Every writer knows that one of the hardest parts of the job is finding the time (or forcing the time) to write everything that’s been sitting in your head, that you’ve been just dying to get out. Unfortunately, the thing about life is it gets in the way. Between classes and work, family and friends, how is there time to do anything? Most writers will agree that they write because they need to. It goes beyond the excitement of crafting the right words and nailing the next part of the story. So how can it be that we call ourselves writers and sometimes go weeks at a time without putting anything on the page?
Luckily, there is much more to being a writer than actually, you know, writing. Although the actual pen to paper (or typing to screen) phenomenon is what actually defines the experience, there is way more to writing than just getting it down on the page. Sure, that part is important, but not necessarily the most important.
Sometimes, a writer will sit in front of the screen and the words will just flow. We’ve all felt it. But more than ever, I’m sure what we’ve felt was staring at a blank screen, willing for the right words to appear but suddenly forgetting all our vocabulary. That makes this first step just as essential to the actual writing. It is also something you can do any time of day, no matter where you are or what you’re otherwise occupied with.
So, what is this magical step I speak of? I call it: writing in your mind.
A quick definition: it’s simply letting your imagination run wild. When you get that idea, that spark, and your mind runs with it. But to a writer, it is so much more than imagination. Writing in your mind could be outlining your story, thinking about a character, and plotting a scene before you get to the computer to unleash it all. The best part about it is, there is no excuse not to write. You can be doing laundry and have your mind explore magical worlds.
You can be eating dinner and think of the perfect part to add to your personal essay. Or you can be trying to fall asleep and be lost in an endless romance with a mystery figure you just have to figure out.
Writer’s guilt, that feeling we get when we know we’ve neglected our story for just too long, is a frustrating feeling that can make us writers feel like failures. I think if we can acknowledge that we write every day in our minds, we can avoid this. If we view our imaginations and thoughts about our writing as part of the writing process itself, and even a necessary part, we can say we are fitting writing into our lives every day. After all, there’s no choice; it’s just something we have to do. The writing, and then editing, is part of the battle, but not that first step into the field.
Savoring good words that we see in books we love and coming up with new realizations about characters is as much a part of writing as what we’ve come to think of it. Even if all we are doing is visiting an old scene, trying to relive it again and again, there is room for more to be discovered, and more to add. When you start to forget a scene, that’s when you’ll be forced to write it down, no matter what’s going on.
Maybe this time, there won’t be a blank screen. This time, you’ll know exactly what’s supposed to happen.
About the Author: Mollye Oze is an English/History major, obsessed with all things literary. When not reading and writing, you can find her binging Netflix, spending time with her fiancé, and attempting to stay social while social distancing.