Compelled to Write (Every Day)

writing in the head

Jeffrey posted this question as we gear up for Digital Writing Month in November:

Good one.

I can only answer for myself and say, that as Maha noted in her own response, I find myself writing all the time: either in my head (knowing I need to remember that in order to write that down) or on paper (that scrap will do) or on various screens (although I find that using my thumbs to write takes too long and is very frustrating to the train of thought … my words feel like a caboose).

Here’s how I end up finding ways and time to write: I stake out the morning. I get myself up early before my family (three boys, wife and dog) are all up and the house gets its crazy-time feel. I usually have about an hour or so before the day begins. I walk the dog, make my coffee … and sit down to write, either at my blog (the starting line) or in some other space.

But I am writing in my head all the time, too.

Years ago, when I was writing a long of songs, I used to walk around with melodies and lyrics humming in my head. I’d be lost in thought, literally, using my footfalls for rhythm, working out word choices based on rhymes and patterns and meaning. I still write songs, but not as much, and now, I find myself working out ideas around teaching and writing and art during the drive to and from work, while walking the dog, when waking up after sleep.

I’m blogging even when I am nowhere near my blog. I am a poet of ideas out in thin air. I am a storywriter, spinning characters out of clouds. I am essayist with no paper, a songwriter with invisible notes. I am a writer even without the physical tools of writing. (Or is that just a thinker?)

It’s as if I have this huge invisible notebook and pen, and I am mentally jotting down ideas. For a long time at this blog, I was writing two posts a day. But even I knew that was too much for any reader. But I felt compelled to write, write, write, and so I did. Now, I try to focus a bit more on a single post a day, and some things just never get written. Not every idea is a good one, anyway.

I’m not suggesting this all-day-writing-in-the-head works for anyone else. In answering Jeffrey’s query about writing management, I can only speak for myself: the words are coming all the time and I need my morning quiet time to write. When I don’t have that time, as happens now and then, I feel empty that day, as if the writing nourishes me.

I need to write.

Peace (in writing this from me to you),


  1. This is really helpful, Kevin. Thanks!

    Say, this seems to work for you with the endless things that cross your mind all day; does it also work for things that may require more concerted thought, such as if it were a piece of research or required focused attention to an article or chapter to process?

    • When doing a larger piece, then the writing process does require me to be focused and quiet, but I also find that walking around and taking breaks gives me insights into that writing, too.

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