What to Write When You Just Can’t Write

What to write when you just can’t write

What to Write When You Can’t Write

  1. Buy Yourself a Miniature Notebook: After my mother died, I believed that I could or would never write again. I was wrong. But during those dark days, I did keep a tiny, 3" x 2" spiral notebook by my computer monitor. You know the ones. They sell them in drug and dollar stores by the pack. I filled one of those tiny pages every day. A week or two in, I began to actually look forward to that mini-write. Most days, the writing was terse and strange, and I wouldn’t even attempt to classify it by genre. But it helped.
  2. Write a Numbered List: A poet friend recently gave me this tip: Open up a clean page and set yourself the task of writing eight random things on that page. It doesn’t matter what you write. You just have to get to Number Eight. For me, this numbered-list writing forces me to complete something. It has also yielded some very promising ideas for new essays.
  3. Switch the Medium: Cocktail Napkins, Anyone? If you usually hand-write your first drafts, remember that there are many online journals out there. I recommend Penzu. As well as being highly secure, Penzu has pages that mimic a lined notebook and it allows you to clip digital photos to your piece. Other medium-switching ideas: Write short, small pieces on your phone. Or get yourself a pen and some white cocktail napkins.
  4. Edit an Old Piece: Remember those bright, productive days when you were up and at it and meeting your word count? Look through your document folders. Now might be the time to edit those drafts. Writing? Who said anything about writing? You’re just sprucing things up, dotting a few i’s and crossing a few t’s.
  5. Don’t write. Meditate. Walk. Look to the sky: There are few things that a walk outside cannot make better. Wordsworth did it. So did Thoreau. And the late and beloved Mary Oliver. I love this interview with Oliver where she speaks about being out in nature and “listening to the world” — about walking with a notebook and just waiting for what will come.
  6. Dust Off Your Personal Journal: That’s the thing about journaling, isn’t it? Your daily entry doesn’t have to be a neat narrative or a bestseller in the making. It can just be some lists. Or doodles. Or curse words. Journaling isn’t just a way to keep writing. It’s also a research-proven route to physical and mental wellness.




Irish author, workshop leader in Boston area. Fifth book, “Green and Other Essays” just released. More at www.ainegreaney.com

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Aine Greaney

Aine Greaney

Irish author, workshop leader in Boston area. Fifth book, “Green and Other Essays” just released. More at www.ainegreaney.com

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