5 ways to write without writing

Just go with me for a moment.

I love this quote from E. L. Doctorow:

‘Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.’

I love it so much, we have it on our advert. After all if nothing gets written, then there’s nothing to read. But there are also things a writer can do so that when he or she feels ready to write, they’ll write productively and have fun. Let’s call it Creative Gymnastics.

Here’s five creative exercises that involve no writing. It’s all in the mind!

1. What if? This is an easy way to start. Whether you are in a meeting or on a plane, in the grocery store or surfing the internet, there’s always a hundred things that never happen – but they could. Tell yourself the story of what might have been.

2. Play the scene. We all do this anyway, don’t we? Carry out imaginary conversations with people. Say (inside your head) the things you’d love to say but wouldn’t and then imagine the response. Feel free to fight with anyone…. your kids, your wife, that annoying server in Starbucks or the person who just parked so close to you that you can’t open your car door. Excellent practice for writing dialogue.

3. Dwell on detail. Spend some time really thinking about the things that you see. Look at shapes for example. Look at a building in silhouette and then try and think of another thing – maybe an animal, a country, a vehicle – that has the same shape. Work on similes. Start with the obvious ones but then try and think of something original. Think about what you’ll write.

4. Stare at strangers. Okay, maybe glancing at strangers is a better idea, but look at the people around you and simply make things up about them, based on what you can see. Imagine what they’re like. Imagine what they like to do. Better, imagine what they hate to do. If you’re enjoying thinking about them, use them in a What If scenario, or have an argument with them. You know you want to.

5. Read things more than once. Say you’re reading a book and the phone is ringing but you just can’t answer it because you’ve got to find something out, or its all too involving or emotional or exciting for you to put it down. Mark the page. Later, try and work out what it was that drew you in. Find out exactly where and why the story grabbed you. Read and re-read until you know what the writer did and how they did it. Then when the time comes, you can do it too.

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