Writing Myth #7 — You have to write to write

Join me each month as I share a myth from my book The 9 Biggest Writing Myths (and how to move beyond them). This month we’ll explore the myth about the mass production of words.

Myth#7, You need to write to write

Photo by PG.NETO, Flickr, licensed by Creative Commons

If you think writing is about getting words on a page, think again. Writing only partly involves taking a pen in your hand or making your fingers dance across a keyboard. There’s a whole lot more to the process.

Unfortunately, many writers measure their work and thereby their success by the sheer volume of the words or pages they produce. They tend to overlook or even discount the many and varied tasks that go into a project’s development. These tasks are both profound and mundane, but each is essential to the writing process.

Books, articles, poems—each begins with an idea that must be nurtured and explored. This effort is done not just on paper but in our hearts and minds. We take our idea and try it on, wear it around the house, the office, at the beach. We think about it in the shower, in the car, while reading the morning paper. We may even dream about it. True, we are not writing; nevertheless, we are fully engaged in the writing process.

Another example: We’ve finished a key chapter and are ready to print out what we have written. Alas! We’re out of paper and have to drop everything and dash to the stationery store. While there, we pick up some file folders to organize our notes (all those pieces of paper are driving us nuts, not to mention slowing us down) and a book on editing (we’re determined to whip those flabby passages into shape). How terrible, we think, to be taken away from our writing.

But really, these tasks, too, are part of the writing process. Printing out, organizing, editing what we’ve written—all are critical. Each moves our work forward, and where our work goes, so do we.

Get the point? Expanding your definition of what “qualifies” as writing opens up whole new worlds and blocks of time. And while you’re expanding, stretch yet again.

Grow into the concept that good writing is good living—deep, rich, mindful living. Walking in the woods, eating chocolate with a friend, curling up with a book—all count. All enrich and enliven our days and, ultimately, our work.

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