Fiction writer uses this one weird trick.

Time in, garbage out.

Erin Fitzgerald
3 min readSep 6, 2021


collaborate and listen

Eventually you’ll figure it out, so let me save you some time: The office with a view over my mental fiction writing warehouse is usually empty or on fire. I’m all over the place with process and attitude and dreams. Most of what I do as a is sneak up on myself with a sock full of doorknobs, revel briefly in the novelty and surprise, and then wait for the next sock to come along.

That said: There’s one exercise I’ve done for years and years that has always worked the way I need it to. I’m sure I started doing it after reading Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones a million years ago, but it’s morphed a little for me since then. I call it taking out the trash.

I start a writing session with 20 minutes. (Less time if I have less time, but always some time — around a third of the time I think I’ll end up having.) I spend that time writing….trash. I don’t mean it’s okay if the draft is crap. I mean that I natter on and on and on about whatever’s in my head. Maybe I’m pissed off or happy about life or the news or the Internet. Maybe I have a song or a phrase stuck in my head. I don’t stop. If I can’t think of anything, I say I can’t think of anything.

Most important: I don’t think of it as writing. I think of it as necessary sacrifice to get to the good stuff. I think of it as meditation for someone who definitely hates meditation. I think of it as time. That’s all it is — nothing more, and nothing less.

Sometimes, in the midst of that time, I sense things are going off kilter. Maybe I desperately want to look at Twitter. Maybe there’s an interruption of some kind. Maybe I’m about to climb into a bathysphere that I know isn’t going anywhere good. I sense that I need to reboot. When that happens, I do this:

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If it’s really bad, I try to make coherent sentences. If it’s really really bad, I try to choose words I know I’ve never used before. (X is rough.)

This is my left brain punching my right brain for two minutes, tops, and it puts me back where I need…



Erin Fitzgerald

Dual citizen of fiction writing and content design.