INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)

11 Ways of Writing Without Writing: Turn Procrastination into Productivity

Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious.” — Jean Cocteau

Sometimes you just can’t focus on gathering, planning or drafting your project. There are other ways to move your project forward.

Do something to move
your project forward every day

WRITERS ADVISORY: I have grouped these techniques together for reference purposes only. DO NOT use more than 2 of these methods of ‘writing without writing’ without doing at least one session of writing while writing.

1.  Library / Online Research—Search online, visit the library and / or bookstore, read a book, talk to a librarian about sources and info related to your project. Copy all relevant info (with sources) into a ‘RAW MATERIAL’ (or ‘RESEARCH’) file or put hard copies in your cardboard file folder.

2.  Interview An Expert or Practitioner Related to Your Project—This may seem intimidating if you’ve never done it, but people usually enjoy talking about themselves and their subject of expertise and it’s a great way to add depth, dimension and details to your project. You can schedule an interview with someone on the phone or, even better, in person. Remember to take notes and transcribe them afterwards.

3.  Location Research—A site visit to a relevant location can add atmosphere and unique details to your project that you can’t get second-hand. Take photos and notes and talk to people who live and / or work there.

4.  Visual Aids—Create a ‘vision board’, collage or tumblr blog to gather images that spark your imagination or help you visualize your project more clearly. People. Places. Things. Headlines. Clothes. Architecture. This impressionistic approach can bypass the chaos of your conscious thoughts and directly access the chaos of your subconscious. You can also do it with music.

5.  Soundtrack—Gather songs that evoke your theme, tone, story or characters into a playlist for the project. You’ll probably never be able to afford to license these tracks for a production or public distribution, but why not let them inspire you and amuse your muse during the creative process?

6.  Reading List  /  Film Festival—You’ve probably already watched several documentaries and / or films and / or read books related to your project. Doing this with more formal intent can clarify the parameters of your writing and help you understand how others will see your project in the context of the market. It can also be inspirational to see how others have dealt with similar subjects.

WRITER’S ADVISORY: If you start to feel jealous, lose enthusiasm for your project and / or doubt your ability to write in general, back away from the DVD player or book. Stop thinking about what anyone else has done and start thinking about what you can do.

7.  Shopping—Shop for office supplies, writing clothes or books on your subject—or anything else. Maybe what you’re actually doing is practicing your sorting skills or sifting stuff in a store to occupy your conscious mind so your subconscious has a chance to sifting through deeper aspects of your project. Just don’t forget to regain full consciousness before you make any purchases.

8.  Title Search—The right title can focus, energize and even sell a project. The title is usually among the first things people hear of your project. Ideally it reflects the tone, scope and subject. Search key words related to your topic. Start a list of possible titles or title elements.

9.  Due Diligence—For a lawyer, this means taking all reasonable measures to check out the claims, warrants and representations of the other party and verify their bona fides. For a writer, it means at least doing a cursory online search of your topic and surrounding territory, because you want to know what’s already out there—or coming out soon—in the market. Related projects by others can feel like competition, but they may also:

a)  prove there is a market, and . . .

b)  help you focus and define your project more uniquely

10.  Tag Lines—Tap into your inner MadMan and come up with a phrase or motto for the ad campaign when your project goes public. Given the state of the publishing business, this might actually help sell your project. It can definitely help if you’re pitching a screenplay.

11.  Cosmology—In the Universe of your genre / sub-genre (all satirical novels, action screenplays, memoirs, one-person shows, etc.), where is your project located? Of course your project is unique, but it (and you) exist in a galaxy of other writers and projects. In that universe, are you in the same constellation as Raymond Chandler or Raymond Carver? J.G. Ballard or J.K. Rowling?


Photo courtesy of NASA

WRITER’S ADVISORY: These ‘non-writing’ tactics can easily become vast procrastination sinkholes that drain your creative energy. Writing without writing can break a mental logjam, but writing while writing is what makes pages accumulate.

* * * * *

This material is excerpted from “How To Be A Writer Who Writes: Strategies and Tactics to Start and Finish Your Book or Script” by Greg Miller. Get the book for Kindle or any other e-book formats.

Contact Greg directly for one-on-one coaching that is “Revelatory and dead-on!“.

3 comments on “11 Ways of Writing Without Writing: Turn Procrastination into Productivity

  1. delincolon
    January 29, 2013

    Recently, when someone asked me if I ever have writer’s block, I had to stop and think about it. When I get to a ‘logjam’ or ‘fork in the road’, I don’t think of it as ‘writer’s block’. I think of it as time to get up from the computer and do something manual while my subconscious works on it. I don’t even attempt to consciously work it out. Trying only pushes the solution away. And, for me, research is part of the writing (I write non-fiction). So, I clean the kitchen, vacuum, throw in a load of laundry while I sing (not a good thing for anyone in the vicinity) or just let my mind wander to silliness like ‘if the hokey pokey is really what life’s all about, where does loading the dishwasher fit in?’ While my hands are busy productively procrastinating, unbeknownst to myself I’m working on a solution. Then when I’ve done a few chores, I sit back down at the computer refreshed and discover what my subconscious came up with.

    I have to admit, however, your methods are a lot more productive in relation to writing! I have to get away from it altogether before I can move on. The funny thing is that I don’t like housecleaning at all so I know that when I’m motivated to do it, it must be time to clear the cobwebs. At those times, I not only don’t mind cleaning but it seems to go very fast, as if I’d been doing it without truly being present. Such an idiosyncratic world, writing!

  2. amandajfitzroy
    January 29, 2013

    Very informative thank you I do find if I am too tired to write I enjoy just reading/research on my subject helps!

  3. kamohello
    January 30, 2013

    thank you for the information.
    cooking also helps, i try not to engage the vegetables in my conversations but the tomatoes are funny.
    We all find inspiration in the simplest tasks, which is what makes our writing easier.
    heartache often helps too, I am not saying go out looking for pain. just find what makes your writing hand itch.

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This entry was posted on January 29, 2013 by in Creative Process, Productivity, Writing Strategy and tagged , , .
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