How Not to Write


Here is my time-tested, foolproof method of not writing. If you follow these seventeen simple steps, you may never write another word again! 

1. Set your timer for the number of hours you have available to write before going to work, picking up the kids, going to the doctors etc.

2. Boot up your laptop. Read the pages you wrote yesterday, revising as you go. Do this until you reach a scene, or a sentence, or a word that doesn’t feel right to you.

3. Turn on your Wi-Fi. Tell yourself you will be more productive if you have access to the online dictionary.

4. Notice the little red number sitting on top of the postage stamp icon on your desktop, notifying you that you have mail. Email can wait. But what if it is important? What if it’s from your agent?

5. Move your cursor over the postage stamp and click. See, it WAS important. It’s feedback from your writing friend in Vermont. Reading a critique counts as writing–it’s part of the process.

6. Read the critique until you get to the part where she mentions bittersweet vine would never grow that far north in Vermont, and she highly recommends that you change that detail.

7. Open your browser window, and spend the next forty-five minutes reading about the invasive vines of the northeast on Wikipedia. When you discover that yes, you were right, bittersweet DOES grow in the area you set your novel in, do a little fist pump and get back to work.

8. Stare at manuscript, but secretly feel a little annoyed that your friend was so adamant that you were wrong. Is she even really from Vermont?

9. Log on to Facebook. If you don’t nip this in the bud, it will drive you crazy all morning. Go to your so-called-Vermont friend’s page, and scroll through her timeline. Well, there she is wearing a UVM sweatshirt. And her wedding pictures all look like they were taken at Lake Willoughby. I guess she just doesn’t have the extensive knowledge of native invasive vines that you have. Satisfied you were right and confident the bittersweet can stay in your book, hit the general newsfeed for a well-earned mini-break.

10. Scroll until you see a post by an acquaintance announcing that she sold her book. The book she started in the same workshop you started yours. Read all 174 comments under the announcement. Hit like, and wonder if that is enough. It is not enough. Type congrats! and hit enter. Stare at your comment, wondering if it everyone reading it can feel your envy. Hit “edit” and write something more genuine.

11. Even though there is no red number above the postage stamp, check your email. How long has it been since you have heard anything from your agent? What is she up to, anyway?

12. Log on to Twitter. Search for @youragent. See that she at a conference. Search for #WhyDidIDecideNotToGoToThisConference and see pictures of your agent on a panel. Fall in love with the boots she is wearing, and wonder if they would look good on you.

13. Log on to Zappos. They looked like Frye boots. Or maybe Lucchese? Wonder if they would look better in brown. Find the boots. Realize that there is no way you could ever afford them. Wonder if your acquaintance could, now that she has sold her book.

14. Log-on to Publishers Marketplace. Search for her book deal. Discover that she can, in fact, afford the boots.

15. Go to the kitchen. Eat a butterscotch pudding. Convince yourself that since it is made with milk and is in a small, round, single-serving container, that it is almost the same as eating yogurt. Text your writing friend from Vermont and tell her about the acquaintance’s book sale.

16. When you hear the timer beeping in the other room, return to your computer and hit save on your word doc.

17. Promise yourself that tomorrow you will be productive.

And voilà! Well done! No words written!

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Louise Miller

Louise Miller is the author of THE CITY BAKER'S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking/August 9, 2016), the story of a commitment-phobic pastry chef who discovers the meaning of belonging while competing in the cut-throat world of Vermont county fair baking contests. Find out more at

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This article has 4 Comments

  1. Since I am coming over here while I am supposed to be doing my copy edits, I completely empathize with this post. Hmm, now I’m going to go look up invasive vines of the northeast, too, just to see if you were right. After that I’ll get back to the copy edits. Unless it’s lunch time by then.

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