That thing you want to write

Early bird registration is now open for the Freelance Writer Retreat near Cape Town, South Africa. Visit to register.

In my own small way, I’ve taken the advice of Toni Morrison to heart: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

A variation of this is to write articles that explore questions that you want to know the answers to. Or to plan an event for writers that you’ve never seen offered but would like to attend.

And another is to plan a day or week the way you’d like to live, but don’t. Recently somebody asked me what my ideal workday looked like. I’ve heard and resisted this question many times, because my own ideal day can’t really happen, given the laws of physics and time travel.

My frustration was compounded by the freelancer’s dilemma of having so much freedom compared to somebody who has to show up to a cubicle wearing pantyhose early in the morning. I felt I had nobody but myself to blame if my days were anything less than creative, focused, healthy, fascinating, and lucrative. (No pressure.)

Instead of resisting the What’s the day you want? question once again, I decided to answer it twice: both the fantasy version, and then a realistic best-case scenario version. Once I decided to answer, each vision sprang from my unconscious with details about both my writing process, as well as specific projects, and supports.

Spending a few minutes on each scenario freed up a lot of resistance for me, and I immediately saw a shift in my attitude about scheduling my days and my week.

For example, I had said that my preferred schedule included reading books several hours per day. Somehow, and I’m not quite sure when or why, reading books had morphed from a daily ritual into something on the margins.

One of the things in the fantasy version was a desire to step away from the internet 23 hours per day. Once I’d laid these things out, what might seem to you like a super simple solution became plain to me: limit non-essential time online and replace it with reading books.

One other kinda obvious thing that I’d lost sight of: it’s essential, rather than indulgent or a hobby, for writers to follow their reading passions. Being happy, informed, and inspired by other writers helps me to do my daily work in a far better state of mind.

This wasn’t a heavy undertaking. I spent a few minutes outlining each scenario. If you’re struggling with how to structure your day or a piece of writing, try spending a few minutes writing in your freelance journal two (or more) different scenarios. Get the ideas out of your head and onto the page. No commitment, just possibilities.

And if you get some clarity on this thing you must write or read or live, please tell me about it.


I also asked myself: What kind of a writing retreat hasn’t been offered that I would want to attend? I’ve designed a weekend for writers this August that has all the elements that I’m unable to offer in shorter or virtual classes. Click here to read all about it.

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