This morning I stared into space for a while. I paced around the room. I scrawled notes onto half a dozen index cards. It was a productive morning.
Writing is, if I may be so bold, an indispensable part of the writing process. But thinking is crucial as well. The trouble with thinking is that it can't be measured with nice metrics like word or page count, and to a casual observer, it looks a lot like procrastinating. In fact, legitimate thinking can eventually become a form of procrastination if none of the brilliant thinkety thoughts are ever set down in writing.
So don't feel guilty for taking time to think instead of writing when you need to, but be realistic about when you need to. I give myself long, hardcore thinking sessions when I have big story problems that I need to resolve in advance or risk writing thousands of words in the wrong direction. When I know what comes next and am merely avoiding the scene or uncertain what's going to happen in it, I force myself to tackle the damn thing and figure it out through writing.
I'm between drafts right now, transitioning from the not-actually-doing-anything stage to the serious-revision-planning stage. I've been fiddling with index cards and other office supplies for a couple of weeks now, which I'll talk about next time, but this morning was the first solid chunk of nothing-but-thinking that I've had in a while. I made real progress. It felt good.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ Janet Fitch encapsulates every useful guideline for writing dialogue into one brilliant post.
→ Jennifer R. Hubbard has some encouraging words about coping with rejection: "The fact is, rejection and negative feedback never feel good. They just don't, and if your twentieth rejection bothers you as much as your first, it's not because there's something wrong with you, it's because you're human."
→ Rands in Repose explains How to Write a Book. Big topic, big ideas, all valuable. Rands is coming from the perspective of a nonfiction writer, but his advice applies just as well to novels. (Thanks, Louise!)