Stop Writing. Right Now!

what happens when you dont write person-731165_960_720Between 2011 and 2017 I wrote and published seven books. I’m not a fast writer, in fact compared to many authors I write quite slowly. I ponder and I stare out of windows. Then, I write and I rewrite. In fact, my methodology is to start over at the beginning of my work-in-progress each time I sit down to write. I know, it’s masochistic, but it’s what I do.

During those years, writing became an almost daily part of my life. I even quit my day job for a short period of time to write full-time. When that didn’t go as planned and I went back to the daily grind, I still managed to put some words together and create some books. I’d put in my eight-hour days at the office and I’d write on days off and evenings. It worked out fine. Then, last year I stopped writing. No more fiction. No more made-up stories spilling from my head onto the paper. I just stopped.

I was going to tell you that it wasn’t by design, but I suppose in a way it was. I built a small online business that requires me to put hours in daily sitting in front of a computer. Not just some evenings and weekends, but every day. This online business requires me to get up at 4 a.m. five days a week, plus I still have my day job. So, there’s no time left to write.

I want to tell you how that feels.

I didn’t include it, but picture a blank page after the last paragraph. Then another blank page and another and another. That’s what eventually happens. At first you have grand intentions and still wake up in the middle of the night and jot down your ideas in your notebook hoping to expand on them when you’re awake. But, what happens if you don’t have the time? The idea remains, but the urgency that comes from having that creative burst dwindles, and, it’s harder to fill in the spaces and move out from the idea. So, you keep working on your other projects. And, you don’t write.

This went on for over a year. I have been so engrossed with my online business and day job and of course trying to live a full life in between those things that writing ended. The ideas were dismissed before they even became structured thoughts. I thought this was okay because the priority this year has been to build the other business. And, there have been rewards from doing that, but something happened recently. I had an epiphany of sorts a few weeks ago. I received an email from a reader who said one of my books was her favorite summer read. My ego responded and I pulled up the book on Amazon and read the blurb. The blurb included a short section of the work. I liked reading it. The words are ageing well. And, like a long-ago girlfriend who I’m not allowed to talk to anymore, or a favorite food that my diet won’t allow (I have neither of those things, but let’s imagine), I felt a pang of longing, a real sadness that she, I mean, writing, wasn’t part of my life anymore.

I fixed it, of course. I wrote a little section and added to a long-ago draft that I’d put aside. And, I partially outlined (a new process for me), where I’m going next with the story. I didn’t feel fulfilled. In fact, it scares me when I think of all the work that’s ahead of me to see the story through (writers will relate to this), but I did feel better. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Writers need to write. Disregard the title of this piece. If you need to stop writing do so only briefly. Then, get back at it. I’ve shuffled my schedule slightly and have a little time to write now and I hope to open that little time up to a larger time in the future. And, then one more little thing will be right in the world. Keep writing, you’ll feel better.

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the administrator of BookDoggy.com and writer of seven published novels. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. You can learn more about Martin on his Amazon author page.

22 thoughts on “Stop Writing. Right Now!”

  1. I’m laughing as I read this, Martin, because not two weeks ago (!), I e-mailed my Webmaster, saying I was “hanging it up” . . . that the game wasn’t worth the candle. Come October 5th, I’ll be releasing the last of eight books published this year in my Flash Fiction Anthology Series, each book containing 73 stories. Frankly, I’m beat!

    It’s not the writing; I love that part. What’s depressing is the endless quest for sales, reviews, and a modicum of recognition at some level—even locally, through interviews with local newspapers, for example—that would, at the least, provide validation for all the time and effort spent in creating and bringing these and other books to market.

    But then, it struck me. Over the past few months, while the last few books in my anthology series simmered on the back burner, I had participated in a number of short story and flash fiction competitions, some international in scope. What to do with those stories? So yesterday—YESTERDAY—I gathered and stuffed them into my anthology template, first entries in what now will be my next anthology, Mementos, which is scheduled for release sometime in 2019.

    Writers gotta write!

    1. It’s not just the energy needed to promote but also the time required to keep abreast of how and where to promote. To some, the process seems so specific that you need to wear the correct color of socks, advertise only on a certain day of the week, do not eat cheese the night before, and then, submit to BookBub. For now, I’ll just write and worry about what to do with it once I’m finished. As you say, it’s the writing that’s the satisfying part. Good luck with all of your publications!

  2. I understand the conflicted feelings. And I am a much slower writer than you, precisely because I have a life outside of writing and age leaves me with a lot less energy that I used to have. I have had periods where other things took precedence for a while. Yes, it’s scary to get back but I can tell everyone that it is possible. The brain will remember how.

    1. I guess that’s true, isn’t it. Once you’re in the groove again your mind remembers it and I think appreciates it too. And, when that life thing gets in the way we’re still accumulating stories in our head. Thanks Yvonne.

  3. Ah, Martin, this post resonated so much! I’ve done a lot of writing since the end of 2016, but none of it has been fiction. I’ve been writing how-to books in the hope that I’ll be able to use them to run classes, paying classes. I’m a good teacher but…I miss the fiction so much. Worse, I’m scared that the ideas will never come back.

