[DISCUSSION] How Do You Handle “Bad” Writing Days?


You’ve been staring at your screen for 20 minutes. You know exactly which ideas you want to take out of your head and put onto paper today. Yet every time you try to start writing, you just stop.

You want to write. But you just … can’t.

This happens to all of us, for plenty of reasons. You might be tired, or stressed. You might have had five amazingly productive writing days in a row, and have unintentionally burned yourself out.

Over time I’ve trained myself to keep writing even when I don’t feel like it. You’re going to have those days, when writing is the absolute last thing you want to spend your time doing. The more you get into professional writing, though, it becomes mandatory to write despite your mood or lack of motivation, so it’s not a bad idea to practice and make it a habit before that happens.

Does that mean, sometimes, the quality of what I’m writing isn’t the best it could be? Of course. Something else we learn, the more time we spend writing, is that nothing we write will ever be perfect, especially in the first draft. Sometimes you just need to get the words out, so you have something to go back and work with later. It’s the final product that needs to be at its highest possible quality, but when you’re still in the writing stage of the process, it’s okay to just plow through.

Whether it’s the time of day or just stubborn brain drought (writer’s block, but not) throwing you off, there’s no definite quick fix for writing, even when you don’t feel like it. As writers, unfortunately, it’s up to us to figure out the creatively stimulating methods that jumpstart our motivation and keep us going, even when we’d rather be doing something, anything else.

Maybe for you, that’s walking away and coming back later. Maybe you spend a few hours watching a movie. Maybe you just keep writing anyway. Everyone is different. Thankfully, there’s no right or wrong, just what works best for us.

Let’s discuss. Maybe someone else has a tactic you’ve never tried before. Maybe you’ve never had this problem (lucky you!) and are keeping some kind of secret (please share).

What do you do when the words just aren’t coming? Do you push through it, or take a break?
How do you motivate yourself to keep going, even when you know you’re not writing your absolute best work?

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

5 thoughts on “[DISCUSSION] How Do You Handle “Bad” Writing Days?

  1. Sometimes, I think you may not just want to write at that particular time of day. Your brain is just stunted for ideas. So if I sit at my computer and for 20 minutes I get nothing, I decide to go watch a one hour episode of something and come back, or I read a book for an hour, or I go run an errand. Usually, those few things help get my creativity rolling again.

    So sometimes it is just the time of day, some people when they first wake up can bang out an entire chapter and some people right great right after lunch and others might have to wait until the sun goes done, sometimes you might just need to change it up a bit and keep your creativity on its toes.

    But for me if I sit for 20 minutes and get nothing I go do something else for a little while and return to see if I can get something. And sometimes, it’s just not a creative day so i settle to write at least 500 words because who knows maybe the next day I’ll write 3000. I would definitely say always write at least 500 words.

    1. 500 words is a nice, even number – I like it. :) And for some reason that usually seems to be just the right amount. Sometimes you might struggle to hit 500, but usually by the time you get there, it’s sometimes hard to stop.

  2. On my bad writing days I would go outside for a bit and then take a moment to think through the scene I want to write. I normally set myself the goal of at least 500 words then force myself to write.
    By the time I have reached my 500 words I normally have the writing juices flowing again and can continue without struggle for the rest of the day.

    1. It’s awesome that you’ve found what works – I definitely think setting a specific goal and pushing through it works fairly well. It’s how I keep myself on a writing schedule no matter how busy things get.

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