Discover how writing adjacent activities can help your writing

Alternative heading Activities that supprt your writing routine.

Writing is not always about sitting down with a pen in hand and a stack of notebooks ready to be filled. Often, our image of what a writer looks like will be in black and white. But we have moved on from using quills to write with. Modern writing needs modern methods. Writing related activities can also help us to increase the amount we write.

Photograph of a quill pen, notebooks, candle and ink pot.
Writing used to need a quill pen and candlelight.

There will be times when being creative is hard. When the words do not flow. And that is ok. There are other activities that need to be done. Such as reading a book on how to write, put together a great list. Or listening to a podcast e.g. Writing Excuses or watching a youtube video e.g. The Six Figure Author Podcast, signing up for inspirational emails from Insecure Writers Support Group. When I am struggling to write I try to maintain my writing time with these activities.

These activities can be useful to keep writing time just for writing and anything related to your writing. Even if you are not getting words on to the page your brain is thinking about writing. When I was really struggling to move past just sitting at the desk at the right time I listened to a podcast, usually Writing Excuses because it is short, and took notes. This helped me to feel productive. It is probably a memory link to when teachers would beg us to take notes during class and were then delighted when we did. 

But putting writing related words on the page definitely helped to unlock something. Or even just showed my brain and my hands that this is what it feels like to just write. 

Writing related activities can also overlap nicely with other activities. The repetitive ones like making dinner, putting clothes in the washing machine, hoovering and many other activities that are required to keep a house nice to live in. When I listen to podcasts as I am doing this I feel much better about the boring tasks. It also helps get my brain ready for writing. It acts as a great transition. I don’t move from putting all the dishes in the dishwasher after dinner to straight away sitting at my desk and expecting the words to just appear. My brain is often still in cleaning the kitchen mode.

Another transition activity that works for me is making a drink to bring with you to your writing space. It could be as straightforward as water in a glass or as complicated as a smoothie with different ingredients and an appliance to clean. But the reason you are getting the drink ready is to start writing so our brains start to think ahead and prepare. 

Also, our brains use up a lot of energy so it is important to consider having fuel to hand. Do you feel tired when you have just sat at a desk writing? This is because your brain has been active and working. Even though it does not look like the exercises that are advertised as a way to burn calories using our brains still uses up energy in our bodies.

A photograph of a glass of water and cup of coffee to help you with writing related activities. The words 'What is you writing fuel' above them.

Disadvantages of Writing Related Activities

Writing adjacent activities can be distractions. They can be used as a way to avoid writing while feeling like something is happening. I use journaling to help me through these phases. I complain to the notebook that finding the words is hard today. The notebook hears about how I do not like the feeling of staring at a bank screen with no idea of what to write. When these thoughts stay in my head they are easy to ignore. I usually have multiple thoughts happening at the same time so it is easy for me to ignore the ones that don’t make me feel good.

But ignoring them means they hang around and affect my emotions negatively. 

But when the frustrating, self limiting thoughts are on paper then I can take action. Then I can ask myself if I really want to write. Because if I do really want to write then I need to take the bad with the good. I have recently started to congratulate myself when I struggle like this because surely this means that I am really a writer if I am having the same struggles as ‘real’ writers? This lightens my mood and is a much better feeling than the feelings of inadequacy that I had been feeling.

A frustrated woman is throwing crumpled up paper into an already full waste basket. The words are 'Real writers struggle to write. Are you a real writer?

Beware Avoidance Activities

Beware the lure of ‘busy’ work. Tidying the desk drawer. Rearranging the pens in order of colour. Testing all of the pens to make sure they all work. 

These activities might give quick fast results but they do not move your writing forward. They can also be done at a different time. Do not let your precious writing time become tidying or cleaning time. Focus on activities that either encourage you to get writing or adjust your mindset around your approach to writing.

Action Steps

Have a look at what writing related activities you are currently doing. 

Are there any you have been thinking about but have not quite managed yet?

Pick the activity that matches where you are in your writing

If you are starting, then you need inspiration and support in developing ideas and a routine.

If you are working on a project then you need reading that will support your research, tackle a craft or technique problem or even just hearing from somebody else stuck in the ‘murky middle’.

Make a list of writing related activities so that you are ready for the next time you are sitting at your desk but writing words feels too difficult. Or even if you are away from your desk and struggling to see how you will find the time or the energy. A podcast could help you remember why you want to write.

Finally, be honest with yourself. Only you know if you have chosen an activity that will help your writing or is helping you to avoid facing the hard work of getting words on the page.

You deserve to enjoy the feeling of writing your story.

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