupying your mind with any added background noise.
No music, no TV, no podcasts or audiobooks. Just you and your thoughts while you’re walking the dog or doing the dishes or whatever.
Why is this so important? Because you need to give your mind the time and space to wander. We’re so afraid of that. We shouldn’t be. You should give yourself permission to let your thought train go as fast and as far away as it needs to. This is how some of the greatest ideas seem to “spontaneously” appear. Not because they weren’t there all along, but because you just weren’t giving them the chance to approach you and say hello.
Mental and creative exploration has no restrictions or boundaries. Experts say boredom is one of the best creativity “triggers.” We so often think that we have to seek out inspiration in certain ineffective ways (like scrolling through social media — don’t do that!). In reality, we get inspired not just by doing creative activities, but also by doing absolutely nothing.
If free thinking gets you in the right headspace to welcome new ideas into your life, then your next step should be to grab onto as many of the ideas that come to you as you possibly can. This might seem overwhelming — how are you going to hold onto all those new ideas at once?
Well that’s the point. You don’t. You simply take one idea, mess around with it, see how you vibe with it and if it manages to hold your interest and/or spark even more ideas. If it does, then you just keep running with it in any way you see fit. If it doesn’t, then you let it go — save it in a compartment in the back of your mind just in case, and move on to another idea.
In writing and creativity, there is no such thing as “wasted” time. There are no “useless” ideas. Every time you write or create something, even if it turns out to be total garbage and you don’t end up using what you made, you always take something away from that experience and apply it to your next one even if you don’t realize you’re doing that.
This is the time to explore. To figure out what direction (if any) you want to take your writing and creativity. This is not the time to dismiss possibilities because you aren’t sure or because you’re not fully confident in your ability to execute certain ideas. Just go for it. You have nothing to lose.
Every time you write, you inch a little closer to your goals. It’s not about doing everything perfectly. It’s not about always “getting it right.” It’s about simply DOING. Getting out there (so to speak) and setting your stories free. You don’t know where they’ll end up unless you follow them.
So follow them. Even if it all just stays in your head for a while. That’s OK. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. You can always take a chance. But if you simply sit and let the possibilities dance around you, there’s no telling where they might go when the time to write does come around again.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.