Sometimes writing is the last thing you want to do. It happens to all of us—especially when those deadlines start looming. So here are two approaches for when you just don’t feel like writing.
1. Write anyway.
When you’re deep in a project, things get tough. I’m not talking a rainstorm during a jog. I’m talking halfway up Mount Kilimanjaro with wild dogs fighting you for your last piece of beef jerky and Zeus sending lightning bolts down from Olympus. We’ve all been there. And nine times out of ten, if you want to finish the project, you’ve just got to push through it. Here are some of my top ways to do that.
Write shit. Just write. It doesn’t matter if you type What am I doing? over and over. Just write something that looks like words. Chances are, the sheer action and repetition will knock the gears in your mind loose, and the real stuff will start flowing.
Talk to other writers. Push each other. Learn from each other. Share in each other’s misery. Having a community and a network will give you confidence when things get tough. If you’re short on writerly friends, check out this group on Facebook. It’s full of great folks with some real knowledge of the craft.
Inspire yourself. Do that thing that always gets the words flowing—whatever that is for you. Listen to your favorite music. Read a great passage from a book. Watch a good movie. Climb to the top of a mountain, or just sit outside and listen to the birds. Give your creativity an optimal environment.
Switch between projects. If you get stuck or burned out, work on something else. Focusing on different characters and plotlines might give your mind the space it needs to spark a great idea for your other project.
Write by hand. I wrote a whole blog post on this. Writing by hand can do a lot toward breaking a rut. It’s hard to beat the feel of a good pen over paper, or a leather notebook on your knee.
Take a break. Don’t write for a day, a week, a month. See what happens. Chances are, you’ll miss it. You’ll be dying to put words to paper, and what you produce will be even better. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the monotonous day-to-day I have to do this and this and this, we forget that we get to do things. We get to write. A break might remind you of that. And if it doesn’t… see the next bullet point.
If you never feel like writing, if it is always a chore and you don’t get enjoyment out of it, maybe you should just stop. I’m not saying that to be mean or to discourage you, but here’s the thing: writer’s write. And if writing makes your miserable, maybe you shouldn’t be a writer. My dad always told me before softball games, “Pay attention and have fun.” Pay attention was so I didn’t get hurt. Important on the ball field—not really applicable to writing. But have fun—that’s important. He always told me that the second I was not having fun on the field, it was time to hang up my spikes. Because that’s the purpose. That’s why we play. If you’re not having fun writing, why are you doing it? That’s not a rhetorical question. That’s something genuinely worth asking yourself. If you have a valid answer, awesome. Maybe you have something specific you feel you need to write. Maybe you’re one of those people who like “having written,” but the process is a drag. I don’t know. But if writing is consistently something you don’t want to do, it’s definitely worth asking why you do it. Because life is too short to waste on things you don’t enjoy.
So what do you do when you don’t feel like writing?