Do you ever stop in the middle of working on something, sit back in your chair, and think, “Wow. This is a good idea. But I’m REALLY not enjoying this”?
It happens to all of us at some point. Which is scary for a lot of people, because there’s this general belief that if you aren’t enjoying what you’re writing, you shouldn’t be writing it.
In some cases, this can still be true. But not usually.
I hate the so-called inspirational mantra that if you do what you love you’ll “never work a day in your life.” That’s garbage advice. Especially where creative professions are concerned. You might absolutely love to write. But guess what? Writing is still work, no matter how satisfied and fulfilled it might make you feel.
If there are moments writing feels a lot more like work than “fun,” does that mean you’re doing something wrong? OF COURSE NOT! There are days I sit down to start working my way toward my daily word count goal and would really rather be doing something else. That doesn’t mean I’m not a “real” writer, that I’m working on the wrong project, or that I need some kind of creative cleanse to get myself back on track.
It just means I am human. I get tired and moody and sometimes the things I enjoy are necessary and I don’t always enjoy forcing myself to do them. Such is life. You sit down anyway, you do the work, and hopefully as you’re typing along you gradually start to enjoy yourself a little bit more.
For many writers, starting is always the hardest part. They dread it and do all they can to avoid it, they kick, they scream, they consider quitting altogether. But once they get over that initial hurdle and start the thing, they have a pretty good time.
You’re not always going to want to. Often, you just have to anyway. Especially if writing is even a small part of your job. You don’t have a choice. At least some part of your writing life should ALWAYS be fun, even if it means writing a little extra in the evenings so you can work on something that’s just for you.
But what if you’re REALLY not enjoying any of this anymore? Like, it’s not just the occasional “I don’t feel like writing today” but everything you try to write, you hate? What if you’re tempted to quit writing altogether because it legitimately no longer brings you joy?
There may be a few key questions you can ask yourself if you’re having a hard time “finding the fun” in anything you’re doing, writing-wise.
- Are you finding it hard to enjoy anything, not just writing? If so, you might want to consider seeing someone about your mental health. If writing used to fill you with excitement and purpose and it no longer does, look at other areas of your life. Are you unhappy to the point of struggling to find meaning in anything you’re doing? Take that seriously. Talk with your doctor and make your health a priority.
- Is there something you want to work on that you’re avoiding? For a long time, the only writing I did was writing I was getting paid for. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I was so miserable. I was writing! People were paying me! Why was I being so ungrateful? It turned out I was missing an extremely important piece of the puzzle: Having an ongoing writing project that was just mine, one that I was excited about and looked forward to working on. Don’t deprive yourself of what I call “free writing” — sitting down at your computer and just writing whatever the heck you want. Try it.
- Are you bored? Our attention spans are notoriously awful. I know plenty of people who start and abandon writing projects almost weekly because they just can’t commit to something long-term. I get that, and it’s not my job to judge anyone who gets bored easily. However, this might be a good time to ask yourself what you really want out of writing. Are you OK with it just being a hobby and having the freedom to write however much of a story you want before leaving it behind for something else? Or do you want to make it a career — in which case you’re going to have to learn how to actually finish the writing projects you start? There’s nothing wrong with not finishing anything, if you’re at peace with that. If you’re having fun, nothing else matters. If you’re not having fun, you might need to find help developing strategies to help you focus long-term on bigger projects.
- Is it hard to focus on writing because Life Happens? When I’m stressed about something going on in my off-screen life, I find it difficult to enjoy working on my personal writing projects no matter how in love I might be with the story or how much fun I may normally have spending time on it. Sometimes we don’t realize how much Real Life bleeds into our work until that stress goes away and we finally feel capable of going about our normal routines again. Your struggles could have absolutely nothing to do with writing — it’s just the area of your life you’re noticing stress’s negative impact the most. So if you need to, give yourself permission to step away from your writing for a bit to take care of whatever life might be throwing at you. It’s OK. Sometimes, taking a break can end up being the best thing that will ever happen to you as a writer.
Writing is not always fun. And sometimes it’s not even the writing itself that’s causing an overwhelming challenge for you. Sometimes you do need to take some time away from your writing to deal with other things, even if only so you can get back to your book or blog or freelance work and do so joyfully.
But don’t give up on an idea or consider quitting writing altogether because you aren’t having fun. Take the time to figure out what’s really causing your misery and see if taking care of that fixes the problem.
And if you try that and you’re still not enjoying it, it’s still possible you haven’t found the kind of writing or the specific project that’s going to leave you feeling fulfilled. That’s OK — as long as you don’t give up before you give yourself the chance to find it.
If you’re not enjoying what you’re currently working on, leave a comment and tell me about it. I don’t generally have this problem, so I’m eager to hear what your personal struggles are and if I didn’t hit on a particular key pain point you hoped I would address! I’m always learning just like you. Good luck with all your word-making!
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.