Should You Only Write When You Feel Like It?

A lot of people do it. But is it a good strategy to follow?

There are days I don’t feel like writing. And I know I’m not alone.

All of us make excuses. We’re too tired. The dog needs another walk. What we ate for dinner was really good so we had seconds and now we’re really full and Netflix sounds much better than work anyway.

I’ve seen the same argument many times: You shouldn’t write when you don’t feel like it, because then your writing will be garbage and that’s a waste of energy and time.

I do not agree with this line of thinking.

I’m in the camp that believes writing should happen consistently no matter what. Not necessarily every day, but consistently. Meaning you don’t go months without writing, then write for 30 straight days, then stop for two weeks … you get the idea.

This is tough, because writing itself is an emotionally charged experience. In general, if you’re not “feeling it,” you’re not going to be able to write your best content.

But the problem most people run into here is that “not feeling like writing” halts productivity. You stop writing because, eh, you’re just not feeling it today/this week/this year.

You can’t always wait until you “feel like it.” The reality is, most of the time, you’re not going to feel like it until you start doing it. Or even while you’re doing it, on a really bad day.

Because in the long-term, what matters most isn’t that you’re always writing your best content. It’s that you’re writing something.

If it’s not good, you can either scrap it or tweak it to make it better later. People think this is a waste of time when, in reality, every “bad” thing you write teaches you how to write better in the future. Not everything you write has to or will get published.

You’ll definitely never publish anything good if you never write anything because you’re always waiting until you feel like writing to make it happen.

A lot of people might disagree with me on this point, and that’s fine. I just think you’ll waste more time always trying to write your “best” work than you will training yourself to write under all circumstances — including when you’d rather not do it.

Guess what? In the real world, it doesn’t matter if I feel like writing. If I don’t write, I lose my job. Then I don’t get paid, and well, THAT’S BAD.

Chances are, you’ll write just fine once you sit down and actually start doing it. But most people are too distracted by other things or are convinced that feeling tired or it being a Saturday always means they can’t get any writing done.

They can. They just choose not to.

I know life is hard. I face just as many productivity roadblocks as every other writer. But you can’t always let these things get in the way. I can’t tell you how to solve your own problems. I CAN, however, tell you that nothing feels better than getting your writing done even though you almost quit before you started.

Just write the things.

Heck. Just START writing the things.

Easier said than done? Yep. But writing is not easy. Welcome to the writing life! You. Got. This.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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11 thoughts on “Should You Only Write When You Feel Like It?

  1. Thank you for this reminder! Everything has been happening in my world lately. Funerals. Really bad news from extended family. Daughter in trouble seeking advice. Granddaughter in trouble seeking help. Breaking a tooth and going to the dentist to be drilled and filled. Car problems. Money problems. Leaky roof. Everybody wants something from me. You know, LIFE.

    But I have to keep writing. I NEED to keep writing. Do I FEEL like writing? Not. At. All.

    @#$%&! the torpedoes! I #AmWriting.

    1. KEEP GOING! :) It’s such a small thing, but sometimes writing even 200 words when you thought you couldn’t write any just feels. So. Good.

  2. I agree, often when I don’t feel like writing but force myself to do so anyway I make myself feel better in the process and write my most honest stuff. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Great post! I agree.
    Whenever I “don’t feel like writing” I will try to push myself. Things like “I’ll just write a few sentences” or “edit one chapter” push me to get started. And 9.9999 times out of 10 I enjoy it so much I end up writing/editing for a couple of hours and loving every moment. Sometimes you don’t realise you’re in the mood to write until you force yourself to do it. My advice would be to try a little, and if you STILL aren’t feeling it, maybe you need a rest/break. But sometimes you’ll be surprised at how much you actually really did want to write without realising. x

  4. I agree with everything you said. There is a momentum to writing, and often it can feel like a foregone conclusion that we’re going to waste our time, but I know that many times I feel that way when I first wake up, or start a task I’m not particularly enthusiastic about (looking at you dirty dishes), but the truth is, even if the process isn’t fun, getting it done often feels good.
    And, by telling ourselves that we should only write when we feel like it, and by choosing not to write with any regularity, we elevate the act of writing to this “rarefied state” that we may never achieve. Writing, as with all things, starts out awkward, and sometimes it’s awkward again, but one cannot improve at something if one is not willing to put in the time and practice.

    1. “Awkward” is the perfect word to use to describe it. It’s like getting to know someone. At first you have no idea where small talk is going to go but eventually it gets more comfortable. Or not! Who knows!

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