    I wish you all the best in all your ventures, but most of all in the ‘real’ writing. Make time. 🙂

  4. Boy oh boy, this article is going to strike so many chords…as I waved good bye to guests this afternoon, one of whom I hadn’t seen for 40 (yes that’s four zero) years I thought–right, this time ‘THE END’ is really the end, once the latest book is finished (soon!) –That Is It, no more writing, no more gruelling work schedules, I am going to Live! I am going to do…well I’m going to do so many things I must make a list. Sitting down to write said list I noticed an email had popped into my box “New Post: ‘Stop Writing. Right Now!” I’ve finished reading, finished laughing, and can now say ‘Thank you Martin for a gripping post and for reminding the afflicted what this writing bug is all about.’

  5. Martin, I can totally relate. Over the 40+ years that I have been writing novels, I have had long dry periods. Not days, not weeks, not months, but years. Several times I have thought I was done because the ideas were just not coming. However, long story short, the dry period ends. Thankfully. The only time I wasn’t genuinely worried about it was when I was in therapy for almost 2 years, and I knew all my energy was going to my inner healing, leaving nothing for story ideas. Nowadays, for whatever reason, it seems I can’t get away from story ideas; I’ve just published my 8th book this year! It’s funny; our craft, our art, is such an ephemeral thing, it can’t be governed, it can’t be hurried and it can’t be stopped–unless it is. While “normal” people bend their work to their will, our wills are bent by our work. But you know what? I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love what we do. It’s truly magical.

    1. I’m very glad that I wrote this post, Melissa. And, I appreciate your comment because it reminds me that we don’t just have writing in common, it’s more than that. Although we’re all different, that imbalance/balance in our heads is part of who we are. I read your comment and just kept nodding. Other than the part about eight books in a year. Can’t and won’t ever be able to relate to that. Good for you though!

  6. Very nice piece, Martin. It can be so hard to strike a balance. Sometimes the teeter totter thumps completely to the ground.

    Eventually, we find the push again, though, and that balance can be restored.

    Glad you’re writing again. The world is always a bit more vibrant when I am seeing it through my writer’s eyes.

  7. Lovely to hear you’re writing again. I noticed you were missing in the writer world. I wasn’t getting any mention of posts by you on Facebook or elsewhere. Glad you’re back.

    You’ve been a great inspiration to me and a big help when I was starting out. You have so much to offer. I still remember sitting next to you during the American Idol contest at the Surrey International Writers Conference and then you won it. And you reacted with such aplomb. 🙂

    Sending you a hug.

    1. No matter what happens to me from here on in I will always remember Jack Whyte, with his steady Scots accent, reading a whole page of my work to a roomful of writers. I was shaking. And, I got to meet you. Good to hear from you, Diana.

  8. What an interesting post, Martin. A lot of, especially indie, writers are feeling worn out by the whole process, mainly because of the hassle of marketing. Everybody needs to recharge sometimes, and that may well be done by immersing oneself in something completely different.

    I have certain stories I want to tell. When I have told those, will others be clamouring in my head, or will that be enough and I will stop writing? Perhaps I will start painting, or potting, or become a knitting bomber, or go into local politics [shudders]. Well, perhaps not that last one.

    We have a play over here called ‘The Habit of Art’. I don’t know if it’s ever been on in the States? It’s just been revived, which is why it’s on my mind. It imagines a conversation (which never actually took place) between W H Auden and Benjamin Britten, in which Auden bemoans how all he has left is the ‘habit of art’ – he has nothing left to say but still goes to his desk each morning to search his idea pockets for words to string together. Britten, being younger, finds this hard to understand. I guess the trick for writers is to know when the well is dry. Also, of course, to know when it has filled up again.

    1. Interesting! I’m watching a movie right now, in short segments due to my crazy schedule, I think it’s an Italian film. In it, the writer is searching for truth and he starts messing with his neighbors’ lives in order to create stories. Tripping over the fiction is truth conversation and certainly helps him refill his well. I’ll keep my eyes open for that play, it’s sounds super interesting.

  9. How fortuitous I happened to come across your piece, Martin, at this point in my life. I am a writer but for the past year I have found a zillion other (and most worthy) projects to pursue, mostly with family and travel. I keep saying to myself…tomorrow, I’ll get serious and get back to my writing…but tomorrow never comes. So thank you for this confession. Tonight I will start writing again…enter a contest…anything…but just write.

  10. Great article Martin! I have said I quit writing and publishing books b/c it was too expensive. But, to tell the truth, I haven’t been able to write since my father died.

  11. What a wonderful explanation Martin. I have loved your books and always hope you will write more, but remember Margaret Mitchell only wrote one. I believe most of your fans will understand what happened but will always welcome any new book you may write. I also think you have been a great friend to your readers, me too. We have gotten to know YOU, not just 6our books, a rare privelege. Thank you Marty. Glad you have your flow back.

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