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What I Learned From Not Writing About What I Learned From The Law

8 March, 2008 Posted by Joanna As Reflections

I am fascinated by the writing process (you might have noticed). And I guess we can learn just as much from what we don’t, won’t or can’t write as what we do.

I had a ‘couldn’t write’ moment this week. I wanted to write something for the Middle Zone project on What I Learned From… The Law. I’ve been a regular contributor since I found out about WILF. It fits at least three of my blogging and writing aims, to:

  • write in different places to get to know new readers and writers
  • share some more personal stories and insights than I write in my standard posts
  • support blogging friends and colleagues

There are times when those aims can come bumping up against other intentions though, like wanting to avoid:

  • writing so much it stops being fun
  • getting too distracted from my blogging purpose and focus
  • ending up with too long a ‘to do’ list

And when it’s on a topic where you can’t immediately spot a way in… well then it gets hard. Your mind keeps turning it over but keeps on coming up blank. No ideas. No words. No inspiration.


Writing With All Our Intelligence

But another one of my writing and blogging aims is to keep responding to new challenges. I’d been struck by Robyn McMaster’s recent challenge to use all of our intelligences to stretch our minds and get our words flowing. So I thought I’d give it a go for this What I Learned From project.

Here’s how I got on.

I took a look at this sheriff picture Robert had sent me for inspiration. It made me smile. It helped me relax. It made me want to write something for someone who’d send me a picture to help (not to mention the bag of cookies). But it didn’t help me find the words.

I fired myself up listening to this Clash version of ‘I fought the law’ and it got me jumping and singing (all day). But writing? Nope, not a word.

I went for a walk, soaking up the gorgeous spring sunshine we’ve been enjoying here this week, singing to the Clash as I went. And of course I couldn’t help but be reminded of the laws of nature, the inexorable power and energy of spring.

I thought about writing something clever on what I’d learned about the language of the law, based on the inspiration I get from a legal writing blog I quietly follow. But I knew it would be too much work, and too serious a response to the challenge.

I wondered about constructing a list by numbers.

I tried moving myself out of my stuck state by whizzing around the house and garden, tidying and cleaning as I went (and yes, still singing along to the Clash). It worked - in that the house and garden got a tidy, and I re-learned some well known laws. Like the law of dust, which falls as fast as you wipe. Or weeds, which grow as fast as you pull. Or window cleaning - that the dirt’s always on the other side.

I tried looking ‘inside’ as I worked: reflecting, remembering, asking myself for stories I could share as I sang, danced, walked and weeded

I tried focusing on my writing intention - to share some of my words, to support a friend’s project.

But still: nothing.

Except the words of the song.

And the remembrance of my muse’s Number 1 writing law.

She’ll write when she’s ready. When the frame appears. When the hook pops into her mind. When inspiration strikes.

And not a word before.

So Robert, I did my best. But in the end it was just like you said.

I fought the law, and the law won.

Thanks to Robert for another WILF project and humouring my contributions, however far I might be stretching the connection…I think you also inspired my longest ever headline to date!

And thanks to Robyn for encouraging me to give my intelligences a workout. And yes, they did inspire this piece…If you’re intrigued the intelligences are spatial, musical, naturalistic, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinaesthetic, logical-mathematical, intrapersonal, interpersonal. It’s definitely worth giving them a go if you’re stuck for some inspiration!

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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Categories : Reflections

Karin H. March 8, 2008

Hi Joanna

Could be that the law won, but IMHO the writer still won this one - your reminiscing on your ’struggle with the WILF law’ made me smile ;-) ‘cos I recognised so many ‘musing’ issues we all have in it.

Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

RobynNo Gravatar March 8, 2008

Hi Joanna, what fun to see you tap into your intellgences as a way to spark your writing inspiration. I was just posting a blog to highlight bloggers whose posts dig deeper into each of these intelligences, and I can’t miss posting yours since you mention all of them!

And, I did try the numbered list as I wrote about Brad’s Cartoon for his contest. It took awhile before my idea burbled, but when it came, though I aimed for a list of seven, ten were within reach so I decided to stretch!

