Writing Is Not Typing
In a 2016 LitHub article entitled “How to Be a Writer” the author Rebecca Solnit gave aspiring writers a list of 10 tips in order to be a writer. Tip #2 was “Remember that writing is not typing.” In it, Solnit mentions “thinking, researching, contemplating, outlining, composing in your head and in sketches, maybe some typing with revisions as you go” as some of the many things writers do in the process of writing.
This is a tough lesson for even the most experienced of us to learn. Typing can feel really satisfying. It means increased word and page count. It’s the sensation of accomplishment without actually accomplishing anything. After all, those words and sentences typed might amount to a whole lot of nothing.
In addition to Solnit’s list, I’d add “dusting, cooking, sleeping, exercising” as just a few of the other things I do when I write. I’m currently in a phase in my process when what I produce amounts to very little and my time spent at my desk, typing up words, is short. But I’m working on my project always. I think about it over dinner, glean inspiration while going to the farmers market or chopping vegetables. I hear a favorite song on the radio, catch a phrase on a TV show, and, of course, read something. I wake up from a dream. There is something in it. And when I go back to my desk, I feel ready. Words flow.
I like to use the analogy of a day job to justify this. For those of us who have ever done the 9 to 5 bit, we know: however “busy” we like to tell others we are, there is a lot of down time. We hang out at the water cooler or look for donuts in the kitchenette. We seek out colleagues to chat with, or to help us problem solve. We sometimes take really long lunch breaks, step out to run errands. All of this needs doing before we can finally sit down to write that five-page report.
Why would our creative process be any different?
That’s why our best ideas come to us when we’re doing something other than writing. You hear a lot about taking showers or baths. Walking. We’re not toothpaste tubes to be squeezed; creativity doesn’t come out of us like AquaFresh. Next time you feel like you’re being squeezed, you should probably go to the beach instead.