Sometimes It IS Okay to Force Yourself to Write (Midweek Novel Update #11)


Not always. But sometimes.

It’s not the best idea to consistently force yourself to write “when you’re just not feeling it.” Especially when it feels like you’ve just run out of ideas, and need a little time for your brain’s creative switch to reset itself. Given time, that spark of motivation and flow of ideas will always come back.

But what if you’re a good ways into your story, you’re not stuck and all you need to do is fill in the gaps—but you’re just too busy to make consistent progress?

I’ve been working on my current book for over three years now. Two of those years, I was still in college, and as you can probably imagine (or infer from experience), time to write was minimal. So if there wasn’t a WriMo or a class break anytime soon, large quantities of writing didn’t really get done.

This past year I’ve bounced between a few internships, a temporary job, finishing up two degrees and starting graduate school. Some more time to write there, but I still wasn’t into the whole forcing yourself to write thing. Now I’m knee-deep in school work, job hunting, balancing a part-time gig (which is nice because I can do it in sweatpants and no one would ever know) and, of course, creating Novelty Revisions content daily, because I consider that (and you, my readers) a priority.

Honestly? I don’t really have time to write. But for the past week or so, since technically hitting my Camp NaNo word count goal, I’ve set a daily 1,000 word writing goal, because I told myself I wanted to get to 40,000 total words before the end of the month (that’s 40,000 including what I had written before July started). And I’m almost there. And if I keep going at this rate, I could technically, maybe, finish this thing before September, which would be amazing.

Because, as I mentioned: three years. A long time. And this newest revision, which I started completely from scratch, I’ve only been working on since April.

So is it technically a new book, not the same one I’ve been working on for three years? Eh, I guess. But so many of this new draft’s themes and concepts are taken from the first two revisions, I kind of just group them all into the same steady project.

Right now, with so much going on (and trying to start new projects, even though I’m nervous doing that without knowing what my job situation will look like in the next month), cranking out that daily 1K is really hard. And this is coming from someone who wrote an 130,000 word book in two weeks, but we’re not discussing the precise details of how that happened. Basically, it’s surprising to be struggling to get out such a small (in comparison) amount of words per day.

So how do I do it? I put it in my planner and say, “Do it.”

Is it always pretty? Of course not. I already know there are a few pieces I’m going to have to go back and fix, or maybe even not use at all. But sometimes we need to just convince ourselves writing something is more important than writing nothing.

It’s a lot easier, I’ve found, to go back and rework a few parts of a book then refuse to write anything because you’re not going to do your absolute best. I am type A! Of course it drives me loopy to write something I know isn’t the best I can do. But I know where the story is going, I know what I want to write, it’s just a matter of sitting down and getting the words out of my head and into the document.

Not everyone can do that. I know. I’m not at all saying you’re any “less” of a writer if you can’t write when you just aren’t feeling it. Maybe it’s one of those skills you have to practice over time; I honestly don’t know.

The nerd part of me (okay, all of me) would love to do some kind of study on that (or find one, if it already exists). If you force yourself to write, in small increments over an extended period of time, does it get easier? I’m going to feel really dumb if there is an obvious answer to this, but I’m always transparent with you. And right now, I’m rushing to finish this post so I can get started on something else I need to have done today, and I don’t have time to go any deeper than a Google search, which didn’t bring up anything too promising.

Just try this for me: next time you want to write, but don’t feel like writing, figure out the best way to talk yourself into doing it anyway. Even if it’s less than 100 words at a time. Can you do it? And once you sit down, open your document and go, is it easier to far surpass that small goal and forget why you were so resistant to the idea of writing that day?

Are we just too distracted by other things? Is that why we don’t feel like doing the thing we quite possibly love the most?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m not writing, I’m just not whole.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.