Unproductive? That’s okay

I’ve seen lots of posts over the last few months that are all about being productive. Using new freed up time from lack of commutes or being furloughed to create.

But, as we all know, that’s not how creativity works.

The last few months have been stressful. Horrific. Anxiety inducing. Sure, creating can alleviate this stress, give a safe space to pour those emotions into a vat and produce something new. However, creativity cannot remove these stresses completely, nor is it the only tool of self-care that you can carry in your self-care toolkit.

So, this blog post is all about not being productive. How it’s okay to not be productive. And if you struggle, like me, with the lack of productivity, then some ideas to help you still feel like you’re progressing to your writing goals.

You don’t have to write every day.

The first piece of writing advice I see touted around the internet is to set daily word counts and hit it every day. Now, there is some truth in this. Creating a habit around writing does allow you to push thorough those phases of unproductivity.

However, a habit cannot come at the expense of everything else. It’s okay to do other activities – in fact, when you come back to your writing you’ll feel replenished for it.

So what other activities?

Anything! Sure, writing is your passion, but it is not the only thing you find interesting in the world – TV, podcasts, exercise, gardening, caring for pets, volunteering etc. are all positive activities you can do to take your mind off a difficult scene you can’t push past, or provide an easier time-filler when you don’t have the energy to write.

It’s okay to do other activities – in fact, when you come back to your writing you’ll feel replenished for it.

My preference is gardening (as anyone who follow my Instagram can attest). As writing is such a sedentary, inside, hobby for me, getting outside is important. It’s important for my mental health, and important for my creativity. Gardening teaches me to understand the long game, to be patient, and to not rush the process. It teaches me to try new things, and to not worry if things go wrong – they can be fixed easily. It’s a dive in and have a go kind of hobby, and the product of which is you get beautiful flowers and plants as a thank you. Plus, the bees and birds love them, which makes me feel like I’m giving a (small) helping hand to the local ecosystem.

Being productive without writing anything

However, as much as I love getting outside and in the fresh air, there is always the little gremlin that sits on my shoulder that says I should be using my time effectively to create my writing dreams. That I need to write.

But sometimes, I don’t have the energy.

This is where some complementary activities can come in which has a side benefit of helping your writing:

  1. Watch shows or movies that have the same plot-line as your story. I’m currently writing a “Who-Dunnit/Investigation” storyline in my WIP, but I’ve really struggled with the plotting. So I’ve made an effort to watch more shows that have a similar plotline to learn how they lay out the clues before the big reveal.
  2. Read books – any kind of reading is good reading for a writer. Read in your genre and out of your genre, as widely as you possibly can. Look at how other authors have approached their plot, identify what you like and don’t like about their style, and put it in your toolbox to take back to your WIP when you’re ready.
  3. Podcasts – I’ve only recently got into Podcasts. I’ve started with Writing Excuses which can be downloaded on Itunes or Android – they’re short 15-20 minute episodes which are perfect for sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea and cake.

Being productive is not the goal – a book is

One motto I’ve been muttering to myself is that writing a novel is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s the long game, and for the long game, you have to pace yourself. You won’t be able to crank out 150k book, publish it, and become a successful author in a few months. It’ll take years of practise before you get your book to the stage of querying, and that’s okay.

Stepping away from your work is not being unproductive – it’s part of the writing process.

Step away from the computer or the notepad and experience the world around you for a day, a week, a month. Whatever you need to replenish your creative well and come back to your WIP refreshed and ready to give it another go.

writing a novel is a marathon and not a sprint.


Photo Credit – Joshua Gresham on Unsplash



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