Posted by: jeannineatkins | February 15, 2011

Clinging to the Castle: Writing as Work or Play?

When I scoop my laptop from the breakfast table, fix another cup of tea, and tell my husband I’m going to work on some poems, sometimes it feels like that. A chore. A job. Hard.

But these days I have a lot of words to work with, which makes writing seem a little more like play. I might say there’s a skeleton, but that sounds creepy, or a map with roughed-out roads, but that makes it sound more structured than it is. I’m thinking of it as a kid who’s piled up a lot of sand for a castle. Some sand will turn into turrets. Some will be pushed down or collapse on its own. Some will be shaped into windows.

Lots of lots of attention must still be paid to details, but right now it’s more like play than work, even if, well, already wearing sweatpants, baggy sweater, and red wristlets to keep out the cold, I don’t look as serious as I’d like (the chance to wear better clothes is why some of us like to teach.) But I’m moving in and out of windows, exploring, tearing down, trying out the look of another balcony or level.

This is perhaps my favorite part of the writing process. I don’t have to wear blinders against the glare of the blank page. The copy editor in me can keep quiet, instead of staying vigilant for typos, puffy phrases, and too-wandering sentences.

Or wondering if I’ve left too many or not enough windows open, if they’re shuttered to just the right angle. So readers can get in but not get lost.



  1. Thanks! Needed to reframe my work today. Castles it is!

  2. I am trying to keep play in this revision! Let’s write together! : )

  3. Sand castles. I’m going to remember this, Jeannine. Thank you! A.

  4. Enjoy the sand! And many many windows. You can always fill in a few later.

  5. So so happy to write with you. Get out that red bathing suit with the tutu-ish-puff!

  6. I will be looking for sand castles in your next poem, Amy!

  7. Have fun exploring today. You may not want to come back from the beach! 🙂

  8. Pssst, I wear baggy sweatpants and old sweaters to write (play) in as well! And in those comfy old clothes, I’ll be starting a new story today and would love to fling open windows and pile sand into turrets too!

  9. Sculpting sand castles on the beach – that’s a spot-on analogy. Even when it’s hard work, it’s helpful to have a playfully positive attitude. I’m at the wave-just-bashed-down-a-castle-wall stage in my project. Trying to repair and rebuild has got me groaning.

  10. I’m wearing pajama pants and a sweatshirt, my “winter uniform.” In the summer when I teach, out come my skirts and pretty tops, my handmade jewelry, real shoes, vintage purses. So right!

  11. It was a good day! Thanks, Jenni.

  12. It sounds like you’re being pretty creative within the wider space you courageously made for yourself. I hope that story got off to a roomy start, with windows flung open.

  13. I do think the sand play helps. Thinking how kids can just kick things down or walk away and start over — I’d like to be more like that than complaining because I have to build a new wing. Or two.
    Good luck with your repairs, Angela!

  14. Sounds like an excellent balance of time and wardrobes!

  15. Love the image of the windows in that castle… and of you in your red wristlets. It’s good to hear you’re having days where “off to work” feels more like “off to play.”

  16. I’m not sure I feel like work is going off to play, but I’m trying to nudge — or wrestle — myself toward that feeling. And then, when I forget all about what I’m doing, it sometimes comes.
    Hope you are having a few sandcastle moments, Amy.

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