Question: Why do so many writers complain about writing?
Answer: Because writing is a challenge. And complaining is good for you. (Right?)
As often as I complain about writing, I love it more and more as the days go by. There’s just something about being able to give my thoughts and passions a purpose that makes getting up and going to work every day worth any moments of frustration, exhaustion, and those occasional no good very bad days.
Everyone — EVERYONE — has the occasional “nope” day. Nope, I don’t want to get out of bed yet. Nope, I don’t want to take the time to make breakfast. Nope, I really don’t feel like writing.
The problem is, sometimes, if you’re not careful … one “nope” day turns into two. Then four. And then it’s three months later, your book still isn’t done, your blog posts are garbage, and you’re questioning whether or not writing is even what you still want to do with your life.
Is there a way to make that stop happening?
I’ve learned something very important, over the past 12 or so years of taking my writing as seriously as I knew how: “do” is always better than “don’t.”
Sure, there are times I don’t end up getting something done because I can’t. Everyone has a limit that can’t be crossed, and many episodes of burnout have taught me not to try. But I’d say 85 percent of the time, the difference between writing and not writing is a matter of overcoming the urge to say “nope.”
I should write, but I’d rather watch Jurassic Park II before it leaves Netflix.
I should write, but I could also eat pizza and read a book instead.
I should write, but I’m tired.
I should write … but I just don’t want to.
There’s a difference between not writing because you’ve pushed yourself right up to your limit, and because you aren’t willing to push yourself to do it. It took me awhile, but eventually, I trained myself not to feel guilty when I’m approaching my limit and don’t end up writing.
I still feel guilty when I don’t write when I still could. That’s perfectly normal. But more and more, I’m able to recognize when I just don’t feel like it. And that triggers a reflex to write something — anything — to get myself out of the “nope” zone and into a flow state.
I’ve gotten better at this over time. There are many memories of guilty YouTube binges and Starbucks dates shuffled in with my high school memories. But discipline, my friends — it’s hard to get, but super helpful when you finally master it.
I don’t know where I’d be if I’d grown up just not doing something when I didn’t feel like it. I love to write, it makes me happy, and very rarely do I force myself to do it. But on those days I have to fight the urge to turn away from my work and do anything — EVERYTHING — except write, my habit of pushing through that temptation is still what gets me through that.
Writing when you don’t want to is a habit. The more times you say “yes” when you want to say “no,” the more automatic it becomes. Write anyway, because you’ll always feel better. You’ll gain the discipline necessary to only say “nope” when you’re confident it’s the best choice — not the easiest one.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.