Thursday, August 4, 2022

Essential Writing Activities that Aren't Actually Writing

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

If I say that something is writing adjacent, do you know what I’m talking about? These are the activities that writers do that support their writing, but that are not, in fact, writing. 

There is a tendency to consider time spent on writing adjacent projects as time wasted. I’ve been guilty of thinking that myself. Of assuming that every spare minute of my life needed to be spent writing—BICHOK, Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard—because everything else was a waste of time. 

But I have changed my tune, friends. Because I’ve learned something about myself and my writing process, and one of the things I’ve learned is that my brain needs some of these things that I previously labeled as “time sucks” or “procrastination stations.” 

That’s right. I said need. Not want. Not “might be a good idea.” Need. 

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. It turns out that some of the things I need to do to refill my well, to fuel my creativity, to light a fire under my muse? These are things that I love doing. Things I do for fun. Things that don’t feel like work at all, because to me, they aren’t. And because I enjoy them so much, I felt guilty when I indulged in them rather than writing. Not because the things I love doing are bad things, but because the time spent on them is time I could have been writing. 

And—I might be about to step on some toes here—I felt guilty because at some point in my writing journey, someone told me that many writing-adjacent activities were frivolous and while they might be fun, they had to be sacrificed if I wanted to have a writing career. That these things were only to be enjoyed when the work was done, the words were on the page, and the deadline was met. 

When, for me, it turns out that some of those writing adjacent projects aren’t so much writing adjacent as they are writing essential. They help me get words on the page because they give my conscious brain time to disengage from the story while my subconscious is hard at work. Then when I sit down to write, the words flow. 

So today I’m going to share a handful of my essential writing adjacent activities. There’s an excellent chance that what works for me will not work for you, but hopefully this will give you a place to start if you need to spend some time refilling and refueling. 

Lynn’s Essential Writing Adjacent Activities

1. Reading. Y’all. I have spent a lot of years feeling guilty for reading while on a deadline. Because even when I tried not to, I wouldn’t be able to resist forever and I’d read a book, feeling guilty the whole time, without understanding that it was giving me necessary fuel for my creativity. This doesn’t mean I get to read all day every day, but I have put reading back up in the priority spot where it belongs in my life. I was a reader before I was a writer, and I don’t write well when I’m not fueling my mind with stories. 

2. Pinterest/Idea boards. I do these on Pinterest. You could do them on your computer or on an actual wall in your house. I can fall down a rabbit hole and happily spend hours creating idea boards for my books. This is something that typically happens very early on when I’m creating the characters and developing the story. I post pictures of quotes that relate to the characters and of celebrities who resemble my characters. I save images that relate to specific scenes or to the general aesthetic of the book. What I’ve learned is that this process helps me get into my characters’ heads and when I sit down to write, I have more material to make them come alive on the page. 

3. Playlists. This is something I’ve only recently begun dabbling in, but I love it and I’m doing it more and more. I use Spotify, but any music streaming platform would work. I love music and I typically listen to film scores/soundtracks while writing. But I’ve had a blast choosing songs to add to book-specific playlists. Songs are powerful, focused stories told in the space of a few minutes, and for me it’s usually the emotion they evoke that is what I find so inspiring. Sometimes it’s one particular lyric that resonates. Then, when I’m on the road or doing chores around the house, I can fire up that playlist and it gives my subconscious more of what it needs to help me find the right words when I make it back to my computer. 

There are more: Knitting, crochet, exercise, cooking, entertaining, watching live theater, movies, television, getting out in nature. All of these activities not only enhance my overall wellbeing, but they also provide inspiration. 

So, this month, maybe cut yourself some slack! Read
a book. Spend some time on a craft you love. Watch a movie. Then see how you feel when you sit down at your computer. It could be that your favorite writing adjacent activities are just what you need too! 

Grace and peace,


Lynn H. Blackburn loves writing romantic suspense because her childhood fantasy was to become a spy, but her grown-up reality is that she's a huge chicken and would have been caught on her first mission. She prefers to live vicariously through her characters and loves putting them into all kinds of terrifying situations while she's sitting at home safe and sound in her pajamas! 

Unknown Threat, the first book in her Defend and Protect series, was a 2021 Christy Award finalist and her previous titles have won the Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Faith, Hope, and Love Reader’s Choice Award. Malicious Intent, the second book in the series, released March 2022.

She is a frequent conference speaker and has taught writers all over the country. Lynn lives in South Carolina with her true love and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after by signing up for her newsletter at LYNNHBLACKBURN.COMand @LynnHBlackburn on BOOKBUB, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.


  1. Thanks for giving me permission to do what I've begun doing --all without guilt. It works!

  2. this really good article, thanks for sharing this