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50 Ways to Avoid Writing

Close up of an open notebook sitting on a couch with a blue-and-grey pen in the middle. The page on the left contains mostly empty boxes, one of which reads, "9 SUNDAY" and the page on the right is empty and lined.

People always ask me, “Sage, how is it that you have so skillfully refined the art of avoiding writing?” I tell them there is no one simple answer, no quick fix. There’s a lot of little answers, a whole variety of distractions that make up the whole. You have to practice, do a little every day. This is an honest answer, but I recognize it isn’t all that satisfying. That’s why I have decided to compile this list of tips, showing you fifty different things I do in order to avoid writing. I believe that you too, with enough practice, can avoid ever getting any writing done. Don’t expect to get there overnight. It has taken me years to learn how to properly avoid writing. Years. Take it one step at a time. Don’t give up. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. With guidance from mentors like me and enough dedication, you too can basically never write again.

Please enjoy this list and don’t forget to preorder my e-book, which will be coming to a virtual shelf near you this fall. It will be completely blank.


50 Ways to Avoid Writing

  1. Check Discord. Oh, what was that, a notification? Better check again.
  2. Open Instagram to look for a NaPoWriMo prompt and immediately forget why you opened it.
  3. Build a brand.
  4. See what’s trending on Twitter.
  5. Call your doctor. Get the busy signal. Rinse and repeat.
  6. Do the dishes! There are three dishes, ya’d better do ’em!
  7. Read a novel. Read another.
  8. Play some music to help you focus. No, not that music. Find another playlist. Find another platform. Turn the music off, it’s too distracting. Now it’s too quiet.
  9. Go get a tissue.
  10. Refill your cup of coffee.
  11. Go make some breakfast!
  12. Get a snack. Eat that snack. You can’t write while you’re eating a snack, but you should do something to entertain you and your snack. Open youtube.com.
  13. Get invested in someone else’s drama.
  14. Experience your own drama! Oh no! Ah! (This is ideal as it will prevent you from writing for quite some time).
  15. Google the lyrics for the song you heard yesterday in the convenience store.
  16. Think about how you’ve been using commas wrong for twenty-eight years.
  17. Stare at your blank word doc. Open another tab.
  18. Curl up into a ball on your couch and start crying because the world’s been like this for over a year and you’re tired.
  19. Take some nudes.
  20. Check how many likes your post got. Check again in twenty minutes.
  21. Reread the DM someone sent you three weeks ago shaming you over your writing.
  22. Overly censor yourself. Think about all the different things people could yell at you about. Nitpick your own writing before the call-outs can. Try to get ahead of them.
  23. Remember what it was like to write on trains when you used to ride trains. Think about riding trains again.
  24. Shame yourself for not having published a book yet. Think about how you’ll be thirty in two years. WEEP.
  25. Update your profile, doesn’t matter which one.
  26. Go for a walk. Bring your notebook with you but call your friend to hear the latest gossip instead of write in it.
  27. Ask yourself if perhaps the well is empty.
  28. Allow yourself to relax for once. Take a day off.
  29. Look at the NAKED TREES out the window.
  30. Treat yourself like a machine but forget to oil yourself.
  31. Remember visiting your ex in a cafe and the frothy yellow drink you ordered that he found off-putting. Try to recall the details of your conversation.
  32. Drink some mushroom tea.
  33. Have a little cry about it.
  34. Notice that your friend has left his watch on your mantle.
  35. Remind yourself to write about something other than your childhood.
  36. Light two candles, one for the goddess and one for the god.
  37. Listen to a podcast about cancel culture and get worked up about it.
  38. Wonder when the pandemic will end. Wonder again.
  39. Reach out to a new therapist and ask to be added to their waitlist.
  40. Remember the shitty breakup you went through six months ago.
  41. Feel the barometer change in your head. Ask yourself what to feel instead.
  42. Close your eyes and hear all of the sounds around you. Pull them into pieces.
  43. Read your friend’s thesis.
  44. Think about moving to Montreal. Make a plan. Learn French on Duolingo.
  45. Look at the fog outside the window. Think about how it’s foggy out there and lonely in here.
  46. Ask yourself if this year of lockdowns means you’ve run out of things to write about.
  47. Remember that you have to finish doing your taxes.
  48. Hop in the shower.
  49. Pick up your phone.
  50. Write a list. Ask yourself if that counts. Ask yourself what it means to count.
Non-Fiction

Hello, Imposter Syndrome, Old Buddy, Old Pal

Picture of a tarnished silver frame on a wooden surface with the same image copied inside the frame, creating an image within an image.
Photo by PictureThis.

Content note: this piece contains casual mentions of apocalypse, death, and a lack of overall meaning.


I did a reading the other night. I was sandwiched between authors who spun stories and poetry full of metaphor, who spoke words layered with meaning, who filled the room with depth and imagery. I got up and read my plain language piece: here is something that happened to me and how I felt about it. I sat back down.

Self-consciousness arose with the question: am I even a writer?

Hello, imposter syndrome, old buddy, old pal. How have you been?

