Not Writing?

I have an idea for a book, or a course, to write. It can eventually become a self-paced online course, or a book with practical/reflective tasks, or both. In fact, the post here is not about the idea for that ‘something’. It is about not writing it.

I recently realized how my process of the actual writing depends on what others think. I caught myself creating a list of people I (should?) need to contact, and the specific questions to ask them (about the process of writing, about the topic/theme for this project, about the potential audience, ‘would you read it’ kind of questions, etc.) On the one hand, this might be seen as a preparation stage for the writing itself. On the other hand, I noticed that I am feeling much more comfortable doing this ‘preparation’ instead of the actual writing, or putting the content of the project on paper. It’s all in my head, and I am savouring the moment of anticipating how I will be putting it together. Well, instead of the actual ‘doing’ it!

Is this the habit (the ‘curse’?) of student-centered-ness in the classroom? Of participant-centered-ness on a course? How can I start writing what I actually think if I am constantly looking back and thinking what others might add/comment/ask?

Am I afraid that the result would not be perfect? (wow, is there anything, literally anything, perfect?) Am I simply procrastinating (and looking for more and more excuses not to start)? Writing this post is a good example 🙂

Reflective Bench

A possible solution I see: treating the project as a draft, an ‘A-version’, something to later edit and build on. You can’t improve a blank page (again, these words of wisdom are not mine, which means there were others struggling with the same problem, or at least thinking about it). I am in the process of drawing a line between the ‘what’ (the content) and the rest.

I would like to start writing for content, for meaning. Writing being aware that even if no-one would ever read the result, it is worth writing right now (yes, from my subjective point of view). I need to stop thinking about the ambition and the reaction, the response others might have towards the words I am putting on paper. Shifting the focus on the process, rather than results, is probably one way to see it.

It is all about courage to show up and do the work. This TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert was inspiring and powerful, and found me at the right time, it seems.

Thank you for reading 🙂

About Zhenya

teacher educator, evidence-based instruction trainer, PD Coach
This entry was posted in Learning Thoughts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Not Writing?

  1. Marc says:

    I also have an idea that I am not writing, more time-related than anything.

    Outline then “shitty first draft” (Anne Lamott) then have a serious look after you have put it away.


  2. Wilma Luth says:

    Oh, this is great, Zhenya! Very interested in what your idea is. And what Marc said, outline it and then write that first draft. And definitely just to get the content & ideas down. Don’t try to make it “perfect” too soon. Doing that kind of paralyzed me for awhile. Go for it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Zhenya says:

      I was just thinking about you Wilma when writing this post! Thank you for the comment and for the encouragement, and for the tip re content + ideas first, and all the rest later. Too early (or never?) for ‘perfect’ 🙂 E-mail will be going your way very soon! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chuck Sandy says:

    Excellent post! The only way to be a writer is to write and the only way to write is for yourself and by yourself.
    My advise : turn off social media while writing and don’t tell anyone you’re writing a book. Share that 1st draft only when you’re done or stuck. Then share that with people who don’t love you but like you just enough to do you the favor of reading and commenting. Meanwhile, writing about not writing is writing. 😉


    • Zhenya says:

      Dear Chuck

      Thank you for reading, and for leaving your warm encouraging comment. This means a lot to me! The tips you shared are very good, especially the one about sharing the first draft with the people who would give genuine feedback. In order to do that, there needs be a draft! 🙂

      P.S. I hope I could join your Creative Writing course on iTDI in the future.


  4. Chewie says:

    It seems to me that you’re considering your audience. This “not writing” that you speak of sounds more like pre-writing because you’re wondering about how different people would perceive your work. I can appreciate the empathy there because I’ve done the same thing. There have been many times when I’d started writing something, gotten stuck, and ended up writing to an old friend (or friends) about how I was trying to write X and wanted to say Y, but something didn’t sound right. And just after I’d write the email, I’d think, yes, that was it…just change the wording a bit and write THAT in X. Sometimes changing the perspective or changing the audience can help the words come out.

    And thank you, Marc, for mentioning the “shitty first draft.” Anne Lamott knows something.


    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Chewie

      Thank you very much for the supporting comment, and sharing how you approach(ed) writing tasks/projects yourself. Indeed, this pre-writing conversation is a great ‘warm-up’ for me to put some thoughts together, and perhaps to ‘test waters’ on how interesting the idea might be. Also, ‘writing about not writing’ was a helpful way to basically begin. And I am totally with you about Anne Lamott’s ideas – a fan of her books 🙂

      Thank you for re-blogging my other post on your blog. Let’s see where this connection and learning together brings us!


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