Don’t Think, Just Write

This post is sort of a mix of a pep talk thing to those participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month as well as some advice for first draft writing. (So, if you’re not doing a first draft for Camp NaNo, you may not find this very helpful…but too bad. You can read it anyway. 🙂 )

Recently, I’ve noticed a bit of an increase in my typing speed as I’m writing, and I think I’ve finally figured out why. It mostly came one night at dinner when we happened to bring up the subject of NaNoWriMo.

“Doesn’t NaNoWriMo just encourage people to use a lot of words instead of an actual story?” said my mom. “It would just make people write things like, ‘I went to the store. When I got there, I couldn’t decide whether or not I should buy peanuts or cashews. Hmmm. The peanuts, or the cashews? Finally, I decided on buying the peanuts instead of the cashews, because they were cheaper.'”

I thought about this for a moment and said, “Yes, but they’d have more of the story than they started with.”

That’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo–not to write words, sometimes not even to write a novel, but to write more than you had before. In the example my mom gave, yes, the writing is pretty terrible. Yes, the conflict is also terrible. But you have more. If those 42 words hadn’t been written, you wouldn’t have anything about your character visiting the store, and who knows, maybe the cashew/peanut debate will become important later on! Although, the decision should be obvious. Always go for the cashews. Always.

So you may be looking at your unfinished manuscript right now, thinking that this is wildly out of character, or it doesn’t even make sense, or why are there evil talking cats this isn’t supposed to be happening. Maybe you’re horribly behind on your word count and the few thousand–or even the few hundred–you’ve managed to write just don’t seem good enough.

The amazing thing is that you’ve already written more than you had before. No matter how horrible, how confusing, or how small the writing has been, there’s more story than there was before, and that’s something that you should be proud of.

I’ve found that the best way to write more, and faster, is this simple motto/phrase/whatever-you-want-to-call-it: don’t think, just write. Stop worrying about whether what you’re writing is good or bad, whether it goes with the story and fits with the outline. Stop thinking that this description is taking way too long or this chapter should have finished already or where did this character come from or why on earth are these characters being shippy. Just write.

Yes, it’s hard not to stop and try to figure out what’s going on, especially when you want this novel to be as good as your original idea for it was, especially when that one word you used really doesn’t seem right, especially when this wasn’t in the outline at all. Usually, I have to find some way to force myself into this frame of mind. Two ways that I do it are:

  • Word wars or word sprints with other people. I find that competition really helps me want to win and I don’t go back to fix things or stop to think because I want to win.
  • Timed goals with myself. (Ex. “I’m going to try to write 700 words in 15 minutes.”) It’s especially helpful if you choose goals you’ve never achieved before, because it encourages you to really push yourself as hard as you can, with no stopping.

The key is to not stop to think. (Again, don’t think, just write.) If you think about what you’re writing, you’re inevitably going to realize that it’s bad writing, and you’re going to want to fix it. Don’t think. The trick is to trick ourselves into writing without thinking, to keep our fingers moving even when the sentences start to sound like, “Then I met a guy named Bob. Bob was weird. He had weird hair that I can’t describe right now. He liked to eat cake.”

People will tell you to not go back to revise, because you’ll take up time and delete words. The fact is that stopping to think about what to write next will take up just as much time, and the time you waste will cost you just as many words anyway. (Well, maybe not just as many, but still.)

So if you’re struggling with whatever writing you’re working on, all you have to do is remember these four words: don’t think, just write. Actually, don’t even think about not thinking. Don’t think about purple elephants…too late.

And remember, even if you feel completely stuck and at a loss for what to write, you’ve written more than you had before. Be proud, pat yourself on the back, because that really is the most important thing.

How is Camp NaNo going for all of you who are doing it, and how close are you to your goals? Do you have any other tips or tricks on how you get yourself to write? And, most importantly, cashews or peanuts? (Or you can just tell me your favorite kind of nut; that works too. I bet you can’t guess mine…)

20 thoughts on “Don’t Think, Just Write

  1. Kit April 14, 2016 / 6:21 AM

    Great post!

    And yes, always go for the cashews.


    • Lana April 14, 2016 / 2:46 PM

      Hehe, I have found another of my kind: a cashew lover! They are delicious.


  2. Christine Therese April 14, 2016 / 9:07 AM

    YES! I really needed this post as a reminder, so thanks for writing it. It’s a really great post, too. Camp NaNo is going okay, though I’m super behind because of course school is priority, haha. How about you?

    Cashews. But out of all nuts? I think I will have to go for macadamia nuts. Chocolate covered macadamia nuts.


    • Lana April 14, 2016 / 2:40 PM

      You’re welcome, and thanks for telling me! It makes me happy that this helps someone.

      Ah, school. I actually haven’t had very much homework recently, so maybe that’s part of the reason I’m not behind on my goal for Camp NaNo…

      Ooh, macadamias. Actually, I think the only time I’ve had those are in the macadamia cookies, but they do sound great with chocolate. I really love chocolate covered pomegranates though…which aren’t nuts, but they’re seeds, so close enough, right? 🙂


      • Christine Therese April 16, 2016 / 2:58 PM

        No problem.
        I’m really just working to get ahead of school so that I can either finish early or on time, and have a better chance of watching Captain America: Civil War in theatres (I’m that pumped for it).
        THEY ARE AMAZING. I haven’t tried chocolate covered pomegranates actually!! I love pomegranates, and I love chocolate, though.


