I feel guilty when I'm not writing or haven't written in a few days, when life's to-do list gets really long and my notebook sits unopened. I'd love to be one of the people who sits down and writes every day for an hour, but I know that somedays it simply can't happen. I have come to realize though, that even when I'm not writing, I am. Let me explain...
I write in my head constantly, trying out new first lines and ways to phrase things. When I think I have it, I'll scribble it down or more often, open up a new note on my phone. Oftentimes it hits me when I'm driving that I finally got something the way I want it and I can use the voice commands in the car to keep track of my ideas. Right now, I'm laughing to myself if someone else ever looks at the notes in my phone as they might seem to be the ramblings of a crazy person.
I listen to writing podcasts while driving or folding laundry or cooking dinner. If you're not already check out, Fuse 8 n' Kate's podcast or Matthew Winner's All the Wonders or Jennifer Laughran's Literaticast or the Yarn with Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker. Hearing authors and illustrators breakdown their process makes me better writer (and teacher). I can multitask and check the things off my to do list and make myself a better writer by learning from the experts.
I observe. I watch my own children. I pay attention to kids when I'm out and about. When I get the chance to work in classrooms, I notice how kids process and explore. What are they doing? How are they interacting with their world? What phrases did they use that I can steal or that might inspire an idea or character or title?
I read. I read out loud to my children, letting the words of other writers fill up my soul. I marvel at how others have found the perfect word, the perfect phrase, the perfect image for the emotion they are trying convey. While I focus on writing picture books and early readers, I read books that don't fit into that genre too. I always tell teachers and students that good writing is good writing, it doesn't matter where it's coming from. Reading helps me be a better writer.
I research. If there is a children's section or children's books in a store, I find them. And pause, even if it's just for a moment to see what's out there. I touch the covers of favorites and smile. I flip through a new title I've heard buzz about. I open up books I normally wouldn't be drawn to see what they've done and how they are pushing the boundaries of children's literature. What books is a place like Target carrying? What does my local bookstore have on display?
I connect. I follow writers and illustrators on Twitter and Instagram. I follow their process and their little insights that are dropped like breadcrumbs through the digital woods. If I'm killing time on the Internet for a few minutes, there are the authors and illustrators in my feeds, subtly giving me things to chew on.
So even though, when I am not actively writing, I am. And you are too.
What ways have you found to write when you are not writing?