As I’m writing this, I’m just coming off a full day of work, plus an extra meeting/interview — something that notoriously leaves me drained yet fulfilled. Almost every part of my brain is screaming at me, “Take the night off! Don’t write! Wait until you’re feeling better!”
Your thoughts aren’t always lying to you — you can trust them a good percentage of the time. But they do have a tendency to trick you into believing you’re not quite as strong-willed as you actually are. It’s very likely that you’re capable of accomplishing the work you’ve set out to do even when something inside your head is begging you not to exert the effort.
Sure, you might really, really want to watch Captain Marvel because it was just released on digital and you’ve already downloaded it and all you have to do is press play and you’ll be good to go, but you want to do that because you want to escape from your feelings of exhaustion and disappointment.
You know you have to write — in the sense that if you don’t, you’ll regret not having written when you wake up tomorrow, and that’s never a pleasant way to start your day.
Plus, if we tossed away our work every time we didn’t feel like doing it, we wouldn’t have jobs or the money to buy movies, so there’s that.
Why can’t you reserve your writing time only for when you “feel” like writing? Because that practice and mindset will set you up for failure before you even start trying.
The truth is, Life Happens. It’s unpredictable, inconvenient, and always attempts to default to chaos. We are an emotionally driven species and we react emotionally to the things that happen to us on a day to day basis. When something doesn’t go our way, we feel deflated and disappointed. When we hear good news, we feel alert and elated.
And the most “fun” part about this is that sharp shifts in our moods very rarely occur when it’s convenient. For example, you’re sitting down to write a blog post and that’s when your body decides to remind you how tired you are and as a result you feel frustrated about your depleted energy levels. All this combined makes you not want to write despite the fact that you cleared time in your schedule for writing.
But again … Life Happens. Most people who are dealing with things in their lives regardless of their severity still get up and go to work every day because they cannot afford to take unplanned days off. If you’re serious about making writing a career, shouldn’t you treat your writing time the exact same way — even if you technically have the luxury of skipping out on your work when it’s not convenient or favorable for you to do it?
For the record, I do get what it’s like to sit down after long hours at your day job, think about all the responsibilities you have outside of writing, and try to fathom actually opening your laptop to write. About 20 minutes ago, I felt that pain. I looked up from my screen and saw puppy dog eyes pleading with me — how could I not get up and play? There were books to read, emails to send, people to text back, dishes to rinse. There still are.
The absolute last thing I wanted to do was sit here and write a blog post.
Why am I doing it anyway? Because the world doesn’t stop spinning just because you’re tired or upset or things aren’t going your way. Do you have the right to evenings of self-care, weekends off, “you” time? Of course you do. You’re a human and humans are not supposed to work all day every day. I don’t care if you’re religious or not, a “day of rest” every week is not the worst concept to consider applying to your life.
But the reason so many aspiring writers never accomplish any of their creative ambitions is because they wait. They wait for the good days. They wait for all their problems to go away. They wait for the storms to pass. (I kid you not, I almost didn’t finish writing this because a major thunderstorm blew through. What does a storm have to do with my ability to write?)
They spend all their time waiting, and they end up waiting for a very long time. Because at every turn, there will be a bad day, a problem, a storm. You can’t write only when things are perfect. You have to learn to write through the good times as well as the bad.
Successful writers write. They don’t wait. They don’t say “I’ll do it tomorrow” when they’re tired — at least, not usually. They know when they can afford to take time off and when they can’t. They do whatever they need to do to push through the “I don’t want to” and get it done anyway.
Be one of those people. Do it anyway, even when you don’t feel like it.
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.