on writing: stop for the music

{from weheartit.com}

Sometimes when I’m writing, I get stuck, so I’ll walk outside and remove my mind completely from the words. I’ll load the dishwasher. I’ll turn on the music. I’ll go to the mirror and put on lipstick. I’ll read. Sometimes I’ll wait an entire day or week before going back because words can get stale. Words are supposed to be music, and if you lose the music, you need to stop.

Sometimes we stop writing for way longer than we thought we would. We lose the music all together.

The other day a girlfriend asked me what to do about writer’s block, and because my latest blog break was so beneficial, I said, sometimes you just need to step away. Stop trying to write.

For me, either I’m taking note of everything and putting it to words, or life is coming at me hard, and I’m internalizing it. My processor can get slow. Sometimes scenes, ideas, relational situations can muffle the way we hear life, and writing it out is a great way to hear better, but sometimes, voicing it actually drowns out intricate music that we need to be hearing.

Words can dull the way we live if we’re always writing for writing’s sake. Living is how the music enters in. Just because you stop writing for a while doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. It just means you’re listening to the music, realizing beauty in a new way.

I used to say that I didn’t know what I think until I’d written it out, and usually it’s true. I’m also a verbal processor. But the truth is that I’ve verbalized a lot of ugly things that weren’t true in an effort to process.

Sometimes silence is the best thing for our souls, and ultimately what is good for our souls is what’s good for our writing. It all works together.

There are concrete dots and tiddles in every nook and cranny of life – the crowfeet, the crack in the mug, the smell of pancakes when you pull out the winter clothes – and a good writer takes note. The details create the pianissimos, the breaths, the brass, the cymbals, the beat.

Do what it takes to hear the music.

And then write.

About me


Advice for Bloggers and Also a Titus Update
January 23, 2014
Writing Advice of the Garden Variety
June 21, 2012
Share the Beauty
October 01, 2011
why I’m here, to peek at the cusp of dreams
September 13, 2011
Sara Sophia Jingle
November 10, 2010
where the muse may be
November 09, 2010
A New Vision: Christmas Change 2010
November 07, 2010
life equals school
November 02, 2010
the fire and the blog: how to receive mercy
October 29, 2010


Reply September 19, 2011

YES! love and agree. xo

Elizabeth @claritychaos
Reply September 19, 2011

yes. I am right there in the phase of life coming hard and internalizing it. I studied with Natalie Goldberg last spring and her advice was along these same lines -- she said, don't give it all away. Hold on to it. Let it breathe inside you. Sit with it for a while.

And then write.

Love reading your thoughts on these things.

Ashleigh Baker
Reply September 19, 2011

I have no words. In me now, or to say here. So I'll just whisper a breathless amen.

Reply September 19, 2011

Amen :)

Reply September 19, 2011

Exactly .
( says the quiet for so long now one )

Galit Breen
Reply September 19, 2011

This? Is beautiful and relatable and damn good advice. Love it!

Reply September 19, 2011

When I was a teenager, I loved to write. I wrote stories, I wrote my heart, I wrote words no one would ever see. And it was all to music. Now, I am a wife and mom. The music I write to now is silence. Which would explain why my blog is lacking at the moment...

Reply September 19, 2011

Love this Amber. It is true and wise.

Reply September 20, 2011


Megan at SortaCrunchy
Reply September 20, 2011

Absolutely - yes, yes, yes. When I'm writing, the very moment I have to force it is the moment I need to stop. Like you said, sometimes it's long enough to just get up and do the dishes. And, yes, other times it's for weeks or months. Sometimes the strain to get the words out is a good strain, like the finishing of a good, long run. But you have to know yourself well enough as a writer to know when you can (and should) power through the strain and when it's time to limp home unfinished.

You know?

You know.

Kelly @ Love Well
Reply September 20, 2011

I needed to hear this today, from a writer who also loves her some Jesus. Thank you, Amber.

I, for one, am always filled up by the music of you.

Reply September 20, 2011

This is wisdom.

Reply September 20, 2011

Yes, this. Just write. And be honest :).

Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight
Reply September 20, 2011

Did you write this just.for.me???

Cause, really? I think you did. Even if you didn't realize it.

The music is so drowned out by home school lessons, and violin, and cross-country meets, and piano, and diapers, and laundry, and....
Guilt rings loud in my tired, overwhelmed brain. Guilt is not a pretty tune, and words don't flow very well from guilt-fuel.
So my pages are silent.

And these words of yours sing a bit of freedom, a taste of relief...


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