Five Ways to Write When You’re Not Writing

No Bitch, Ok! For Me.

There’s a great story behind why I made this list. Also, the whole Bitch, Ok! thing will make more sense. You can read it by expanding the section below or just go straight to the list.

[dropdown_box expand_text=”The Story” show_more=”Read” show_less=”Lose” start=”hide”]I got a new car.  It has an MP3 player.  I missed that.  275 songs.  1 disc.  I heart you, technology.

So, last week, for the first time (for some crazy reason) I was actually alone.  For several hours.  In my car.  With the Mp3s.  And the characters in my head.  In my imagination.  Except it’s not really quite your imagination when your characters and the end of your book and the way to make it The Story It’s Supposed To Be comes crashing through your brain like a spider monkey on crack.  I don’t know what it is, or who it is, or why it is.  I just know it is.

How much writing takes place at your desk?  You know, BICHOK.  I mean, I love the acronym, because it’s almost Bitch, Ok!  (For those who have no clue, and it’s okay, I don’t think it’s quite as catchy as “LOL”, it stands for “Butt in Chair, hands on keyboard.)

I’ve come to realize, for me, not a lot.  I mean, sure.  If I’ve stored up all that time with the music, in the car, scribbling like an idiot while trying to drive (note to self: buy digital recorder.  And lower insurance deductible.), or sitting outside with the sounds of nothingness–trees swaying and dogs barking distantly and children laughing–with a notebook on my lap and nowhere to be and nothing to be done.  After that, after that I can write like it’s my job.  Which it would be, if I ever got paid to do it.  But that’s the distinction: I don’t, but I can.  Write like it’s my job, I guess that’s the distinction.  That part may be irrelevant.

In that spirit, I present to you ten ways to write when you’re not writing:

This list got long, so I’m breaking it up.  Five this week, five next week.[/dropdown_box]

Five Ways to Write When You’re Not Writing

  1. Go sit in a graveyard.  No seriously.  If sitting there makes you feel creepy (and I know this happens, you worry the real family will show up and ask what the hell you’re doing) then walk around.  Look at the names.  Think about what you can tell about a person from their grave.  Do they have fresh flowers or plastic ones or old dead, wilted ones?  Is there an inscription on the stone?  Were they beloved by anyone?  Is the tombstone shaped like a guitar or a heart?  Who were all of these people?
  2. Go stay in a cheap hotel room, by yourself, in a town you’re not terribly familiar with.  You can take a notebook and pen.  You can take your ipod or similar device.  You may not take your laptop, especially if said hotel offers free wifi.  Take a walk (if you feel safe) or a drive (if you don’t).  Take a long shower.  Look out the window.  Eavesdrop on the people walking around in the hallway.  Go sit in the bar, if they’ve got one.  Don’t feel weird, you’re not alone–you’ve got your notebook.  Order one drink–no more–and write down what you see and hear.
  3. Go to a department store, preferably a busy one.  Park as close as you can to the front.  It doesn’t matter if you drive around for thirty minutes, waiting for a primo spot.  You’ve got your tunes, remember?  Now, once you park, watch.  People go in, they come out.  Look at what they’re carrying, read their body language.  Are they in a hurry?  Arguing?  Harrassed by three demanding children?  (That’d be me.  Don’t wave, I’ll think you’re a freak.) Make up stories, in your head (duh) about the people you see.  About their lives, or why they’re buying what they bought, or what they want, or where they just came from, or what they do for a living.
  4. Go to any restaurant and buy a cup of coffee.  If you’re hungry, it’s okay to buy food, but only if you take your time and enjoy the meal.  Take a notebook.  Write down what you hear, smell, taste, and touch.  Don’t write what you see, seeing comes too easily, sometimes.
  5. Find someplace you feel safe at night.  It might be your front porch or balcony, an empty park.  Hell, park across the street from the police station.  Roll down your window (this is why we want safe).  Listen.  Just listen.  Now, focus on one thing you can see.  A street lamp?  A fence post?  A cop car?  Doesn’t matter to me, doesn’t even matter to you, the people in your head will take over.  Now make up a scenario.

Yeah, sure, someone got arrested.  Wow.  I haven’t seen that a thousand times.

No.  Make up a scenario, make a scene.  I want character names.  I want dialogue.  I want backstory.  Just what you need for your scene.  You don’t have to write it down, if you don’t want to, just let it play through your mind.

Want More?

Read five more ways to write when you’re not writing.


  1. Good stuff, all!

    I hate those writers that always maintain that a writer writes, no matter what, inspiration or no inspiration, and that anyone else is kidding themselves. Which is mostly horseshit, they’re the minority. One of my favourite authors, also a highly successful editor, hated writing. The only way he got anything done was to forbid himself anything until he wrote an entire page that day. Every day. That works for me, too.

    Not too sure if BICHOK will catch on. Certainly not in the same way NMFP has around here.

  2. Not My Fucking Problem.

  3. Great take on the technique, I’ve never come across it this way before

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