How to Legit Skive Off Writing - Five Top Tips!
I know it’s not just me. I know every single writer out there feels this at some point:
“Waaaaaaah! I just don’t want to write today! I’m not feeling it!”
Or similar words thereof. Yes, of course - writing is a passion and I’m super lucky to have it as a job, that goes without saying. But no one can be creative every single day of every single year, it’s just not possible.
I also know that there are plenty of writers out there who’d lambast me for saying such a thing, and there is indeed merit to writing every single day for the rest of your life until death, because it’s a craft and it needs to be constantly practised and honed and perfected. I get that, I really do. But we do write every day - even if it’s a text or a social media post or an email or a to-do list or a spell smeared in blood under the bed of an enemy. That’s all writing. So cut yourself some slack if you haven’t written today, or yesterday, or even for the past week. Chances are, you probably have. You just haven’t written anything in your current WIP, that’s all. And that’s okay. Even writers are allowed a day off, you know.
Besides, there’s more to writing than just writing. So for all you writers out there who feel that gnawing niggle of guilt when you haven’t written in your current WIP for a day or so, here are my top five legit ways of skiving off writing while actually remaining creative and on track with your project.
1. Go shopping for notebooks
Every author in the known universe talks about the importance of carrying a notebook with you everywhere you go. Ideas and inspiration are sneaky little buggers and they always pop up when you least expect them, which is usually when you’re thousands of miles away from pen and paper. I have notebooks all over the house. One by my bed, bunches strewn over my desk, various in different bags. Each WIP has its own dedicated notebook. I have random notebooks for random ideas. You can never have enough notebooks. So go out and buy yourself a whole bunch, it’s a legit skive.
And while you’re shopping, buy yourself a whole bunch of different pens too. I prefer the various-assortment-of-colours style of pen, because I’m a fan of colour-coding stuff. And also just generally writing in different colours. But you do you! Buy a bunch of pens, scatter them all around your house, pockets, bags, car, desk, socks and shoes so there’s always one handy when you need it.
When you’ve finished your stationery shopping, go and treat yourself to a fancy coffee. You deserve it!
2. draw maps
This is particularly useful for fantasy and science fiction writers, whose worlds tend to be bizarre and fascinating and complicated. Having a map to hand is a great way to keep track of all those towns, countries, oceans, floating cities, dragon-infested swamps, lakes of blood and haunted forests that litter your landscapes.
“But Maria,” I hear you cry. “I can’t draw.”
First of all, yes you can. Everyone can draw. We just don’t do it very often, alas. If you can make lines on a piece of paper with a pencil, then you’re drawing.
Second of all, it doesn’t need to be a masterpiece. This is for your eyes only, it’s not going to be published, no one else is going to see it, don’t let your perceived inability stop you.
I’m always drawing maps. It’s the BEST way to skive off writing and it’s totally legit. My characters often go off on vastly long journeys across epic landscapes, and I need to be able to visualise that if I’m going to transcribe it efficiently for my readers. I also went off on a little tangent and bought a book about how to draw fantasy maps, because as it turns out, it’s also a lot of fun and I wanted to get better at it 😁
I don’t think there’s a writer out there who doesn’t do a whole bunch of research before starting (and also during the entire process of writing) their WIP. It’s a completely necessary and hugely important part of writing a book, so don’t feel bad if your entire day has been spent on the internet / in a library / talking to other sentient life forms / reading / designing explosive experiments. Your book will be all the better for it. And then you can have funny conversations with other writers about all the weird and wonderful things you’ve had to look up for your project. Some of mine include:
- Middle Eastern mythical creatures
- Quantum mechanics
- Secret tunnels and passages
- Medieval torture practices
- Old English proverbs
- Japanese monsters
- Magic systems
- Sound waves
- History’s most horrific diseases
- Herbs for healing
I’ve got books and internet searches galore on all sorts of random and fascinating subjects, and even though I never use all my research in a book I’m writing, there’s no such thing as too much knowledge.
So, research - a legit skive. You can’t write a book without it.
4. do sketches of your characters
Just like the maps above, if you’re a fantasy / SF writer and your world is populated with weird and wonderful life forms, sketching out what they look like is a great way to remember what they look like without having to reread your MS a gazillion times to make sure you’ve got every single little detail. Or to make sure that you haven’t added extra details to characters later on in the book that didn’t exist back at the beginning.
Now remember - “I can’t draw” isn’t a valid excuse. What is true is that, if you discover that you’re getting a kick out of drawing, there are loads of resources out there to help you get better. There are some fantastic free tutorials on YouTube, some online courses to buy, and plenty of books that’ll help you fine-tune this new creative endeavour. I’ve done all three. On YouTube I like Alphonso Dunn. I like the Udemy online courses. And I love the How to Draw Fantasy Characters book*.
I’ve discovered that I actually love sketching and doing pen and ink drawings, and it’s a legit way of skiving because it helps me visualise the creatures and people that populate my worlds.
5. go for a hike
Or any exercise that you like doing, really. Moving your butt is a legit skive, because if you don’t have a healthy body you won’t have a healthy mind. I prefer fresh-air exercise, especially hikes, because I live right next to a forest and I love trees. Nature and fresh air helps clear my mind and I’ve often come up with plenty of new ideas, or untied sticky plot knots, while my blood’s pumping round my body and up into my brain.
I also take photos while I’m hiking. There are some weird-looking trees out there, some glorious landscapes, unusual quirks of nature that all help to create a more visual, tangible world if you add those kinds of details to your WIP.
Because I like finding out what things are called, I downloaded an app called Seek to my phone. It uses your phone’s camera, and when you point it at some unknown flora you’ve just come across, it’ll tell you what it is. It’s genius! So not only are you hiking, you’re also researching - two legit skives in one.
So there you have it - my top five legit skives for when you’re just not feeling those words flow. And you’ll find, once you’ve taken a break away from your WIP and let your brain do something else for a while, when you eventually get back to it, those words’ll just flood out.
Happy skiving, writers!
* No, I’m not an affiliate of any of these things, I just happen to like them!