As I sat down to start writing this blog post two hours ago, I realized very quickly that writing this post was the absolute last thing I wanted to do in that particular moment. Which is why two hours have passed, and I am just now getting around to writing it.
Many forms of writing advice catered to the masses — including my own — consistently make the point that you can’t just stop writing when it becomes challenging. The truth is, technically, that you can do whatever you want. If you want to stop writing at any point, you can absolutely do so.
But if you are someone truly dedicated to your art, and you want to pursue it, but you are worried about having negative feelings toward your practice, first of all, know this is completely normal. Even I still feel disappointed when I get to a point in writing a book where I momentarily stop loving my story (it’s bound to happen to everyone at some point along the process). Also know that even when you don’t necessarily always love doing something, that doesn’t mean you are “falling out” of love with it for good.
Are you struggling with negative feelings toward your writing? Here are some important things to consider as you decide whether or not to move forward.
Sometimes, writing feels like work. It has to. A lot of people do not like this truth, and I completely understand why that is the case. For many creators, writing serves as a form of relief from the stress of the outside world. A cleansing. An escape. To imply that writing takes effort implies it will add stress and drain already dangerously low energy stores. This is not highly appealing to most.
In truth, there are going to be moments, days, weeks, projects, tasks, that just aren’t or don’t feel fun. You are going to have to push through a lot of noise and distraction, doubt and fear to get to the point where writing becomes possible. You are going to have to focus on getting the work done, whether you want to do the work in a specific given moment or not.
There is a lot to be said about the argument that writing shouldn’t feel like work because writing is supposed to be freeing and spontaneous. And this viewpoint absolutely has merit — in the right contexts. Of COURSE you should allow yourself moments of total creative freedom. Of COURSE you should embrace the beauty of spontaneity in your own personal sandbox.
But it is very important to realize that there is a time for spontaneity and a time for doing it because it needs to be done. If you have a dream of writing a book, for example, you can’t just decide to write “whenever you feel inspired” and expect that book to ever reach its completion. You have to put in the work. You have to sit yourself down and actually Make Words Happen.
In the professional writing world, there are inflexible deadlines, and rules, and things can take a lot of time — often more time than you expect. You have to be able to push through the moments you don’t love the work you are doing, because you won’t always feel that love. You might even feel the exact opposite at times.
Frustration is part of the growth process. Negative emotions are extremely difficult to deal with no matter who you are or what you have been through. It is completely understandable that you might start to question yourself the moment writing starts to make you feel upset, or stressed, frustrated, or even angry.
You shouldn’t start to worry when writing becomes more challenging than you expected, or you momentarily don’t feel like doing it — or whatever might be going on that is changing the way you are thinking about your craft. Writing is SUPPOSED to be challenging a lot of the time. It’s SUPPOSED to be hard. Challenges promote creative growth. If writing were always easy, we would never have any reason to make an effort to improve.
Not loving writing is probably the best thing that will ever happen to you as a writer. Why? Because it will force you to ask yourself some pretty tough questions about your future. You will have to be open and honest not just about how you are feeling, but also why you are feeling that way. Is writing still worth it to you? Are you frustrated because you want to do better? Do you want to keep going? If not, then that’s something good to know, don’t you think?
There is nothing wrong with asking yourself questions like this. But if you do decide for certain that you want to keep writing — to keep going, to keep trying, no matter how tough things might feel — you have to move forward. And you have to move forward knowing that you are going to have bad days. Moments you would rather be doing anything BUT writing. Frustration will happen. But it is part of your journey, and it always will be.
On the days you love it, your love will guide you through it. I have been struggling a lot lately with remembering to love what I do even when I do not love doing it. I wish that weren’t the case. I wish that every single day I could wake up feeling excited to get started on my work. But lately, this just hasn’t been the case. And realistically, it usually won’t be for most people.
Just because something is hard does not mean it is not important to you. Quite the opposite, actually. The more you care about something, the more effort and time you are generally willing to dedicate to it. So even in the moments you might be struggling, at the end of it all, it’s because it matters to you. It’s because you really do love it deep down.
And then there will be the days you are reminded how meaningful writing truly is in your life. You will sit down to write something, unsure of where it might go, and the story just pours out of you as if it has been waiting for that release for years. You almost can’t control it. And possibly for the first time in a very long time … you love that.
There are sometimes moments when remembering your love for writing feels like you are falling in love for the first time all over again. You are motivated, you are excited, and most importantly, you feel ready to sit back and enjoy the ride. There has to be a balance as a writer between days it doesn’t go so well and days it does. This ensures that the days that do go well feel that much more satisfying compared to the days that do not.
Never forget that you started writing for a reason. And while sometimes that reason changes slightly over time as a writer grows, the point is that you had one then, and you have one now. The driving force behind creation should always be, no matter what, that you love what you do.
Feel that love, especially on your darkest days. It won’t always be like this. But even when it fades, one day, it will feel like this again.
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.