Don't put writing on your to-do list.


I’m writing this to you from the Calgary airport. I’m going to be boarding a flight to Toronto soon. I’ve just finished a two-week writing retreat at the Banff Centre of the Arts.

I’m excited to come home. I miss Ryan, our barn, and summer in Prince Edward County, but I’m sad to leave my little writing studio. In "The Valentine Studio” (<3) I wrote, ruminated, drank countless cups of Bengal Spice tea, played Ane Brun on repeat, and stuck Post-it notes all over the walls as I worked out my story points. I’ve been in a bubble for two weeks. My book and I had a romantic getaway together. We made magic happen.

I know it won’t be the same when I go home.

In my real life, I don’t make six hours every day to devote to my novel. I make a little time in the morning, if I wake up early enough.

Going away for a writing retreat is AMAZING. It’s luxurious. It’s heady, exciting, and dreamy.

But here’s the truth:

I’ve written most of my novel in tiny chunks of regular time, an hour or two each morning.

Writing every day is an intention. I don’t write every single morning, but I do aspire to it.

Writing every day shows your creative mind that you are committed, and that it can trust you. Life on the physical plane can crowd out your solitary creative time — that’s just what life does.

Having a full life should not change your love for writing.

Your writing isn’t a “task.” You’re in a relationship, remember? Your writing is not a grind — it’s a gift.

The point is to try to write creatively every day, not to add another chore to your never-ending to-do list.  

If writing starts to feel like something you have to do, here is some advice:

Remember that you love writing.

Writing is fun for you! You are allowed to enjoy it. Writing is a break from your normal routine. It’s a chance to take your creative self on a little date once a day. This isn’t about agony - it’s about joy.

Write for ten minutes. That's it. (I recommend using a writing prompt.)

Give yourself a chance to step through a secret portal once a day, a place where the usual rules of life don't apply.

Permit yourself to be in creative freefall, and to invite magic.

You're in a boat. Let your writing practice be your anchor, and let the writing prompt be the weather.

Tomorrow, set a timer for ten minutes, open your notebook, and begin writing by hand.

Write whatever comes to you. Enjoy writing it. Make note of how it feels to move your pen over the paper. Allow this to feel pleasurable! Hang out there, in the pleasure of drawing letters.

Then close your notebook.

Do not re-read what you just wrote. I repeat: do not read it. Instead, feel what it feels like to have written something. Don’t open your notebook until the next morning, when it's time to write for ten minutes again. Repeat this exercise for at least another 20 days. Allow yourself to savour the feeling of the writing itself, not the results.

Your writing practice is not about results. It's about your state of mind.

(I know it might feel impossible to close your notebook without reading your writing. This will shift after a few days.)

Trust me. Try it.

Yours in freefall,

Sarah” width=

Author spotlight: Diana Radovan.
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Kristin Offiler

Love this, Sarah. I'm taking next week off and my plan is to spend the majority of my time having a staycation with my novel (with a day at the beach with my friends mixed in). But you're so right - the majority of my output happens in the evenings or, most often, on the weekends. I'm looking forward to 9 days where writing is my main focus, but 99% of my novel's progress happened in small chunks on a daily basis. I think that's something for all writers to remember - even if it's "only" 10 minutes, it DOES add up. Do it regularly and it adds up. It all counts.
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Susan Papov

Thank you so much for going away to the Banff Centre for the Arts Sarah. Greedily, I await your next creation, Do you have any leftover post it notes? Because, I agree with you about the dedication to write on a daily basis. I have considered painting my walls with chalkboard paint. The act of sitting down doesn't always come in big gusts, but small ones. Seeing something, feeling or remembering. The weird thing that I do is purposefully remove writing from my options, for a day or so or I would burst. Live in the world of the writer without writing. Just a bit or a lot.
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Sue Stevenson

This reminds me of the story Clarissa Pinkola Estes told about the old tired man in the woods who comes upon an old woman's cottage in the forest. He is so old and tired he's near death. The old woman takes him on her knee in her rocking chair by the firr and rocks him all night. As the hours pass the old man grows younger and younger until by dawn he is a young man with golden hair. The old woman plucks three hairs from his head and throws them to the floor where they go tiiiiiiing! when they hit the tiles. She keeps rocking. By morning he is a young boy. He jumps off the old woman's lap, runs to the door, jumps up into the sky and becomes the sun. Clarissa says, "Take three hairs out of your endeavor and throw them to the ground. There they become like a wake-up call. Throwing them down makes a psychic noise, a chime, a resonance in the woman's spirit that causes activity to occur again. The sound of some of one's many ideas falling away becomes like an announcement of a new era or a new opportunity."
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John Paterson

Hi Sarah. Welcome to Alberta! I grew up in Lethbridge, 120 km south of Calgary and I fly in and out of Calgary frequently. Banff is indeed a beautiful place. Thanks for your tips on writing. I try to write every morning and succeed most days. My window looks into my back yard full of large trees - Douglas Fir, Arbutus and Maple. My cherry tree is directly in front, and it's a treat to watch it change with the seasons. This morning I harvested a bountiful crop - before the birds and squirrels could get to them. Anyway. Thanks for the writing tips.
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What a beautiful reminder. Yes, writing is a relationship! I find that if I nurture my writing-by giving it love, energy, time, space- it nurtures me in return. That is the real gift. I appreciate your voice and your gentle coaxing. Now, I'm off to set a 10 minute timer. :-) Thanks again.
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Stephen D. Forman

You’re in a boat. Let your writing practice be your anchor, and let the writing prompt be the weather. May your pen be the sails, the notepaper be the rudder. Let your inkwell be the bow, and your cup of tea be the oars. Let your journal be a life preserver, and an aromatherapy candle be a mandatory safety drill. Let the whitecaps be your dreams, and fish & chips be your inspiration. You're in a boat. // sorry, creative freefall : )
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