Skip to main content

When Not to Write

Okay, so you’ve all heard that a writer can write anytime he or she darn well pleases. And that writers should write whenever they can.

But what about times when writers shouldn’t write? Are there any rules for that, or is this just an excuse to use when there’s a deadline looming?

Sure, procrastination can be detrimental to your career. But maybe there are times when it’s not such a bad idea? That maybe stepping away from the computer can benefit your work?

Here’s a list of times when I know I should NOT write for fear of losing the Muse and my mind.

1. After I’ve submitted a manuscript.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not. When you submit a manuscript, or an article or poem or hey, even a blog post, it’s time to celebrate! Time to focus on a job well done. Don’t start another novel. It squelches your current glory, well, at least mine anyway. Enjoy the satisfaction of hard work sent off into eager agent’s/editor’s hands- and then write.

2. After I’ve been out all day running errands.
This may seem dumb, but trust me, I lose my skills --or whatever you want to call it-- when I am out picking up groceries, having the car repaired, or running to Target. An errand or two, maybe I can get away with. But a half of a day? No way, doesn’t work. Because by the time I get my rear end in a chair, I CAN’T focus long enough before I have to start dinner, get kids to bed, etc. You see my predicament.

3. After I’ve seen a movie.
Wow, this is a weird one. But it’s also true too. There’s something about movies-- kind of like the very reason they make them-- that makes me want to write the next great story that every producer and director in Hollywood will want, which in turn everyone in the world will want to watch. Don’t do it! Write down an idea or two, and wait for the euphoria to pass. Then you can look at your notes … and throw them away.

4. After I’ve read the best book ever!
Very much like number three, do NOT try to write after you’ve read the best, heart wrenching, anxiety-ridden, edge-of-your-seat book. I’ve tried this before. All I ever write is garbage. Really. Because inevitably, I sound so much like the author I’ve just read that what ends up on my computer is a washed-out, copycat mess that no one -- and I mean no one -- should read. Read the book, let it simmer and then maybe in a day or two try to write. Maybe. Even then, that might be too soon.

5. After I’ve written for six days.
Take the seventh day off. Some people write five days a week, some write three. Whatever the amount, for God’s sake (no really, for God’s sake take a Sabbath) take the seventh day off and recuperate. I do this. It’s not only something to look forward to-- even though I love writing-- but it’s a chance to focus 100 percent on my family; something other than my work.

6. Before I’ve had my coffee.
Do I really need to elaborate on this one?

Now, get out there, and write --or not-- and see how some of your best stuff will show up with practice, education and more practice. Write on!


  1. I totally agree with 5 & 6. I hadn't given the others much thought but they make a lot of sense.

  2. Some good ideas! But #s 3 & 4 actually help me write sometimes. I don't try to write a whole book on them, but I often get a good quote or idea to base an article on.

    Yours is the FIRST article on when NOT TO WRITE that I've read! Pretty clever!

  3. #4 is true, true!

    After I read a great book, I am inspired, and somewhere in all that inspiration I become slightly delusional, and think I've got to bang out something fab. In the end, I realize whatever I write after a great book, doesn't really have my voice. It feels fake.

  4. Thanks Molly for checking it out!
    Warren, glad to have helped out. Thanks for the compliment. :)
    Amy, yes... you know what I'm talking (writing) about, don't you?
    Thanks again!

  5. GREAT points! All are very helpful.

  6. I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come on over to my blog and check it out. God bless, Lloyd

  7. This is a great list. It's so true, after a really good movie or a really good book, you gotta let things simmer out before you start writing again. And yeah, the coffee thing (tea for me) - no explanation needed.

  8. I've never read a post on when NOT to write, but you brought up some really good points. I always take a day or two off each week from writing, and #2 hit close to home with me. I just cannot concentrate well when I've already had a busy day.

  9. Sound advice, it's the Sunday lunch wine that is my downfall!

  10. Thanks Lloyd!
    Margo, thanks. :)
    Amanda, thanks too.
    Carole, you're hilarious!


Post a Comment