Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

It’s August….

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Aug• 27•13

          And the year is spinning away. Days are growing shorter and the glittered-up glories of summer are fading. If summer has weakened your writing practice or made you foot draggy; if no splendid hopes  keep you at your desk, take heart.  Forget all those writerly maxims and get back at it. Here’s how:

  •   Put writing first. Nothing replaces the sanctuary of a writing practice. The solace of knitting words to a page. Writing goals will never be accomplished if you write with leftover scraps of time and energy.
  •   Remember that difficulty and anxiety are normal.
  •   Don’t wait for inspiration, or a blast of energy, or a fresh idea, write anyway. Listen to that something inside of you that longs to be named, longs to be heard.
  •   Don’t give in to distractions.
  •   Associate with serious writers who have like goals.
  •   Take charge of your thinking.Your head is your domain and thoughts can turn into emotions, so guard against the subversive.
  • Keep going despite your moods. Write as if you write for a living, because no matter what you’re paid, you do.
  • Take breaks. Writing is hell on the body. Stretch before the cramps start, the neck or back aches.
  • When the going gets tough, take a vacation, not a bail out. Feel time melting in a new place; watch the night sky, tussle with kids, forget your worries.
  • Figure out what you really want and start living as if you already have it.
  • Experiment. When you’re stuck or procrastinating, try another medium. Haul out crayons, paints, collage materials, clay, and express your ideas. Draw a sketch of a character or thumb through decorating magazines and create a collage that represents the home and lifestyle of your wealthy, eccentric protagonist. Grab a camera and snap photos focusing your writer’s eye on the world. Go to the garden and plant flowers or bulbs or herbs. Or, slip into the kitchen and make a pot of soup or stew, bake a cake, experiment with a lasagna recipe. You might be surprised at how many ideas for your stories will begin simmering as you dabble in another medium.
  • When you return to your desk, as if you’re waking from a fever dream or fresh with morning clarity, stay focused. Work on one paragraph, one scene, and one project at a time during your writing session. While outlines or elaborate plans can be immensely helpful as a map for our projects, each day as you begin your writing, focus on a single goal for that day and don’t let the whole project crowd into your head. Often the enormity or complexity of a project can be intimidating.
  • Don’t scare yourself. Sure the marketplace is loud and crowded. Sure you’re a small player or burned out or too-often rejected. Sure there are days when writing feels like the corner of Bitter and Sweet. Write anyway. What else could you do that feels so right?
  • Ignore trivial worries. Don’t worry about trivial concerns—such as other people stealing your ideas, how to spend your book advance, and what outfit to wear on The Today Show.  Stop obsessing about copyright issues. Other writers are  worry that someone will make them change their words. Some writers are nitpicky perfectionists and tinker with every comma and adjective afraid to declare ‘the end’. Write first, then edit and polish what you’ve written, then worry about getting it published.
  • Conserve your writing energy. Don’t squander your creativity talking or fantasizing about your writing. Keep the details to yourself and write instead of gabbing about what you plan to write. Talking too much about you’re writing can dissipate its power. Or sometimes well-meaning friends or family will have so many suggestions that we get confused about the true direction of our work.
  • Just write.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Jenny Leo says:

    Love this post. I’ve been in a holding pattern concerning my writing, and this is just what I needed to hear. Thanks.

    • jessicap says:

      Thanks so much for reading Jenny.
      I just hate that holding pattern.
      I spent the day revising a single chapter. My neck and back hurt, but, you know, it was a good day.

  2. Nicki Chen says:

    Good advice. I like the image of knitting words to the page. The best advice of all is your first sentence: “Put writing first.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.