Writing When You Don’t Want to Write

Writing When You Don’t Want to Write

I laugh when I think about my history with schoolwork. Though I was a decent student, I was never keen on homework. Instead, I would write all sorts of fictional stories and journal entries (I still have many of them). Literally, I would avoid homework to write. But now I write full time for clients and for myself, yet there are moments when I just dont feel up to the task. When deadlines are looming and its your full-time job, somehow procrastination creeps in.

Im not alone.

I recently spoke with a fellow writer whose full-time career with a pharmaceutical company gives her a built-in excuse to procrastinate. But thats not what holds her back from writing. Rather, she gets in her head.” Her inner critic scolds her for “luxuriating” in writing when she should spend every free minute with family, attend to chores, or work on weekends. Something others, along with her inner critic, stress is “a better use of her time.” She was recently told by a colleague that if she isnt compensated for her writing then its not a good investment of time. That’s a shame.

But I must admit, every single one of those thoughts (and statements) have also occurred to me. Thankfully, I have a family that totally supports my writing and when I dont feel like writing, Im the only one standing in the way.

To motivate myself, and all writers and authors, out of this mindset, Ive enlisted my friends and experts for their advice. Heres what propels them to write when they dont feel like writing.

“If you’re serious about being a writer, then write. Period. If you want to be a runner, you must run. If you want to be a baseball player, you must play baseball. Writing is a practice, not a gift, no matter what anyone says. Developing a voice and the ability to communicate what’s in your mind and on your heart to the page requires writing ‘muscles.’ Muscles take time to build. Scratch any successful writer and you’ll find years of practice.” ~ Cara Achterberg is an author, blogger, and animal advocate whose most recent novel, Blind Turn, won the American Writing Award for Women’s Fiction.

“I don’t think my take on writing is unique, but it does work for me. Like everything else I have learned and mastered, to some degree, each challenge has taken lots of ‘doing.’ Mastering shooting a bow and arrow – years of practice and having to go back to basics as the technology changed. 

In my thirties I made a pact with myself to focus on those things I didn’t want to do first. And as a result, I find that when something comes up that I don’t feel like doing I attack it first. The feeling of having taken care of it and knowing I can return to what I like to do is…priceless. And this applies to my writing too. I know I need to write to become a better writer. Late last year I started writing my first novella. In doing so, I delivered scenes, chapters, and acts to my beta readers for feedback

.Then at several points where I didn’t feel like writing, I dove into the feedback I’d received. It was insightful and inspirational. The feedback sparked my creativity and I edited and cut those story elements into 2nd and 3rd drafts. As a result of writing when I didn’t feel like it, the novella will be published on June 11th, 2024. As writers, we all love positive feedback. I like all feedback and my Beta readers don’t pull punches. Their investment of time for me recharges my batteries.” ~ Steve Stratton was awarded his Green Beret in 1986 and after a distinguished military career, now advises cyber security companies that support the warfighter and intelligence community. His first novel, Shadow Tier, was named a 2023 Bronze Medal winner by the Military Writers Society of America.

“My writing process is to think, binge write, stop, think, binge, stop, repeat. It is my method. It works for me. I (usually) avoid the dreaded ‘I’m going to write 2,000 words every day’ goal. Why? Because when I don’t do it, I feel bad. I get frustrated. It is like cheating on the diet resolution. Once I miss a few days, it is game over. Instead, I have stricter, longer-term word completion stop signs. These add scheduling flexibility and peace of mind.

Writing is a daunting chore sometimes. You know when the creative feeling, faint or otherwise, flows toward your fingertips. If you squeeze hard enough, they will appear eventually. But when it doesn’t emerge, the excuse button is pressed. ‘Gee, I can’t write now because I really should (fill in the blank).’ Sometimes, I write through it. Other times, nope. Who cares? When I don’t sense it, I don’t force it. But don’t make it a habit! Writers write.

At times, paralyzing waves of imposter complex fill my self-doubt bucket. These are the moments when my mind believes—strike that—KNOWS every other writer is stamping out two thousand words a day like a printing press. Doom scrolling their social media reinforces this. My mind fills with thoughts like, ‘They are pros. Successful. Dedicated. I’m an imposter.’ That is when I click my reset reminder. I’m me…think, binge write, stop, think, binge, stop, repeat.

I constantly employ my ‘Hemingway meets Argo’ maxim: Write the best worst sentence I can think of at that moment. Who cares what it is? It doesn’t matter. Maybe I write the second-best worst sentence. Third. Fourth. Stack them. Without fail, writing the best worst sentence sparks my fingertips to do their jobs. I started with my best worst to write this.” ~ Joe Goldberg is the award-winning and Amazon best-selling author of Secret Wars: An Espionage Story and The Spy Devils thriller series.

“I have a couple of tricks that help me battle those days when writing feels like a chore. The first is that I end each writing day at a point where I know what scene comes next, a cliffhanger of sorts to keep up the momentum. Another trick I use when the words won’t flow is to take a future scene and either write it out of sequence or outline it using the method I learned from James Scott Bell’s book Conflict & Suspense. For action scenes, list scene Objective, Obstacles, and Outcome. For reaction scenes or beats, list Emotion, Analysis, and Decision made. Listing these either on paper or on the computer is quick and easy, a small step that spurs creativity and moves the project forward.” ~ M. A. Monnin, Agatha Award finalist and author of the Intrepid Traveler Mystery series. 

“When I’m not ‘feeling it,’ I hit the pavement. I take a brisk walk away from inside noise and find a quiet sit spot among the flora and fauna of any nearby park or woods. I am still and I observe. Opening the senses feeds my creative spirit. And I don’t forget to take a notebook to write what organically comes to mind as a burst of writing inspiration is sure to come. When I just don’t feel ‘in the mood’ to write, I engage with something that keeps my hands busy. Instead of fingers working a keyboard, hands bake bread, knit, or clean! Cleaning out a junk drawer gives me a feeling of accomplishment and boosts my confidence and courage to return to writing though it may be just to jot a paragraph or a page.

“When I don’t feel like writing, I reframe the feeling. It’s not what I don’t feel like doing, but what I am in the mood for. And when I do feel like reading a book, taking a walk through any forest, or sitting in stillness, my mind is deflected away from the pressure of writing to places where I can count on inspiration for organic creativity. It’s fuel for the mind and soul.”  ~ Nancy Chadwick, author of the novel The Wisdom of the Willow.

Let’s hear from you. What are some of your “mindset” hacks to write when you don’t feel like writing

I hope this article provided you with a few applicable ideas. I would be honored if you shared this on social media. And speaking of sharing, please share your own ideas and experiences below. Together, we can build an uplifting community that focuses on supporting each other’s happiness, wellbeing, creativity, and success.

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