How to Write When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

It CAN be done.

So. It’s time to write, and you REALLY don’t feel like doing it.

You might find yourself at war with your creativity — you WANT to want to write, but you just can’t quite get there. Should you, or shouldn’t you?

Some are all for the concept of “just writing anyway” even when you would rather not. Others are fully and passionately against it.

So let’s get right to the meat of this post, shall we? If you need to get something written — you’re on deadline, you’re behind schedule, whatever your reason — it’s not going to be an easy thing to do if you’re lacking the motivation to get it done.

But that does not mean it’s not still possible.

What do you do when you have to write but don’t want to write — or when you know you SHOULD write but would rather not? Here are my suggestions.

Know your end goal and break it into smaller goals. 

Have you ever looked at a writing task and just walked away shaking your head? Really, this can apply to anything. Like when you’re standing in front of a sink full of dishes and fully convinced you will never be able to wash and dry every single dish without crying into the soap suds.

In reality, if you just took a deep breath, picked up one dish, cleaned and dried it, and put it away before moving on to the next one, you might be able to make it through all of them without shedding a single tear!

Sometimes we are tempted to avoid writing something — especially when a deadline is approaching — because we are too overwhelmed with trying to tackle a task that’s too big to conquer.

Let’s say you are working on a 1,000-word article for a client. Looking at the blank page, 1,000 words feels like a lot, and all of a sudden you just don’t want to do it anymore. But it’s not an impossible task — it just feels like more than you can handle. But do you know what you CAN handle? Writing 250 words four times. Focus on getting that first 250 done. Then 250 more. You just might discover that the next 500 come and go in no time at all.

Create one hour of uninterrupted time in an ideal space. 

Sometimes we struggle to get our writing done because we don’t feel like we have a big enough block of time for it. Even though writing CAN take multiple hours to complete depending on the task, that doesn’t mean you have to do all your writing at once, or that you need to block off an entire morning to focus on your writing.

Maybe the way to break through the “I don’t feel like it” associated with not knowing how to manage your time is as simple as planning out one hour a day exclusively for writing, in a space you use primarily for writing or other work.

This is not an easy thing to do, and focusing on what you need to get done can make it even more challenging to even consider even the possibility of locking yourself in a room for an hour alone. But I can pretty much guarantee that if you look hard enough at your schedule, you will be able to find one solid hour available for getting at least some of your work done uninterrupted.

I know, I thought this didn’t exist in my life either. Then I realized my dog always fell asleep around 9:00 PM, which has now become one of my peak writing productivity hours. Find your time and your space and get the work done, even if it isn’t always ideal.

You don’t need a whole day, you don’t even need a whole afternoon. Just start with an hour, do with it what you can, and go from there.

Block your distractions — whatever it takes.

We are much more prone to distractions when we’re already not feeling motivated to get something done. Some call it procrastination. Others call it “book research.”

In all seriousness, though, if you want to or need to get writing done but can’t handle getting distracted — even if you think you aren’t going to somehow magically end up on Twitter in the middle of your writing session, you almost always will — it’s up to you to figure out how to avoid these distractions to the best of your ability. No one can or wants to do this for you.

Don’t even give yourself the opportunity to get distracted, because you almost always will. Instead, either get your biggest potential distractions out of the way before you sit down to write or do whatever you can to block them out during your designated writing time.

Know what your biggest go-to website or activity is when you’re highly distractable and make it inaccessible. Sometimes this might require a one-time dive into an app that helps you block certain websites (like Twitter) without denying you access to sites you might actually need (like Dictionary.com).

Other times it might have to get things “out of your system” before you start writing. Are you going to be thinking about calling Company X so much while you write that you can’t concentrate? Call Company X before you start writing. Then it will be out of your thoughts and you can focus on the task at hand (writing).

Just start writing. 

There are people who have to have everything “in place” before they start writing anything. They have to know where their story is headed. They have to have all their source material in front of them. They have to find an ideal jumping-in point before they can rev up and go.

But sometimes, none of that works — or it just isn’t quite enough — and the only way you will have any hope of getting things done is just by going in and doing it.

Starting is the hardest part. It will always be the hardest part. And if you don’t just dive right in, you’re going to end up sitting in front of your laptop for 20 minutes not writing before you realize a third of your allotted writing time is already gone.

It doesn’t matter if you start at the beginning or in the middle, you could start writing in the middle of a sentence for all it matters. Just start writing. Everything gets significantly easier, in comparison, once you get going. Most of the time. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s worth trying.

We worry way too much about everything being perfect the first time we do it that we psych ourselves out and end up doing nothing. Even if you don’t know exactly where you’re going with an idea, just go. It can be scary, and uncomfortable, and you might mess up more than once along the way. Welcome to the writing life! We don’t know what we’re doing half the time, and that’s the way it should be.

You figure things out as you go. You won’t if you don’t go.

At the end of the day, feelings are just feelings. They matter, they need to be dealt with. But they shouldn’t consistently stop you from doing what you want — or need — to do.

Write anyway.

You won’t regret 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.


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