Writing is fun. Sometimes. The worst state a writer can be in is that place where you want so desperately to write, but can’t do it. Even worse if you are someone who does not feel OK when you do not write.
If you have a day when you promise yourself you are going to write, and you don’t, and that neglect makes you feel awful in more ways than you can count, this is actually good news. Really.
It means there is something within you that not only wants this, but needs it.
Ideas are things (sort of). Inspiration is a feeling.
You can have a great idea for a story, and not end up writing it – right away, or ever. That is where much of the disconnect happens when aspiring writers are trying to put their ideas into words. (So much so that this month’s episode of BRAIN RUSH will be on this very topic, and you can get it by joining our email list.) You have a great idea … and it doesn’t get any further than that.
But you can’t always wait around for inspiration to show up, because it is not something that can or should ever attempt to be forced. You cannot beat yourself up too much for wanting to write, but not being able to. It takes practice to be able to push through the “I don’t feel like it” and drive yourself into a flow state. I still haven’t even completely mastered it. Sometimes, you have to walk away. And unless you’re on deadline, it is not the end of the world.
There is a healthy balance between ‘want to’ and ‘need to.’
If you know you want to, for example, finish your current novel, you technically already have a goal in mind (though a general one). The ‘want to’ is already there. It will not always be close enough to touch: if you’re tired or frustrated or have other things going on, you will have days where you do not want to. At all. And those are the days you need to shift your goal from a want to a need.
Something as simple as telling yourself, “I need to write 200 words today” can make all the difference in many cases. Deep down, you do want to do this. You know you are going to feel guilty and gross if you don’t do it. There are just barriers standing in your way (not the same as writer’s block, which I promise you, does not actually exist). You should give yourself at least three ‘need days’ a week, at least in the beginning. On these days, do what you can to make writing happen, even when it’s the last thing you want to be doing.
Despite everything, creativity is still a choice.
Some of us need to create to keep ourselves moving, but even that isn’t always enough to convince us to sit down and write when we don’t feel like it. Whether or not we write is still a choice. It’s still up to us. Sometimes that means it won’t always get done. That doesn’t mean we’re lazy. It means we know our own limits, and when we are ready, when we have it in us, we will pick up right where we left off before. Or start something new. Or go back and read things we wrote years ago, just because.
You are going to have those days. Know that they will happen. Leave room for them. Plan ahead. And never get too down on yourself for taking a day off. If you’re not in a writing mood, chances are, you need one.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.