14 Things That Aren’t Writing, No Matter How Much You Want Them To Be


Being done with Grub Street’s Novel Incubator is a strange place to be. It’s kind of like being done with law school–sure, you graduated, but you aren’t a lawyer yet, and there’s that whole bar exam thing that is going to ruin your summer and even after that there’s no guarantee that you’ll end up the thing you thought you wanted to be–a lawyer, or a published author.

The nice thing about graduation from law school was that I had no choice but to dive right back in, since the bar exam is always in July. There was no such deadline to get back to my writing after the Incubator and there are so many things to do that aren’t writing that I love to do and that can easily take up all my time.


There are also a lot of things that aren’t writing, that writers sometimes pretend are writing. For example:

  1. Printing out your manuscript.
  2. Buying a pretty binder for your manuscript.
  3. Taking up photography (or painting or knitting or banjo making) and claiming it helps your creativity.
  4. Pondering adding a dog to your manuscript and researching dog breeds and names to find the perfect one. (A black cocker spaniel, but I still need name help.)
  5. Meeting your fellow writers for dinner and planning a Google doc where you can all input information about your progress on your writing.
  6. Reading the “author notes” sections of books to find out about their process for writing.
  7. Thinking about the menu for your imaginary book launch party.
  8. Talking about your book.
  9. Wandering around the harbor taking pictures of lobster boats, and trying to figure out which one best matches the boat in your book. (The bright yellow one)
  10. Transporting your paper manuscript back and forth to work in the nice binder you got for it.
  11. Tweeting memes about writing.
  12. Instagramming inspirational quotes about writing.
  13. Stapling $1 scratch tickets to every 50th page in your manuscript that you can only retrieve when you’ve gotten through review/revision of those 50 pages.
  14. Writing a Dead Darlings post.

When I wrote this post I thought, now if I can just go home and write, I’ll be able to end the post by saying that I wrote again! That I made a schedule! That I am back on track! I did not. I am not. I just have to get those scratch tickets stapled and then I’ll be on my way.


  1. Leanna Hamill

    So it turns out the scratch ticket thing really did work, but they should be stapled every 15 pages or so for best results. I haven’t won anything yet, but I am a little further through revisions so I’m counting that as a win.

  2. Leanna, first of all. Congratulations for completing the Novel Incubator program. But having gone through that intensive experience myself several years ago, I say, give yourself a break! You’ve earned it, and your body and mind are telling you that you need that. Go look at boats! Read! Meet with friends! Noodle around on Instagram! All those things you probably gave up for a year–do them and don’t beat yourself up about it. Confession–I took several months off from working on my novel after the Incubator. Did I feel guilty–yes, a bit. But when I did get back to it, I felt fresher. As you said, there are no deadlines but those you will self-impose. And good for you for writing a Dead Darlings post–that is writing. As someone who is about to publish her first novel, I can tell you that getting your writing self out in the public is one of the most important things you can do. Okay, now go enjoy yourself. It’s summer.

  3. Kat Gibson

    Funny! I’ve done similar activities, all “for my book,” of course. Love the scratch ticket idea- a potential reward at the end of a section could enliven my editing process- I’ll give it a try!

  4. Kate

    Um knitting is totally valid! At least then when I’m sick of looking at my untouched manuscript I can use the needles to stand my eyes out.

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