On the Importance of Doing Nothing: Brenda Ueland & Writing


I have been carrying some pretty heavy writer guilt around lately—and I don’t mean heavy as an office water cooler, I’m talking heavy as-an-Assembly-on-Drunk-Driving, plus the whole damn Mulligan delivery truck.

Despite managing to spend plenty of time getting all wet and sandy with my three-year-old, several months have passed and I still haven’t produced a single paragraph for my latest YA manuscript. What kind of aspiring writer doesn’t even write? A bad one, I figured, a weak one, a doomed to-fail-one…that is till I read this passage in Brenda Ueland‘s, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit.

According to Ueland, not writing is actually okay–necessary even–so long as we allow our minds time to wander and explore and observe the now, instead of filling them up with the chatter of daily chores, Groupon deals, and  work deadlines. As she explains, “the imagination needs moodling,–long, in-efficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering…For what we write today slipped into our souls some other day when we were alone and doing nothing (pages 33- 36).”

So maybe I don’t need to feel guilty for neglecting my project lately. Of course, I do need to get to it sooner than later but maybe doing nothing–in a thoughtful, pondering way–has been exactly what my writing work, and my writing self, has needed.

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