Things I’m Counting as “Writing” These Days

We all know it. We know “writing” is about so many more tasks than sitting at your computer, or with a notebook, and writing actual words and sentences and paragraphs and pages of that 1st or 2nd or nth draft.

We know it logically.

Still, there’s something in many, if not all of us, that places judgment on those other tasks. It’s not even so much that we get caught up in word-count tallies, I don’t think. I think it’s that we (rightly) associate writing with creativity, and we associate creativity with the new and fresh things that come when our story and prose are on a roll. We don’t always remember that creativity is stepping back and taking a new look at the colors in your painting, the ones you put down on the canvas last week. We don’t always remember that creativity is tasting the soup or the cake batter and thinking about what spice is still missing.

And even when we remember, we sometimes let doubt override the knowledge.

We “should” at ourselves. You should be getting more pages done. You should be getting started on the next draft. You should be in the zone.

Yeah, well, really I should be getting the things done that need to be done. I should be acknowledging that writing, drafting, revisng—it’s is not just typing–it’s organizing, it’s reviewing, it’s questioning, it’s brainstorming, it’s shifting puzzle pieces around and seeing how the fit here…and here…and there. It’s getting back in touch with our story any way we can.

So here’s what I’m counting as “writing” for a while.

  • Getting all the chapters I’ve written into a binder.
  • Organizing and then reading through my critique groups feedback on all these chapters.
  • Adding as many bullets as I want to my Ginormous List of Things That Still Need to Go into This Story.
  • Reading posts like this one by Jennifer R. Hubbard and reminding myself that, if I’m sitting at the computer (or typewriter) with my hands on the keyboard, my brain is expecting me–even telling me–to write, to produce fresh words.
  • Going through my Ginormous List of…with the full manuscript in front of me and using colored pens and sticky notes to scribble things like “Stick brother in here!” and “Ooh! Good place for the big question!”
  • Experimenting with plotting and organizing tools–will it be Scrivener’s scene cards again, or do I want a timeline spreadsheet. Or both.

Yet again, I realize that the book I affectionately refer to as “the one that almost killed me” put a big dent in this understanding for me, an understanding I think I had before the almost killed part. So I need to renew my lessons, rebuild habits I lost somewhere for a while. And that renewal, I think, means reaquainting myself with all the non-writing writing acts.

And perhaps bringing flowers and chocolate to keep that silly “should” voice busy and quiet.


  1. Agree totally. Shoulds are my enemies; but lots of different tasks go into writing. Thanks for affirming this!


  2. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Yes, it’s like building a house. The exciting part is when the walls go up, and then it *looks* like a house. But all the blueprint-drawing and lumber-ordering and soil-testing is part of the process, too.


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