I don’t feel like writing.
I have been awake since 4:30 AM and it is now 9 PM. I did not choose to wake up this early, in fact I very much would have liked to not have gotten out of bed at all. It doesn’t help that today turned into one of those “everything that could have gone wrong will go wrong” days. Oh, and it’s also Monday.
I’m tired. I’m upset for reasons not relevant to this blog post. I’m anxious, I’m frustrated, and honestly, I’m cold and my big fluffy loaf of a dog WON’T CUDDLE WITH ME.
The last thing I want to be doing right now is sitting upright in an uncomfortable chair in front of a bright computer screen typing words that have to make sense just in case someone happens to someday stumble upon and attempt to read them.
But there is more than one reason I am sitting here, upright in an uncomfortable chair in front of a bright computer screen typing words I hope you will someday read.
Mostly I just love being able to share what I am feeling and thinking about as a writer, always with the goal of helping you solve a problem or acknowledge you are in need of a solution to an issue. Even on days I don’t want to share what my “real” writing life is like, that’s the whole reason I started this blog in the first place. To leave out the lows and the worsts just wouldn’t be helpful or fair.
So here I am, telling you that I do not feel like writing.
And yet here I am, somehow, still, writing.
I tell you all this, of course, because I find it hard to believe there is a writer out there who has never experienced intense feelings of I Don’t Want to Do Anything That Requires Being Vertical syndrome. We all have rough days, bad days, long days, sad days. Sometimes we can afford to lie down and hide under a blanket and focus on our breathing, but not always. For some of us, it is almost never an option when we really need it to be one.
Life is hard. Writing while living life is hard. It’s hard enough to write when you’re feeling good, sometimes. And then there are those days writing a single word feels like it takes 20 minutes and it almost physically hurts and you don’t think you can do it a second time, let alone hundreds of times in a single sitting.
There are going to be days you do not feel like writing.
And those days will almost always occur when writing is your biggest priority (e.g., you have a deadline tonight and you can’t put this thing off any more than you already have). So you have to practice the art of Doing the Thing Anyway Because Gosh Darn It You Promised Yourself You Would.
Sometimes I forget what it’s like to feel as though all the energy has been stripped from you and you don’t have anything left. There isn’t anything in reserve, there isn’t anything left to hold onto. I forget, and then I’m less empathetic when I write about Not Wanting to Write, and I’m sorry about that. I really am. I never want to make you feel like your emotions don’t matter.
So while I’m feeling the worst I have felt in a long time, I will take this opportunity to tell you how writing happens when I don’t want it to happen.
If everything is going wrong and I don’t feel like writing, how am I writing anyway?
- I have a specific daily goal that rarely changes. This week my only goal is to write 3,000 words per day. I already know that is the absolute minimum I both can and will need to hit in order to stay on track to meeting my long-term goals. I woke up this morning knowing this was my goal. It “helps” that I have missed my goal fort the past three days and don’t want to/cannot afford to miss it again.
- I know I will feel worse tomorrow if I don’t write today. I do not like to fail, especially when I am the only person to blame for my failure. I know HOW to fail, and I know that failing is an absolutely essential part of the creative growth process. But that does not mean I like it. I know myself, and I know that I would much rather suffer through an hour of Writing When I Really Don’t Want To than an entire day of Why Didn’t You Write Last Night You Silly, Silly Bean.
- There really isn’t a good reason why I can’t. You have reasons, and you have excuses. Slipping, falling, and breaking my wrist would be a completely legitimate reason why I might take a night (or several off of writing. Not writing because I would much rather be curled up under a blanket with tea and a good book is not a reason, it’s an excuse. All those “reasons” I gave for not wanting to write at the beginning of this post? They were just excuses. There’s nothing more deceiving for a writer than an excuse, and it’s up to us to not let them trick us into giving up too soon.
- I am in major need of a confidence boost. Everyone has their own way of picking themselves up when they are feeling down, doubtful, and self-conscious. What I have found to be most effective for me personally is sitting down and doing the very thing I feel least confident about doing at the moment. Thirty minutes ago I was feeling like a bad writer, a mediocre human being really, like I would never be able to find the strength to meet my goal. So I sat down and started trying, and I won’t say it has fixed all my problems, but I do feel slightly less awful about myself, so that’s something I guess.
How do you Just Write Anyway even when you don’t want to? You type one word at a time. One, and then the next, and then the next, and so on.
You keep typing until it starts to feel less terrible.
Then you type some more.
And by the time you reach some kind of ending, you might realize you don’t necessarily feel better than you did before. But you will walk away from your desk knowing you did something, and something is better than nothing. You did it. You tried your best. You won the moment. Go you!
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.