You don't have to write, to be writing

I have already tweeted about the fantastic Creative Penn podcast , which aired last week, in which Joanna Penn talks to Michaelbrent Collings. If you haven’t listened to it, you should. Why? Because Collings makes some points about writing and writer’s block that are fantastically liberating.

Most interestingly, he says that writing doesn’t have to mean sitting down, putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and forming strings of words. Actually, the act of writing and the art of being a writer encompass many things that – to some – might seem like ‘daydreaming’ or ‘procrastinating’ but are actually extremely valid and necessary.

After listening to the podcast last week, I thought back to all the times I have been sitting around not contributing to my word count and feeling as though I am wasting time, or that I must be suffering from writer’s block. And I realised that on each of those occasions, while I may not have been physically producing content, I was still doing things that contributed to the creation of my story. What kind of things am I talking about? There are lots, trust me, but here are the top three:

1. Watching Netflix.


At first glance, this one seems like the biggest pile of rubbish you’ve ever heard. If your other half finds you watching Grey’s Anatomy when you should be ‘writing’, they will probably scoff and tell you to do some real work. But actually, TV and film are fantastic mediums for studying almost every aspect of novel writing. They can help you with:


In Structuring Your Novel, KM Weiland recommends using film to study structure because the form is very similar to that of a novel, but condensed into a quickly digestible 1.5 or 2 hour time slot.


Sometimes, tuning out from thinking about a stumbling block you’re experiencing is the best way to find a solution to it. You’ll be watching something and it will hit you – you'll have an ooh! moment and realise exactly what you need to do/write next. This isn’t the same as copying someone else’s work: you are simply taking inspiration from it.


TV series in particular are great for this because they tend to be quite fast paced. Use them to examine dialogue and become familiar with what sounds natural, and what