Writing or Penning?

Do people ask you how your writing is going? I’m sure we all get asked that. Who knows what the right answer is. One acquaintance of mine enquired further: ‘But are you penning or writing?’ he said. I didn’t know the difference.

‘Well,’ he replied, ‘ C. (his partner) tells me she’s been writing during the day, though not been “penning”.’ By this she means she’s wandered about the house, begun the cooking even, or taken herself off for a walk. But in her head she’s puzzling over how to better render her screenplay. This, he says, is writing. “Penning” on the other hand, is when C. puts her thoughts down on paper. Or gets cracking on the laptop.

For me his commentary illustrates that we writers can be way too hard on ourselves. We may make excuses about why we are not actually penning. It’s more than likely that our time spent on so-called daydreaming allows us the space to formulate ideas or deepen a story. In fact, isn’t reflection-time essential for writers?

Members of my writing group recently contributed to an episode of Cover to Cover (CTC), a literary program on Vision Australia Radio. How many hours did I wander around the house “writing” my essay entitled, ‘The Hanging Gardens of Babylon’? Many. I mulled over phrases, swapped words about, researched the culture of Australia’s Indigenous people, and rehearsed the story aloud. All along I was attempting to sharpen and tighten it.

For Elwood Writers’ memoirs, fiction and poems on the theme of ‘Adelaide”, you can listen to the CTC podcast below:

Cover to Cover, Episode 416 15 April 2022: Vision Australia Radio

All in all I consider my ruminating to be worthwhile. Talking to myself and reading gossip columns (a favourite diversion of mine) is part of the writing process – or rather part of preparing myself to actually “pen”. Why do we expect so much of ourselves? Writing is our craft, and we must do it our way. That is in the best way we know how. Sometimes that takes time, space … and reflection.


3 thoughts on “Writing or Penning?

  1. I’m always so reassured that many other writers do a large part of the ‘work’ just ruminating about it, before putting pen to paper or hitting the keyboard. That’s definitely me – spending my walking, reflecting hours agonising over alternative images or words for my poetry. And just occasionally getting it just right. Thanks for sharing this Margaret.


  2. Thanks, Helen. I think the IT industry recognises the importance of ‘dream’ time – or some companies do anyway. I believe that we writers need to claim that space too, It’s importance is totally underestimated.


  3. Reblogged this on Elwood Writers and commented:
    From time to time we like to share blog posts from our members’ individual websites. This, from Margaret’s blog, is a recent piece that resonates. “Writing is our craft, and we must do it our way. That is in the best way we know how. Sometimes that takes time, space … and reflection.” Hear, hear. You can enjoy Margaret’s post below (including a recording of our latest program on Vision Australia Radio, just in case you missed it). Happy reading, from a wet and grey autumnal Melbourne.


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