How to write in your head

How to write in your head (text over lightened image of lit light bulb on wood surface)
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I’m all about writing out anything and everything, even when what you’re writing is “I don’t know what to write.” But sometimes the best writing we can do doesn’t involve setting pen to paper or fingers to keys. Sometimes, the best way to write is to not write at all. Confused? Let’s talk about why this is true.

First of all, we need time to synthesize our ideas. A fresh look at what we’re working on—which you can only get after letting your story rest—will support progress in our work. Forcing ourselves to stay at the page can prevent us from moving on to new thoughts and ideas. Plus, writing should be joyful, not a punishment! Even when your writing feels like it’s dragging, I promise you, you’re getting somewhere. The goal with writing in your head is to prevent digging deeper into the quicksand of not being able to write at all.

Still, if not-writing is sometimes necessary, then it feels important to identify and build on ways to stay connected to our writing when we do choose to move away from it. What does writing in your head look like? Here are some tried and true techniques for engaging your writing while away from the page:

Rearrange your writing space.

This allows you to stay connected to the writing process while you take a breather. If you’re anything like me, you have a handful of knick-knacks in or near your writing space. A go-to is picking up objects, considering them, and setting them down somewhere new. It is a symbolic way of rifling through the thoughts in your mind and frequently results in new paths of creativity.


Not sure how? We can help (link below). Meditation is a great move If you are inundated with potentially creative thoughts and have trouble identifying what you “should” give your attention to. It allows you to sort and label your thoughts and feelings so that you can direct your attention to what matters and let the rest fall away.

Complete a task from your to-do list.

If you don’t have a list, make one. I’ve come across inspiration in the act many times. And having something specific to focus on, even (or especially) if it’s unpleasant and routine, supports you taking space from your writing while still leaving you enough mental acuity to mull your work in the background. I like to add “take a shower” to my to-do list because inspiration generally strikes during repetitive actions. Who hasn’t had an “aha” moment in the shower?


Go for a walk. Stretch. Jump rope. Choose an activity that is appropriate for your body and get going. Exercise does more than get our blood pumping; it wakes us up and releases endorphins. It’s plenty easy to get stuck in your writing if you are also stuck in your mood or body. Changing your situation changes your thinking so get moving!

This may sound like a series of tips in procrastination. But remember: it’s only procrastinating if you are not actively engaging your work in your mind as you perform other tasks. Whatever you do, make sure you come back to your work. The key here is to stay engaged. Check back in with the page as soon as you complete your non-writing activity to see if anything has shifted for you. You’ll be surprised at how quickly inspiration strikes when you are consciously writing only in your mind.

Do you ever write in your head until you can get to the page? Did you find these tips helpful? Share with us in the comments.

Related reading: Reframing the ‘no time to write’ problem

Writers, how to do nothing

Write your way out of a rut

Achieve writing clarity with meditation basics

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