Knit One, Purl Two: When Not to Write

ABOUT A YEAR AGO, in a bit of a funk, I wrote a post titled “Sometimes Don’t Write.” In it, I talk about needing a break, sometimes, for our forebrains to have rest. REST was my main focus then. Today, a year later, I have an update for that:

We writers are WORD-y people. We like to think in language, play with language, describe in words—even that old (accurate) adage “Show don’t tell,” is all about using even MORE words to describe a situation or image.

For instance, if we’re just telling, we might, economically, write, “Sue’s looking happy today.” But if we’re doing our duty to our readers, we’ll dig in an write, “______.”

That’s XX words compared to the original XX words! And we had to think through each one in writing.

So. Even our writing instructors/mentors/teachers/guides … they are always wanting MORE WRITING, MORE WORDS from us.

So, writing is actually a translation—of what we see, feel, imagine, remember—into the hard currency of words. And like going into the coalmine of our brains to find these nuggets, this translation is hard work.

And sometimes exhausting. I don’t know about you, but finding language to explain myself all week—to writers and in my own text on the page—my brain can feel like two stones rubbing together: dry, but unlikely to produce fire!

That’s why, in addition to a daily journaling practice—which does keep my hand-to-brain connection wired and the messages flowing—I also make collage.

It’s completely nonverbal, and gives me great satisfaction. My style (as you can see), is very loose. Lots of smearing of paint, tearing of paper, and scribbling of pencil! But most importantly for me, it allows me to be playful and creative without using language, which is the coin of my realm.

And, interestingly, and different from journaling/writing, I find my thoughts free-flowing as I choose images and colors and trial-and-error assemble them into a pleasing (to me) composition.

Like my daily journaling practice, my art-making habit contributes ultimately to an easier flow on the page—and also to making wider, more unexpected (freer) connections and associations. It’s like letting my brain out to play.

Maybe that wider-association-making is specific to collage. I mean, visually, that’s exactly what collage is/how collage happens—through tapping unexpected¬† juxtapositions.

But maybe if you wantto create more order and organization in your writing, you might try the non-verbal rhythmic pattern-adherent craft of knitting. Or (and ‘m a terrible cook1), maybe if you enjoy spending (nonverbal) time in the kitchen, cooking, it would lead to ____ more SENSORY writing?

You see where I’m going, right? While it seems any nonverbal creative activity (gardening … bookbinding, …) gives your word-making mind a break, while still inviting you to experience the suppleness of creative engagement and play … maybe WHAT nonverbal creative practice you choose/focus on can be an RX (prescription) to heal what ails your writing! An antidote or stimulant to fix some aspect of your writing that’s foundering (for more about this and how, perhaps, to identify what needs fixing and what art form would be helpful, see 21st Century Mind).


Other writer friends I know do needlecrafts, or garden, or knit, or paint, or … cook or … all opportunities to give the ol’ word-making machinery a rest.

The good news! I come back from a session at my art-making table refreshed.

Non-writing prompt

Take inventory of your immediate world.

Non-writing inspiration

Visual art and design of famous writers:


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