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What Is Incidental Writing and Why It’s an Important Writer’s Tool?



Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by Ben Oakley

What is incidental writing?

In the world of fitness – insider secrets here – there is something known as incidental exercise.

Which is to say, exercises you perform while carrying out your day-to-day activities that are not part of a dedicated fitness strategy.

Let’s say you stack shelves in supermarkets – superstar by the way – every time you lift a crate of beans from the cage to the shelf is considered incidental exercise.

Walking home with the shopping, moving up and down the stairs, walking the dog, cooking, dancing – all incidental exercise.

Going to the gym, stretching, jogging, fitness groups, dance classes, weightlifting – all essential exercise.

Incidental writing is something you do as part of your day-to-day life that is not considered part of your career or work.

Posting on social media, texting, idea planning, lists, letters, emails – all incidental writing.

I get it, posting on social media can be a full time job for some people but I’m talking about the incidental posting; the commenting, quote tweets, and interaction, not the promotional posts.

Incidental writing opportunities

If you’re a full-time writer, or even if you’re not, chances are that you are writing more words than will ever be published. And by published, I don’t only mean in book form, but in blog posts or articles as well.

Writers can use incidental writing to hone their skills and develop new ones.

Got a couple of emails sitting there waiting for a reply? Then it’s time to get creative but still aim to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

  • Tell a story.
  • Use new words.
  • Practice sentence structure.
  • Entice with personalised signatures.

Penning a blog post? Use ideas that spin off from the main topic to create new posts and articles. Where do you think this post came from?

  • Make lists.
  • Use a notepad.
  • Keep a blank document open.
  • Write a sentence for the new idea.

It’s fine to write one post at a time but you can expand your writing scope and increase productivity by dropping ideas into new documents and onto pads.

Your blog will thank you for it later – and so will your audience.

More content = increased organic visitors.

Why is incidental writing important?

In the same way that incidental exercise is vital to achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, incidental writing is vital to improving writing skills and learning new techniques.

I constantly talk about the flow that a writer can get into, and why it’s important to maintain the flow as long as possible. It’s that moment or session when words are pouring onto the page like you’ve been possessed by Isaac Asimov.

But the flow will slow and ultimately stop.

It’s what you do beyond the flow that can help you become more productive in your writing.

Using incidental writing can help break up your writing sessions and allow you to focus on other things, while still hammering the keyboard like there’s no tomorrow.

You probably won’t be best served by following up a three-hour fiction session directly with another three-hour fiction session.

Turning to emails or blog posts for an hour is one way to hone the craft, keep on creating, and improve your voice. When you return to your essential writing, you may feel refreshed and ready to go again.

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Ben Oakley is a bestselling author, researcher, publisher, blogger, and mental health advocate from Camden, England. Usually found on Twitter or in the bars and parks of Camden. Agathokakological is his favourite word!