Quit Trying to Write


You were expecting Yoda?


Having coffee this morning? Yum!

Now, try to pick up the cup. Go on… Are you touching the cup? No, no, no–that’s not allowed. You’re only allowed to try to pick it up.

Is your hand hanging uncertainly in the air?

This is not a trick. Okay, maybe it’s a little tricky, but it demonstrates something very important. Trying doesn’t get things done. It isn’t a thing. There is only doing. *insert Yoda here*

I think I read the phrase “I’m trying to write a (insert genre) novel” online five or six times a week. Although I empathize with struggling, beginning, and frustrated writers–as I’ve been them all–I want to gently shake these “trying” authors by the shoulders of their faded university sweatshirts and tell them to stop trying and just keep writing.

Either you’re writing a novel, or you’re not writing a novel. We can prepare ourselves to write. We can take a break from writing, or we can quit writing, or we can continue writing until we’re finished, and start the next one.

If you’re bogged down, or stuck, admit it. Don’t hide it. Ask for help, then quickly get back to your keyboard. Don’t worry: if you’re thinking constructively about your work, you’re still writing. But don’t think too long. Take an afternoon, or a day. Don’t lose your momentum, even if it’s the momentum of the  hundred words you wrote during the fifteen minutes before breakfast yesterday.

If you’re writing, you’re a writer.

Keep writing.

Help other writers.

Don’t bother trying. Make the choice to do, and not give up.


Are there things you find yourself “trying” to do, instead of doing them?

(for me it’s “trying” to lose weight)


This entry was posted in #writetip, advice for fiction writers, advice for young writers, Writing and tagged , by Laura Benedict. Bookmark the permalink.

About Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of eight novels of suspense, including The Stranger Inside (Publishers Weekly starred review). Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family. Visit her at www.laurabenedict.com.

30 thoughts on “Quit Trying to Write

  1. I love this post.

    Years ago, long before Yoda uttered those immortal words, when told by a subordinate that he was “trying” (he thought he’d been called in to be fired) I asked him to relax and have a seat in a chair. After he was seated, I said, “Now, try to get up.”

    Of course, he stood.

    I said, “See? There is no try. There is only do or do not. Now go do your job, and don’t sweat the small stuff.”

    He grinned, said thanks, and left.

    Great advice for writers. Writing is not trying. Writing is new words on the page.

  2. I am trying to write. There I have admitted it. Over the last year, I have been taking courses with critiques, reading craft books and blogs. Trying to improve, but I need to stop ‘trying’ and write/edit the book. A timely reminder, Laura, thank you.

  3. Great…now I have “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood ping-ponging around in my brain all day. 🙂

  4. #wordfortoday ?? I’ve been “stuck” for weeks stuffing more research into my overinflated research file till last night. (There’s only so much you can squeeze into stretchy pants before the seams give out as we all know.)

    It was time to put up or shut up as my mother-in-law would say.

    I have to admit the first paragraph wasn’t amazing or good or even interesting but it was enough to roll the car down the hill, pop the clutch and turn the engine over.

    Really encouraging this morning! I’ll never look at my coffee the same again ?

  5. Guilty as charged. Though when I say I’m trying to write my first novel, it’s kinda like me saying I’m trying to get those six-pack abs: I’m putting in the work; I just don’t know if what comes out of it will be the desired result.

    • If you’re putting in the work, i. e. writing the words, you are doing the only thing that will get it done.

      Maybe use the phrase “working on” when it comes to those abs. Sounds legit to me!

  6. The worst is when the “trying” writers include your Twitter handle along with thirty other trying writers, all whining to each other. *facepalm*

    I’m trying to wait patiently for spring, but alas, it’s not going well. 😉

    • Ouch! What a drag, Sue. If only Twitter had FB’s untag feature. ?

      You’re a good egg—always positive and supportive. Don’t let the Negative Nellies and Normans get you down!

  7. Wonderful advice!

    Btw, I got ahold of The Stranger Inside over the weekend, and I read it cover to cover in one sitting. Congrats on a great book. Have you sold the movie rights yet? Anyone who reads the book will understand the wisdom installing security cameras on their homes that can be monitored remotely! Thanks for a great read.

    • Thank you, Joanne! What a lovely thing to hear. That you read it in one sitting is a huge compliment.

      Film rights are not yet sold, darn it. Fingers crossed! ?

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