On Writing,  publishing

Protecting Choice

When You Decide to Not Write and That’s Fine…

I can name a number of major events in a person’s life that will make then flat decide to not think about going to a computer to write fiction. Valid reasons to not write.

— Health

— Family Health or Event

— Some forms of Travel

— Day Job Explosion Outside of Norm

— And so on and so on… down into smaller and smaller reasons.

There is a point that all of us look at why we are not writing at a given point of time and try to decide if the reason is fear or a valid reason. We talk about that here a lot. Almost always based around fear.

But there is another reason that is just as valid to not write: Protection of the Writing.

Our fiction writing, if done correctly, is a place we escape to, a place we want to retreat to after a hard day. Or before we start a hard day.

The worlds we create are comforting and challenging in the same breath, as are the characters in our worlds.

The stress of creation is a fun stress.

A few weeks back a neighbor and friend died in a house I used to own and that Kris and I had sold to her. Her sister helped my friend through the death, but wanted nothing much to do with the house or the massive amount of hoarding my friend had done.

So in exchange for what I could find to sell in our stories, I paid for all the work and did a lot of the work myself to clear the house. Yesterday I spent most of the day with the auction guy. I was packing stuff and he was moving furniture to his truck.

Also over the last week or so I was doing a lot of basic business banking work with people who needed to talk to me in the middle of my nights. And working on a ton of workshop stuff. Some really fun stuff, some reading for the coming workshop here on the coast.

At first I thought I might be able to write through it all, but quickly came to realize that wasn’t going to be possible and keep the writing fun and sane.

So I protected my writing.

I shut off my writing computer, patted it and said, “I’ll be back.” (Without the Arnold accent…)

Then I turned my focus to the work that needed to be done without a guilty thought about the writing. Not one.

I put no baggage or guilt on my writing because I couldn’t do it. (Something I hear writers doing all the time.)

So I got the house done, got the workshop stuff done, got meetings with WMG done, got banking done, and now today, except for a meeting, I took the day off with Kris to just watch movies.

Tomorrow I am looking forward with excitement now on getting back to the novel I was working on.

I protected my writing by being aware that trying to push the writing during the last week or so would have hurt the writing and gotten nothing done anyway.

So when something happens, step back and ask yourself if the writing is possible, if so, how much, and if not, when can you return?

Make the choice to protect the fun in the writing. You will be very glad you did.


  • Sheila

    Thanks for this, Dean. I wish I’d had it five years ago, when first my mother and then my father got sick. My youngest son was having issues, and then my own health went south. Those three years were so hard!

    I pushed myself to keep writing, though I was so stressed out I couldn’t even think straight. I published a book that wasn’t ready, tried to fix it, and now hate it so much I can’t bring myself to finish the series. (Hoping I can get past that.)

    If I’d been smarter, I would have taken a break until things leveled out, but I was locked into the idea that I had to write no matter how bad life was, that I was a failure every day I didn’t follow my plot (I told you I was messed up) and get those words out.

    The effects of those years are still with me. The only thing that saved my writing was reading your blog — especially the writing into the dark series of posts — and accepting that tough stuff happens, and sometimes you just have to roll with it. Never giving up the writing plan, just dealing with life first. But, I’m forging on, trying not to focus on the fewer years I have left (got a birthday next week, and feeling down about it, except, I’m still kicking, so wooooo!) and instead telling the stories. Cause that’s fun!

  • Leah Cutter

    Wise words, Dean. Due to my chronic health issues, I’ve been trying to do this much more now. To be happy with whatever words I get when I’m not well, and not feel guilty. To accept that somedays there just aren’t words and not beat myself up about it later. To focus on the words when I am well, putting butt in chair and fingers on keyboard. It’s not always easy, but I am trying every day to be better.

  • Lee McAulay

    Spot on; thank you. Even when not writing fiction, the words still come to me – to be kept in a journal or diary, recording disruptive life events as they pass by and leave experience in their wake. Sometimes all we can do in life is: live.

  • Anthony St. Clair

    Yup. Currently I write every day, but I remind myself that if I need it I can take a day off. Last major break I took was when my second child was born. I finished rough draft of the first act of my fourth book, then about a day later welcomed my daughter. It was 2 months before I got back to the MS. But I got to bond with my little one, help my son adapt to the new dynamic, and be there for my wife as she recovered. When the time was right I got back to the book.

  • Thomas E

    I guess at the moment I’m not writing enough to become a professional fiction writer. I’m doing a full time job and a university degree that will help me become a full time salaried technical writer.

    After the degree finishes I plan to resume writing in earnest… nonfiction.

    That’s fine. My decision. I’m an amateur fiction writer who only writes when he wants to. And taking the pressure off means it is becoming fun again.