“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
-E. L. Doctorow
My friend and fellow writer Dana Fredsti posted this quotation on her Facebook page, and asked people — especially other writers — if they had thoughts about it.
Boy, do I ever.
I think Doctorow has his head so far up his ass it’s coming out the other side.
A huge amount of writing is thinking about writing. It’s absurd to say that it isn’t writing unless you’re typing out words that very second. I mean, even when I’m in the “typing out words” part of writing, I spend a fair amount of time staring at the wall or out the window thinking about what I’m going to write — or looking over what I’ve written and thinking about how and whether to revise it. Does that not count as writing, either? And if it does, why does it count ten seconds before I type words, or a minute before I type words, but not an hour or a day before? Why does the revising count ten seconds after I typed words, or a minute after, but not an hour or a day after?
Is there some sort of statute of limitations determining when “thinking about writing” no longer qualifies as writing?
Yes, there are some differences between the “typing out words” part of writing and the “thinking about what to write” part of writing. But in my experience, those are differences of degree, not of kind…. and the degree isn’t that great. And yes, it’s easy to procrastinate by telling yourself things like, “I’m writing in my head,” or by doing every possible thing even vaguely related to writing that isn’t the “typing out words” part. (It’s one of the things that’s so dangerous about Facebook and Twitter: if you’re a writer, going onto Facebook and Twitter do qualify as work, since it’s part of publicity and promotion.) At some point, you have to sit down and do the “typing out words” part of writing: if you never ever get to that, then no, all the planning and thinking in the world doesn’t really count as writing.
But if you do eventually sit down and do the “typing out words” part, then yes — all the planning and thinking and re-thinking totally counts.
Thoughts — from other writers, from other artists, from anyone else with ideas about this?