Free Write Friday: Stop Getting Ready!

Have you ever noticed how long it takes to get ready? It can sometimes take me until sundown to get down to actual writing. The other day, in the name of hyper-organization, I cleared out 2,000 sent emails (all because I was looking for someone’s old email), updated my to do lists, had a brainstorming meeting with my “tough muse” husband, scanned the NY Times, sorted laundry, brewed tea, wrote lesson plans (a kind of writing), talked to my mother, did “research” (diverting me from one finite task to fascinating but  irrelevant tangents), bought intriguing greens like sorrel at the Green Market because I needed a walk in the fresh autumn air, etc. This type of rationalized procrastination kills creativity. “Getting ready” if kept in check can prime the subconscious pump for writing better prose, but more likely, it will just get more chores done. Our late, dear friend Don called getting ready for what it was—dithering. Joyce Carol Oates probably never dithers. I don’t want to give you a “dither in disguise” writing prompt, so instead I suggest:

-Visualize or write down first thing in the morning what you will do or complete that day given your other responsibilities. Time does not equal output. It’s better to write three pages than to write for three hours.

-Write whether you’re happy or grumpy. Your best work may happen in spite of your mood. Don’t wait for the flow, make it happen by committing to write. Being “in the mood” is highly overrated. If you don’t believe me, try this:

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Check in with how you feel. Listen to the quiet hum of your heart. Observe with detachment all internal and external sensations. Sit in stillness. Open your eyes and write. If nothing comes to mind, write in rich detail a slice of your day, about a special meal, or a dialogue between yourself and a character in your head. Reward yourself after you’re done.


About sheilaklewis

As a writing coach, meditation teacher, writer, and academic tutor, I'm passionate about words and the silent spaces between words. In this context, I run book clubs and writers' groups where the resonance of carefully crafted words can spark readers and writers to share their own stories. Connecting through conversation; making memories matter; embracing editing and revision, and imaginative wordplay are some solo and collective outcomes. I came to what I call my "Meditate Write Now" practice after years of art-making, writing grants, curriculum, children's stories, and more. Meditation kept my mind from meandering too far off point and also led me to write from the still point within. May our paths cross in creative journeys across time and internet connections! Other details: My husband and I are the parents of two amazing sons and one daughter-in-law, and smitten grandparents of Micah (born December, 2013). I don't drive, and have lived in the same apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for too long.
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13 Responses to Free Write Friday: Stop Getting Ready!

  1. reikiforlife says:

    Great, Sheila. I have some characters to dialogue with (like a recently discovered grandmother). I’ve discovered that my connections are vertical as much as horizontal (beings on other planes).
    Thanks for the tips to enliven my Friday.

  2. Rivka says:

    Sounds a lot like most of my Fridays. Here’s another technique, albeit less contemplative, to get the “flow” going — to paraphrase the poet Mallarme, it’s the blankness of the paper (or the screen) that is intimidating. So mess up the paper or screen. Write “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” until your brain tells your hand to that it’s time to write something real.

    • sheilaklewis says:

      I love Rivka’s idea to mess up the page or screen. Hand moving across page is a great mantra for us all. Thanks!

    • sheilaklewis says:

      I also get that this is contrary to teacher fussiness about pristine pages, very freeing.

      • gmarten says:

        I’m a teacher, and one of the worst blocks to my students’ writing is some notion they carried over from high school that the presentation needed to be perfect in terms of ink on paper. Really, though, crossings out and changes show a writer at work. Still, it seems that we write (or don’t write) to some unseen judgmental observer, which is our own interior block. For those who write on computers, that observer can often be silenced by blanking the screen.

      • sheilaklewis says:

        I wonder if at some point schools will ban paper, like they are beginning to ban books and are
        replacing textbooks with technology. Then the problem of messy scribbles will disappear. Good luck, Gina.

  3. Judy says:

    Hi Sheila. Great piece. I have a blog too though I don’t think it’s set up as well as yours. I see you’re using word press. So am I. But I don’t know how to spread the word. Help? Check out

    • sheilaklewis says:

      Hi Judy. Yes, I will check out your blog! I am no expert at this, but I did get onto wordpress and followed all the simplest prompts, and when I get stuck asked people more savvy than I am. I have yet to learn how to import photos, etc. They give a selection of templates to use so I just picked one that seemed the best. Meantime, everyone, check out Judy’s great sounding blog weaningthe20something. (How about 30 something??). The best way to write is to write in a word document then cut and paste it into their boxes, and you can edit stuff before you hit the “publish” button so you don’t post anything with glaring mistakes. Be well!

    • sheilaklewis says:

      one other thing, send an email announcement to your contact list, post on facebook etc.

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