“I don’t feel like writing.”
You know this phrase well, I’m guessing. But have you ever stopped to think about WHY you don’t feel like writing? What’s stopping you? What’s your latest excuse?
Here are a few key things that might be keeping you from writing, and how to get back to writing anyway.
You’re not actually writing what you want to write
It’s hard to explain how we get to this point. We have this great idea for a story, and maybe halfway through it we realize we never really wanted to write the thing in the first place. I’ve lost count of how many essays I’ve started, thinking, “Wow, this would be great for HuffPo,” only to realize I didn’t really care about the subject as much as I’d originally thought.
Sometimes, if you have no motivation whatsoever to write, it’s because, honestly, you’re not writing about what you really care about. That’s a problem. No wonder you keep putting it off.
How to change it
Write what you want to write! Whether you write as part of your job or not, at some point during the day you leave work and you come home. You do whatever it is you do in the evening; you go to bed; you wake up and do whatever you do in the morning; you go back to work. Most of you know what it’s like to work on a story you are really excited about. You WANT to write. You can’t WAIT to be able to work on it.
So during your down time – because yes, you do have at least a little down time – write something that really excites you. Even if it’s a letter a person will never read. It doesn’t matter. Motivation to write comes from writing something that motivates you to get through the rest of your day, so you can write again.
You’re letting your excuses win
I get it. You’re tired. You have a lot going on. Some of you literally get home, have to cook, have to take care of other people … the minute you get a little time to yourself, the last thing you want to do is write. I’ve been there. I was a college student. I’d leave my apartment before eight in the morning, after already having left once to run six miles, and some days wouldn’t get back until after nine. (I didn’t get very much writing done in college.) I made a lot of excuses though, still. I wasted a lot of time on my phone and on Facebook and studying harder than I needed to. I could have spent more time writing. I just didn’t.
Excuses have a way of making us believe we can’t. You really have to do whatever you can to convince yourself it’s possible.
How to write anyway
One hour. That’s it. There’s a prime time for writing in everyone’s day. I eventually figured out mine happens to be the hours between lunch and dinner. You have to find your prime time and block it out for writing. Can you always do this? No. Some people write best in the middle of the day, but you might have a full-time job. You can’t just stop working and write.
So maybe you can write on the weekends only. That may be less writing time during the week, but technically, it’s more quality writing time, because a little bit of really good, energized, stress-free writing is better than nothing. The point is, you have to make it work how you can make it work. Whatever your excuse is, you have to figure out how to silence it. If you really want to write this thing, you’re going to find a way to make it happen. If you give into excuses too easily, start writing something else.
You’re trying to do too much
Creative people like to work, whether they realize it or not. Art can still be considered work. You feel drained after working on a creative project because you are still using your brain, just maybe in a different way than someone who sits at a desk filling in spreadsheets all day. It is possible to overwork yourself by trying to write too much on the side.
If you don’t already know from experience, burnout is not fun. People glorify over-exhaustion WAY too much. You shouldn’t, you don’t have to, work so hard. A little bit of writing on the side – writing you are looking forward to doing – is great. But if you don’t have time to write a novel right now, at least not chapters at a time, stop stressing about it! There is no rush. The general rule I live by is, if you’re not getting paid to do it, it’s not a priority. If you have to skip a day, just let it go.
Too many writing projects is the worst thing you can do for your health. Really. Not just your physical and mental health, but the health of your book or articles or whatever it is you write when you aren’t on the clock.
How to back off (and bounce back)
I’m slowly transitioning into doing this in my own life. This year I decided I was going to finish one novel and start another, write 12 novellas, write an ebook … and so on. What’s so bad about focusing on only one writing project at a time? You’re not going to write well if you try to spread your creative energy out among too many projects at once. You are much better off putting all of your energy into one project.
Easier said than done, as always. Especially for you overachievers (I get you). You have to downsize before you can grow the “right” way. It’s OK to put some of your projects on hold. The world isn’t going to end just because your fictional one has to pause for a bit. If you write professionally, and your personal writing is more creative but your work tires your brain out too much, again, consider focusing on your personal writing on weekends. There is no “best” or “right” schedule for everybody. Try what you think might work. If it does, keep going. If it doesn’t, keep trying new things until you find what does.
I know it’s hard. But never forget to, at least a little bit, enjoy what you’re working on. Writing is always technically work, but you’re allowed to have fun at work. On your own time, write what you want to write; there is no such thing as a waste of time if you’re writing something, as long as you’re generally happy doing it. Forget your excuses; they don’t matter. And stop trying to do so much. You’re not a superhuman. You’re a writer, which is pretty close to having superpowers, but your energy isn’t limitless. It’s OK to slow down and figure out what you want to write next.
And if some days, it takes awhile to push yourself into writing mode – but you do eventually get there – that’s pretty awesome. The more you do that, without pushing yourself over the edge, the easier it gets. Keep going. Getting started is the hardest part.
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 for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.