When it’s OK not to write. AKA: Treat Your Story Like a Stress Ball

In my last post, I wrote about what to do when you don’t want to write. Those days when the muse just isn’t with you and I shared my top five tips for getting words onto the page.

But there are days when it’s more than okay not to write anything. When you shouldn’t write and forcing yourself to get words down would be counterproductive. 

Most writing advice is all ‘write every day!’ But just this week I was working on a plot hole, and couldn’t write at all.

I’m a mix between a planner and a panster, meaning, I start with a really detailed plan and then don’t use it. I’ve tried, believe me, I have tried to stick to my post-it notes and planned scenes, and life would be so much easier if I could, but the thing is, I can’t.

When I write, sometimes it goes off on a tangent and ultimately, that’s what I love about the process. The ability to sit at this desk and surprise myself. But those surprises cause work, so much work. They drive me down holes, introduce characters I hadn’t expected and generally give me headaches. 

So, back to my working week.

I had given myself a huge plot hole, couldn’t understand my principal character’s motivation and was, y’know, stuck. I did all the usual things, set my timer, got my writing space all neat, and then all I could do was stare at the keyboard. I wasn’t sure which way to go and so; I did the only thing I could. 

I switched off my PC, grabbed my journal and went for a walk. 

I needed time to mull the whole thing over, to just sit with it all for a while, and even after my walk, I was still mulling. I prepared dinner for the family, unstacked the dishwasher, did the laundry, and all the while I was thinking about the plot hole.

Not even in a focused way. It was just…there, on the back burner, and I realised it was like a tiny little stress ball that I was kneading.
I was prodding and poking my story from all angles, and that evening, I had a basic plan to start with the next day.

So sometimes, it’s okay not to write.

Sometimes, you need to keep churning the idea over in your head before you commit it to paper and sometimes; you need to keep treating your story like a stress ball in your mind.


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