Thinking About Writing Isn’t Writing

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I admit, I think about writing more than I actually write. And I’m constantly writing a story or two in my head.

There’s the short story project I started months ago that now has five stories, each a work in progress. There’s the book about couples I began two years ago that was put on hold when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Earlier this year, after writing a blog about my cancer experience, it occurred to me that I should also write a book.

Sooo many things to write!

At other times, I’m planning a story in my head, asking myself things like: What research needs to be done about the types of jobs Black men held in the 1920s? What were good names for southern women in the 1940s? Search online for images of general stores down south so you can best describe it in writing. How can you create an imaginary town smack dab in the middle of two cities that actually exist — and make it believable?

All these thoughts about writing can be exhausting, lead to inactivity, and hinder the writing process. And on top of that, I find… writing scares me. The thought of writing badly is the worst.

I was recently told that something I wrote (unrelated to any of my personal projects) was “horrible.” Horrible!

At first, I was daunted and didn’t want to write anything again. The negative thoughts came fast and frequently.

“See? THAT’S why you’re not writing.”

“You’re not a good writer.”

“It’s the mistakes that hold you back.”

“You’ll never be good at it.”

And so on.

The Fix

4594159C-C2F8-4A54-92C1-5FDA2F03962EBefore that cycle of negativity could do me in, however, I bucked up. I determined I wouldn’t let the words “horrible writing” stop me; instead, I’d do what it takes to be a better writer!

Years ago, my cousin gave me Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I never read it. I also have How to Write Short Stories by Sharon Sorenson that I, sadly, don’t remember buying — and also never read. My only explanation for not reading the books is for most of my life, I primarily fancied myself a poet, never considering branching off into another genre. Ha! I’ve, now pulled them from the shelf to devour. And, I decided to enroll in writing workshops and classes to get feedback for improvement.

It’s said the more you write, the better you get. Which takes me back to my first sentence: I think about writing more than I actually write.

But I proclaim, no more of that!

Now, I’m aware that thinking is actually part of the writing process. It is helpful to have clarity about what you want to write. And, I’ve found that once I sit down to write — after thinking about something for a while — the pages fill up quicker, and I’ve already written part of the story in my head.

I’m also aware that I must get out of my head more often and get the stories written.

In August, I gave myself a challenge to pick one of my short stories to finish. But major family responsibilities, a heavier workload, and simply being tired (I am, after all, still recovering from cancer treatment; something I have to remind myself of from time-to-time) took over.

Again, writing was pretty much put aside. To counteract not writing, giving intentional thought to my stories became crucial, especially when too tired for the task. I’ve resolved many story issues in my head these past couple of months, with quick surges of writing here or there.

Writing Communities

It’s also said that connecting with like-minded people is great motivation.

I’ve been a member of the Motown Writers Network since 2007. Being part of this group has been extremely helpful to my writing journey. At our monthly meetups, we hear from local industry experts on writing, publishing, social media for writers, book marketing, and everything in between. Through the years, I’ve gained wonderful friends, great resources, and growth experiences. Membership in this group influenced me to write and publish Like Gwendolyn, a book of poetry, in 2011. That debut book was a long time coming.

This year, I started my own writers’ group. Pen & Tablet Writers is a 60BD8D41-664E-4142-89B8-2433DA103190support group for aspiring and experienced writers. My goal is to inspire and encourage people in similar writing circumstances to just get it done, regardless of the obstacles. During our monthly, two-hour meetups, we spend the first hour on Writing Therapy, which gives attendees a chance to share what’s going on in their writing lives and get feedback. During the second hour, we write. That’s it. We just write.

Our sessions reveal wonderful conversations. Before the writing hour begins, we go through a guided meditation. At one session, I suggested we each greet our writer-self and see that writer-self in our heads. At the end, one experienced writer mentioned she was fine with the mediation until she had to envision her writer-self. She said she drew a blank, and it brought her to tears. We all assured her it was a perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with her writer-self to move forward with some significant projects she had coming up.

At another session, a regular attendee, Walter O’Bryant, uttered these two encouraging morsels when conversation about doubting our writing skills came up, “What’s the worse thing that could happen? You might finish your book and somebody might like it.” And, “Your story is gonna bug you until you write it.”

Today, I’m energized about my writing life. I intend to share this journey with anyone who wants to be involved. I’d also like to know how you hone your writing skills, what workshops online and off have helped, what writers you admire and follow, and what resources you find valuable in the craft of writing.

Let’s grow, and write!

4 Comments
  1. Andi, thank you for sharing and for being the best you that you can be. It is refreshing to witness your metamorphosis as a writer. To your inquiry on how I hone my writing, like you, I had a great deal in my head that I realized I needed to put pen to paper. Thus, I decided to make it a habit to pull out my mobile phone and utilize the Notes application to capture my thoughts in the moment. In doing so, what started out as a thoughts has led to increased clarity and a newly designed program for DEX’s Social Innovation Institute. Writing daily is still a work in progress.

    • Hi Truman. Thanks for reading and for commmenting. I love the way you’re utilizing Notes. I have that too. I’m going to try utilizing it more like you do. What you said about increased clarity peaked my interests.

  2. LikeTruman, I use Notes and have written whole chapters that way. This was a good post. Writing about writing will hopefully jump start your process.

    • Hi Shannyn Marie. Thank you for reading, and commenting. I like how you and Truman use Notes. Wow! Whole chapters? That’s good time spent. I use it mostly for planning, and jotting down ideas and poems. But you all opened my eyes about expanded use, now. Thanks!

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