Thanks so much for the give and take we enjoy as bloggers!

Joanna YoungNo Gravatar March 8, 2008

Hi Karin, you’re right, I won one battle if not the other!

Robyn, I enjoyed testing out the different intelligences for this post. I was playing a bit here, but I will definitely keep experimenting for different results or when I get stuck in the future. I’m glad the numbering is working for you!


Jean Browman--Cheerful MonkNo Gravatar March 8, 2008

Great job! It illustrates the Number 1 rule of writing: Keep trying…never give up. I’m starting to do the WILF challenge each month too. And I agree-it’s a great way to stretch ourselves. :)

Karen SwimNo Gravatar March 8, 2008

Joanna, you may have stretched the challenge a bit but I really enjoyed this post. I laughed and sang along as I nodded my head in recognition. Once again you have shown us how even a block can be shaped into an experience worth writing about!

Thank you!


Debbie YostNo Gravatar March 8, 2008

I have to be honest; I’m glad the law won. I really enjoyed this.

Robert HruzekNo Gravatar March 8, 2008


I am so glad you did this, Joanna; it illustrates perfectly the wide latitude of thought to which the WILF project is dedicated!

And, being especially fond of surprise endings, you had me hanging on to the very end, only to experience a definite snort of laughter with your final sentence!

It was worth the bag of cookies for that!

Way to go!

Robert @ reason4smile March 9, 2008

Hi Joanna, that’s a very creative contribution you have, an inspiration who came from no inspiration. =)
Great job!

Joanna YoungNo Gravatar March 9, 2008

Hi everyone

I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. I certainly had fun writing it.

@ Jean It is a good way to stretch isn’t it - each one has taken me in a different direction. I like your adage too, though maybe I’d stretch it to ‘keep trying… till you find what works for you’ (No point banging a head against a brick wall!)

@ Karen With the right inspiration I can stretch most things into a post! I’m hoping you’ll all let me know if I stretch things too far :-)
@ Debbie - thanks :-) Interested in the name change - are you making the switch to Debbie?

@ Robert - I’d never realised WILF was dedicated to latitude of thought but now you come to mention it…

As Jean says, it does give us a stretch, either in content or the way we approach it. Hats off to you for organising it each month.

@ Robert thank you and thanks for stopping by :-) It was fun working out a way to write about not-being inspired, especially when my theme this month is inspiration!


Daz Cox March 9, 2008

brilliant! The Clash always inspire me. The clash helped inspire the early hiphop scene too with their beats and fight the power lyrics. It’s wonderful how things connect!

glad i found your blog!

Joanna YoungNo Gravatar March 10, 2008

Hi Daz - I’m glad you found something that resonated for you - it’s great when that happens :-)
I love the energy of the Clash too - it reconnected me to my younger self listening to this song, I’m glad you enjoyed it too :-)

Jeanne DininniNo Gravatar March 10, 2008


Wonderful post! Your honesty is refreshing and your wit a delight! This post is one that can bring so much encouragement to other writers who may occasionally experience similar shortages of inspiration on a particular topic.

I have to admit that, right up until several hours before deadline, I had the same problem with this WILF topic and had really begun to think I would need to pass on this one for lack of anything to say about it! It was certainly a challenge, but thankfully I managed to come up with an angle at the last moment.

Bravo for managing to develop an angle from your very lack of one! Wonderful work!


Joanna YoungNo Gravatar March 11, 2008

Jeanne, it was a challenge, but I guess like me you stuck with it because of the motivation - to be part of something a friend organises and supports - I often find that a positive intention helps me to find the words. I know it drives your work too.

Thanks for the feedback


Jackie Cameron March 11, 2008

Hi Joanna

I was there with you on this one. I thought I might have to ignore Bob’s challenge this time round but then the (tiny) bit of me that likes to break the rules kicked in. Thanks for sharing - it made me smile.

Joanna YoungNo Gravatar March 11, 2008

Jackie, I’m glad to hear you’re a rule-breaker too. I reckon the more you blog the bigger that bit of you is going to get :-)
Glad I made you smile - I got the same effect from reading yours!


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