What we do when not writing

Writers never stop writing. I really believe that. When not at a keyboard, or holding a notepad and pen, we are still writing in our heads.

I have been going over my plot, my characters, my settings, while emptying the dishwasher or making the bed. Pretty soon I will sit down and transfer all these thoughts to physical words.


I have a friend who took a new job and mourns the fact that she hasn’t time to write because of the long training hours and because she gets home too tired to think, let alone plot.

I told her to use this time for gathering.

Yes, gathering. It’s what you do when you sit on a bench at an amusement park while the kids are on a ride. It’s what you do in a restaurant when the couple next to you can’t be ignored; during the long wait at the doctor’s office; standing in line at the post office.

I suggested she take the opportunity to watch her customers. To take note of physical characteristics she might use later, gestures, postures, attitudes, that might fit one of her characters. To remember physical attributes that she can use describing her hero or heroine.

Listen to conversations and make a quick note of a turn of phrase, a colloquialism she might borrow; how what is said doesn’t match the person’s expression. To observe how people react to stress, such as the harried mother or the bored teenager or the young lovers who can’t keep their hands off each other and don’t care who knows it. The couple arguing with tight lips and narrowed eyes who are equally oblivious.

It takes only a minute to jot these observations in a small notebook. It can be done on break, or during lunch.

Then later, when time is more easily accessed, she will have a treasury from which she can gather gems to make her stories sparkle.

I believe the very act of writing her observations down will propel her into finding time to work them into a story. There is always time, we just need to find it, set it aside, make certain we honor it.

Intellectually, I know this. In reality, I haven’t done it as much as I should.

I need to follow my own advice.












1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. carmingo
    Jan 27, 2016 @ 11:06:36

    Excellent advice! Being observant of the habits, conversations, dress, etc., of others helps develop fully realized characters that may be totally different from the writer. It’s nice to branch out and incorporate all observations into character building for fiction especially, going beyond one’s own life experiences.


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