      • Lana April 16, 2016 / 5:39 PM

        Ooh, that sounds like fun! I’ve seen the first Captain America and it was really good. I haven’t seen the second one yet, though…

        I SHALL HAVE TO TRY THEM SOMETIME, THEN. They’re delicious, so if you ever get a chance to try one, do so! I don’t think they really taste like real pomegranate seeds, though, but they’re still fabulous.


      • Christine Therese April 16, 2016 / 8:50 PM

        The second one is up there on my top favourite Marvel movies—and one of my top favourite movies ever. So yes, the second Cap is really good. At least in my opinion. This third movie though… It’s going to be a wild ride.
        They are good.
        I haven’t even heard of them before you mentioned it. But yeah I will try them when I can.


      • Lana April 18, 2016 / 4:57 PM

        I shall have to watch it sometime, then! (Even though I don’t remember much of the first movie, heheh.)


  3. Kellyn Roth April 14, 2016 / 10:20 AM

    CASHEWS!!! My gosh, how is that even a choice someone has to make??? WHO IS THIS CHARACTER, LANA!!! XD

    Anyway, writing is always a problem with me because I often don’t know what I’m trying to say. But, honestly, I feel like I don’t have an excuse because I’m not officially doing Camp this year … as always … because of school and other annoying functions of life. Like sleep. I hate sleeping.

    … so, I have, what, about 4000 words? XD


    • Lana April 14, 2016 / 2:37 PM

      It was just a random scenario my mom came up with on the spot…though who knows, maybe someday I’ll write a novel about cashews and…nut allergies. Okay, maybe not.

      I hate sleeping too! I mean, I like how it feels, but I hate the fact that we have to do it and that it takes up so much time. Why can’t we just evolve to not have to sleep anymore–we’d get so much more done. Actually, it’d probably just make life even more exhausting, so no. I just want to be the only one who doesn’t have to sleep.

      Well, like I said, 4,000 words is better than nothing! *high fives* (we seem to do a lot of high fiving….we must just be awesome)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth April 14, 2016 / 2:40 PM

        *high fives back* Yeah, we’re awesome. XD

        Just … drink a lot of coffee, I guess. 😉


      • Lana April 14, 2016 / 2:48 PM

        Wait, what does coffee have to do with anything? *is confused* Oh wait, I understand now! That had to do with sleeping. Well, I don’t drink coffee, but I still stay awake way later than I should….hehe.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth April 14, 2016 / 2:50 PM

        I do, too. Like … past midnight sometimes. Everyone here thinks I’m going to die of undersleep. XD


      • Lana April 14, 2016 / 2:54 PM

        I generally get to bed before midnight, but when I don’t and I have to wake up at 6 for school the next day…well, let’s just say it’s not fun.

        Oh, and don’t die of undersleep; it’s really not good for your health.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kellyn Roth April 14, 2016 / 8:22 PM

        I don’t have to wake up until 7, so I can survive. 🙂


  4. David McGowan April 17, 2016 / 5:09 PM

    my problem is that I’ve got that first 4,000 words and now my little plot critic is starting to jump in and say “ok you need to write, but what comes next” I just don’t seem to have a full plan in my head or I do but its not detailed…

    I suppose I should write out of order, just get the words down and worry about combining it later.


    • Lana April 18, 2016 / 4:55 PM

      Eh, I don’t have a full plan either, so basically I just write random stuff and if it works with my half-a-plan later on, then great, and if not, I can edit it out later, right? 🙂

      Writing scenes out of order could also help with that, but something inside of me just cringes whenever I think of doing that. For some reason I have to write chronologically because I feel like I’ll have to be ready to reference back to things that happened before. I don’t know if anyone else feels like that, though.

      What’s your novel about?


  5. Cait @ Paper Fury April 20, 2016 / 5:21 AM

    I looove peanuts. EXCEPT I’M MILDLY ALLERGIC TO NUTS SO I GET NONE. *cries* I mean, I’m not anaphylactic or anything…I just get rashes and can’t eat them. BUT. Peanut butter, dude. It is literally gloriously heaven.
    Oh oh but I ADORE THIS POST SO MUCH AND ENTIRELY AGREE: don’t think, just write. That is 100% my motto. And I love how you said even if you’re writing rubbish, it’s still writing. And you’ll have that story to edit and work on later. I think 1st drafts are about being messy and awful. Cleaning and polishing come later. *nods* And I also think you get better at it the more you do? Like my first drafts are still awful, but not as awful as they were a few years ago. 😀 PRACTISE IS AWESOME.


    • Lana April 20, 2016 / 3:57 PM

      NOOO DON’T BE ALLERGIC. And yaasss, peanut butter is great. Especially right after it’s been opened.

      Yay, I’m glad you liked the post! And yes, practice is great (although, at first I thought you were going to say that the more first drafts you write, the better you get at writing awful stuff…which may in my case be true. 🙂 )


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