The webs I weave with my words aren’t complex or layered. I am direct. I say what I mean. I’ve always struggled to get into writing that has more substance than that. I don’t read between the lines and so I don’t write between the lines either. It’s not that I think my way is better or worse, it’s just what comes naturally.

Some people tell me that they like that. They say it’s easy to digest, accessible. Simple, direct language that allows them to dive into the content of what is being said. My writing does the job of delivery quickly.

It’s also not for everyone. I know there are some who see my work as novice, childish, indulgent, or one-dimensional. Maybe they’re right. That’s okay with me, actually. I’m writing to express, not writing to please.

Occasionally, something I’m working on develops depth without my conscious intent and I think, “Oh, look, I’ve done it! There are multiple ways to read this. It has L a Y e R s”. It’s exciting when that happens, but I can’t force it. Forcing makes it come out sounding hollow and pretentious. I may create something “wrapped in meaning,” but there’s no meat in the center, the center remains empty. It’s better, I believe, to write the meat first and see if any layers follow. Sometimes they don’t and that’s okay too.

Whenever imposter syndrome rears its head, I try to answer with, “So what?”

“Am I even a writer?”

“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not, but so what?”

“Am I a bad writer?”

“Maybe, but so what?”

“Is my writing overly simplistic, straightforward, and lacking in depth?”

“Maybe it is, but again, so fucking what?”

As far as I know, I have just this one life. I don’t know what will happen after I die and I also don’t know whether everything I create will be destroyed in an apocalypse in the near future. In the grand scheme of the universe, everything is temporary and nothing really matters. I know I am alive now and I like to write, so I write. It feels good. It’s therapeutic. It helps me to express what I otherwise find difficulty expressing. It helps me to articulate my own existence. It helps me to connect with others. So what if it isn’t worthy of awards, honorariums, or acclaimed publication? So fucking what? That’s not the point.

Anyone writing for the sole purpose of accruing money or fame is in the wrong line of work. Chances are good that writing won’t pay your bills, and people are more likely to make fun of you than hand you accolades. Trying to write the next great novel? Try writing a novel first. It’s hard.

Writing makes you vulnerable. You don’t necessarily need to be writing the way that I do, either, where I intentionally lay myself bare to the world. Creating is a vulnerable process, one that involves speaking to experiences and feelings we often keep hidden from the wider world. It can result in rejection, misunderstanding, or a lack of recognition (i.e. enthusiastically putting your creations out into a world full of people who couldn’t care less about it). It can also result in connection and that can be really powerful. One of the best pieces of feedback you can receive as a writer, I have found, is “I’ve felt that way too”. I measure the “success” of my work in relation to that sense of connection more than anything else.

For me, writing is a process of learning how to articulate my lower-case “t” truths. Who am I today? What am I experiencing? What do I think? What do I feel? How am I navigating this broken, bizarre, beautiful world? How am I like you? How am I unlike you?

My truths tend to come out in plain, straightforward, just-read-the-actual-lines-themselves-not-between-them language. This is not the case for everyone and that’s also fine. There are many powerful writers out there who find ways of expressing their truths through layers of symbolism, double meanings, vivid imagery, and otherwise evocative language. What they create is beautiful.

What I create is also beautiful.

Our capitalistic society will have us believe we are all in competition with each other. Whose writing is bad, whose is better? Who deserves this or that prize? Who is otherwise unworthy? Who should be ashamed of daring to express themselves without having a degree, perfect grammar, or an extensive knowledge of the literary canon of old/dead white men.

It can be argued that writing is a skill, yes. Effective communication is a skill. Weaving words and making meanings are skills. But we should interrogate how we measure these skills because, often, our methods of measurement are rooted in colonial white supremacy, patriarchy, ableism, classism, and other forms of power imbalance and oppression.

It can be argued that writing is a skill, yes, but you do not have to be skilled at writing in order to be a writer. In fact, you will never become skilled if you never practice, if you never write. You must give yourself permission to be an unskilled writer, to be bad, and to be embarrassed. You must give yourself permission to go through the awkward and uncomfortable process of getting better. You must remember not to take it all so seriously. We will all die, existence might be a dream, and the world may be ending sometime soon. Allow yourself to write if you are so inclined and allow yourself to write badly. You will always be able to find other people in the room who are more skilled than you. You will likely always be faced with imposter syndrome.

Sure, okay, you’re an imposter. I’m an imposter. We’re all imposters pretending not to be imposters.

Really, we’re all creators. Capitalism tells us to compete, but we don’t have to listen. Other writers are not your competition, they are your friends, your inspiration, your support, and your community.

I can get up in a room to read my work sandwiched between authors who spin stories and poetry full of metaphor, who speak words layered with meaning, who fill that room with depth and imagery. I can get up and read my plain language piece to my community of writers without shame. Whether I am worse or better does not matter. What matters is that we write and share that writing, that we support and encourage each other wherever we are in our learning.

Maybe you don’t like my writing, don’t think it’s any good. Maybe you’re outraged that some novice, unknown writer is breaking an unspoken rule by writing about writing. Maybe I am an unskilled writer. Maybe I am an imposter.

So what? That isn’t going to stop me.