Tuesday, August 14, 2012

8 Ways to Write Without Ever Touching the Keyboard

Putting words on the page is only part of being a writer. And if you're like me, you can only sit at your computer for so long before you find yourself staring blankly at the blinking cursor. So let's talk about ways to stimulate your writerly soul without writing a word.

1. Read: Nothing helps you internalize successful writing like reading. You may or may not realize it, but you’re absorbing the rhythm of well-crafted sentences, scenes, and stories. As you develop your own story, it helps to have published works that serve as examples of aspects you’re trying to include.

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2. Shop: Provide yourself with the office supplies or computer programs that will help you get organized. Think of it as creating the structure for success. Whether it’s buying a corkboard to display your plot planner or a calendar to create to-do lists and deadlines, equip yourself in ways that will make the process manageable.

3. Critique: When you help a fellow writer by reading their manuscript, you reinforce good writing for your own projects. You may find elements of a critique partner’s WIP that force you to take a closer look at your own strengths and weaknesses. Just being mindful of what makes or breaks fabulous writing keeps those rules in the forefront of our own minds.

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4. Go to the Bookstore or Library: Perusing the shelves of your local bookstore or public library can accomplish several things. Seeing what’s selling can help stimulate your own ideas. Depending on the book level or genre you want to write, it’s an easy way to thumb through similar titles and study openings, layout, sentence structure, chapter length, and more. Read book jackets and internalize how you can use that type of a preview for your query letters.

5. Research: Whether you want your story to include a scuba-diving character or to take place in Venice, Italy, researching is a great way to immerse yourself in your story. Researching can stimulate ideas for conflicts that naturally tie into your character’s interests or the history of your setting. Another benefit of research is that it helps you envision the world for your story, making it easier to immerse yourself in the shoes of your characters.

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6. Grab a cup of coffee with a writerly friend: Just talking about your WIP can help you commit to a turning point, or figure out that there’s a character that’s doing nothing to contribute to your story. Having another writer ask you questions will help you hone in on aspects you may be overlooking, while reinforcing elements that are working.

7. Attend a conference: There’s no better way to meet other writers, hear inspirational presentations, or get feedback on a manuscript. Another benefit of going to a conference is that it gives you a gut-check—Are you on the right track with your writing? Do you know what agents and editors want? Have other authors experienced the highs and lows you're going through? Conferences are filled with writers just like you, reminding you that you’re not alone in this business.

8. Move: Give yourself permission to step away from the screen and go do something else. Successful writers and illustrators often talk about the benefits of doing a daily physical activity. Walk around the block, busy your hands with knitting, or hit the gym. Even if you’re thinking about writing during these breaks, you’ll come back to the chair with greater focus.

What tips do you have for non-writing activities that make you a better writer? We'd love to hear what works for you. Please post your energizing activities to comments!

Happy Writing,


  1. This is a great set of activities. I would also underscore the importance of Artist Dates, where you expose yourself to different art forms and mediums, to broaden your awareness so you can mine those experiences later on in your writing.

    1. Fantastic suggestion! Images, sculpture, and other forms of art are so powerful. Thanks for chiming in :)

  2. Great suggestions and great ideas! I would also add get outside into nature to the list of things that's helps me get back to the keyboard ;-)

    1. KatieO, agree! We spend so much time indoors at the keyboard that we NEED to find time for the outdoors. Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. Love this post! Only where is "staring out the window"? That's one of my favorite ways to write LOL.

    1. Daydreaming IS important, KarenG :) Nice addition to the list. We don't get to do enough of that as busy grown-ups. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Music really inspires me. I have a playlist for important scenes in my book. When I'm cooking dinner, folding laundry, etc., I fire up the playlist and let my mind drift into the characters and action.

  5. I'm currently on vacation. While my daughter was playing in the lake today, I sat on a nearby rock, closed my eyes, and visualized a scene that will take place by a lake. :)

    Which reminds me. I'd better write it down now.

  6. Watching a TV show or movie that I've wanted to see for ages, listening to music, also help refresh the imagination for me.

  7. I am expert at most of things. And now I feel less like a slacker. I was actually just doing all the things the cool kids do before they actually sit down and write! But, umm, maybe I should start writing now. :-p


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