24 March 2017 | Writing

Writing when you’re not writing

Hands of an unrecognizable woman with Bible praying

In the same way footballers prepare for a football match by meditating, going to the gym and eating healthily as well as practising their goals, writers work on their book by doing non-writing activities.

This week I have:

  • walked along the Yarra River in Richmond where my book is set, thinking of how my protagonist would see the trees, the rowers and the river
  • read and analysed a couple of books, looking to see how these authors have brought their characters to life. I’ve been reading Elizabeth Harrower’s short stories and Liane Moriarty’s Truly madly guiltily.
  • chatted with a writing friend about writing in general, as well as the particular details of my book
  • meditated and tried to clear my mind of all the daily ‘stuff’ so my mind is full of clarity and lucidity – I did say ‘tried’!
  • listened to a writing podcast for some words of wisdom and to feel a sense of connection to other writers
  • chosen and cut fabric to make a little sewing kit because I am always forgetting where I have put my basic sewing tools. Sewing has nothing to do with writing – which is the whole point. I wanted to do something hands-on and tactile and creative that would make me concentrate and forget about my book so that I could allow my subconscious mind to take over and solve a few problems for me. Let me get back to you on both the sewing kit progress and the solving problems …

All these other activities are a way to both work on my book and NOT work on my book.

Lots of writers have different activities to help them with their writing. Allison Tait weeds her garden or walks her dog. Graeme Simsion walked around for a whole day to come up with the first sentence of one his books. Sylvia Plath used to bake.

It’s often the mindless tasks that keep your hands busy but your mind free to wander that help solve writing dilemmas. And if you have a less weedy garden or a pantry full of cakes or a completed sewing project AND inspiration for your writing, that’s definitely a winning scenario.

Her sheer audacity


Terri Dixon

I understand the concept of clearing your mind to allow things to enter. Quite often when I cannot think of a word or person’s name I will suddenly remember it. Sometimes it will be days later when I least expect it.

Your searching for the perfect word or phrase is part of your writing craft. Mine is “senior moments”


March 24, 2017 at 8:04 am


Exercise – riding my bike helps my thinking. Plus a good red wine.

March 24, 2017 at 11:31 am


How are you going with Truly Madly Guilty?

March 24, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Karen Comer

    I really enjoyed it, Carolyn! I know you didn’t – and I was frustrated, too because I thought the suspense was drawn out for way too long. But I loved her perceptive descriptions about the characters.

    March 30, 2017 at 2:28 pm

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