February 8, 2014

3 Reasons to Stop Writing to Become a Better Writer. ~ Jackie Johansen

hemingway quotes 

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

Writers are told to write every day to become better at their craft.

We’re told to sit in the chair and get to work even if we don’t want to. We’re told to push through resistance and to write, regardless of our mood, inspiration level or motivation.

There’s a part of me that wishes I could say I write every day and that I do so out of excitement. However, I can’t. In fact, some of my best writing happened because I stopped.

We need to expand our sense of what a writing practice looks like, to include the fact that writing exists because not doing so also does. Practicing both allows us to sink more fully into our creativity and expression.

“The spirit of creation is the spirit of contradiction. It is the breakthrough of appearances toward an unknown reality.”

~ Joan Cocteau

The following are three reasons to stop writing (and honor the non-writing side of the practice.)

1. Writing follows a natural rhythm and sometimes this means we have to pause.

Writing continuously can lead to burnout. It can lead to content that is not our best. This is because we aren’t taking time to integrate our experience and honor how powerful pausing can be to recharge our creativity.

I think of this like savasana pose in yoga. This is the pose where we lie flat on the ground, without moving, after going through a series of other postures. We do this with the intention of integration.

With writing, there’s a point when we let our worlds, our words, absorb and reform in our psyche.

Just as we need to breathe throughout the day, our creative world is part of an inward and outward process that mimics breathing deeply. There are times to express outwardly and there are times to express inwardly by slowing down and integrating.

When we create, we are working with internal sparks. When we take the time to allow these sparks to germinate, the stories that go along with these sparks, the voices, the characters and the themes will start to emerge.

We can’t force this to happen by forcing ourselves to write. There’s a time to allow the inward breath to nourish our creative world, and a time for the outward breath to carry that world onto the page.

2. Language is limiting.

Language can’t fully express the depth of the human experience. Language is a form that holds our feelings, inspirations and internal sparks. It’s a container that captures love and it captures our depths.

However, the container may not be big enough at times, or it may not fully fit our experience. It may limit the experience, when we try to hold it with language.

Limitation arises when we try to tack down our experience with language without feeling into our experience first. When we learn to breathe and hold an image in our mind, feel into it with our bodies and experience it non-verbally, the right words emerge.

3. Practicing presence makes us more present writers.

To become better writers, we can practice presence in the moment—in our feeling and our experiencing. This kind of presence means not being in the past and not planning into the future.

As writers, it is often important to plan, to envision where we want our writing to go. When we practice presence in our daily lives outside of writing, we can more easily tap into our creative flow. This is the magical moment when we write and the words pour from our fingers. The moment writing is effortless—we aren’t thinking about where we’re going next because we’re just moving; we’re being moved.

We need to experience our lives—all parts of it with mindfulness and when we do we naturally accumulate stories through being out in the world and experiencing.

By being present with our senses and with our being in the world, we bring this energy back to our writing. Being present aligns us with our authentic voices, with our creative flow and brings authenticity and energy to our writing practice.


I believe writing has the capacity to change the world, to heal and to bring love more fully into our lives. We can take a mindful and expansive approach to our writing practice. By stretching the definition of writing practice to include the non-writing aspects, our writing can take on a new richness and vibrancy.

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Photo: elephant archives





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