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Friday, November 12, 2010

Just Start Writing!

Write now—fix it later!

With an assignment due the next day, my son would ponder the opening sentence for a long time. Sometimes, two hours would pass before I'd check on his progress only to find him sitting in front of a blank screen.

When he said he didn't know what to write, I would say, “Just start writing.” He would look at me with a glazed look, like I had lost my mind. He didn't agree with my write now—fix it later philosophy.

If I asked my son to tell me about his subject, especially if it was about history, he could talk for an hour. He's a history buff, and he can go on and on about the Civil War. But that first sentence stumped him when it came to writing out his ideas.

I've had young people ask me what to do about writer's block, and my answer is always Just start writing!

For me, sometimes I feel a special inspiration for a project and the writing comes easily. But if I don't feel that unction, I write anyway. It's kind of like cooking. Sometimes nothing sounds good. I open the fridge, see the package of chicken, drag out a recipe, and cook. It's yummy and everybody eats, but it wasn't particularly fun to make.

Writing can be like that sometimes.

Think about the college research paper we all struggled to word oh so perfectly. It was due on a certain day, a specific time, and we had to do everything in our power to make sure it was ready. Were we inspired? Probably not. But we wrote it anyway.

I picture my writing at its very best when I have a heart for the story. But if I sit around waiting for that special spark to strike, I won't write very much.

A few years ago, following a tragedy in our family, I thought that perhaps I would not be able to write again for a long while. For several years previous to this, I had been writing and directing two-act plays. Spring was coming and with actors and parents expecting a production, I had zero ideas. One day someone asked if I was going to do a play. Well...I hedged, then I told her about my lack of inspiration. My thoughts were leaning toward definitely not doing a play—unless God gave me an idea.

Not long after saying those words, a story tumbled through me so fast I was amazed. In two weekends, I wrote the entire play of The Island of Shalamar, a medieval allegory about a king and his son and how evil was sneaking into the land. I didn't have a lot of time for revisions, but the play turned out to be a blessing, a tender story that I looked back on for quite a few years as my best writing ever.

However, since The Island of Shalamar, I have written plays that I would consider much better writing. I spent more time editing and improving word choices. I created stronger characters with unforgettable traits and flaws. I wrote and rewrote.

Through this journey, I've learned that writing with inspiration and God's anointing is a wondrous experience, but even if I don't feel that driving force, I still need to write.

And who knows? That spark of inspiration might be just around the corner.

How about you? Do you write whether you are inspired or not? What do you do when you don't “feel” like writing?


  1. I've been in a funk for a few months now. I started off with a "just start writing" attitude, but every project seemed to fizzle. Then I started working on my blog more and that is keeping my fingers on the keyboard. I guess I haven't mastered the art of writing even when I don't feel like it. I hope to get there soon. Thanks for the encouraging post!

  2. I think that's 90% of writing, just sitting down and putting those words down. Although sometimes I do have to walk around a little until inspiration hits me!

  3. I think that's part of the whole process although different people work differently. I can't just stare at the screen. I might stare into space for a few minutes but generally if I just jot down a few thoughts the momentum picks up.

  4. Thanks, everyone, for your great responses. Sometimes I don't follow my own advice about "Just start writing" and I wait to "feel" like writing. I need to do better about pushing myself to write every day, to stay disciplined. When I hear about people writing 2,000 words a day--or some other goal they've set--I am so impressed. It inspires me to push harder toward my goal. Have a wonderful week of writing! Blessings on the journey...

  5. Mary, it must be great advice, I've received it three times this week! Gulp. Now, I'm nervous, I just got my marching orders.

  6. When I can't write, I go do laundry or clean house and then I really, really want to get back to writing! There's nothing like manual labor to push you toward what you truly love:)

  7. James, wow, if you've heard the same thing from three different people, it must be good advice. Thanks for sharing.

    Barbara, that's a great idea! Next time I'll go chop wood first and then I'll love my writing time even more.

  8. Just found your blog. Welcome to the blogging world!

  9. Thanks,'s a fun journey!

  10. Hi Mary,
    I think you nailed it! Writing for me is something I cannot force myself to do. I'm either all there or I'm not. I'm not yet at the point where I have to meet deadlines, but I'm dreading it!! Some days the inspiration just isn't there. Most times I do end up writing something, even if it is just a page. I have found it's better to plow through even when I don't feel like it, because if I stop, it's harder to get back into the groove. Although I do admit, there are days when I just say forget it, and go read a book! Which is just as important to do in my opinion!

  11. Thanks, Catherine. Yes, I agree, reading is so important too. The more we read, the better writers we'll become. I think that writing something every day is key--even when we don't have the inspiration. Even a letter, a journal, a blog, etc. Thanks for the great input! Blessings on the journey...