I’ve noticed the longer I get away from my writing routine, the harder it is to get motivated to write. This is especially hard when there is a major life event going on: moving, health issues, birth of a baby, death in the family (just to name a few). If you have unsupportive family members or friends like I do, it’s even harder. Because our work is at the computer, no one “sees” us working. We’re not doing physical labor, so it’s harder to convince them that what we’re doing is a job and must be treated like a job in order for us to stay in the business mindset. Just because it’s work we enjoy, it doesn’t mean it’s always easy. There are times when it’s downright hard, and we end up feeling like we have to pull teeth to get words on paper.
So what are some steps we can take if we don’t feel like writing but have to?
1. Decide you’re going to do it no matter how many words you get down.
This is where it’s helpful to set aside a small chunk of time at the computer. I recommend 15 minutes because it doesn’t seem overwhelming. Turn off the TV, disable the Internet if you have to, unplug the phone, and remove any other distractors you need to. I prefer music while I write, and I usually make playlists for each book or series that I work on. Having that type of music in the background helps me. But there are times when absolute quiet is better.
2. Get comfortable.
Whether you’re at your writing desk, in a library, in a recliner, or somewhere else, be in a place where you can relax.
3. Get away from people.
There are times when having people around is great. When you’re struggling to write isn’t one of them. If you have to lock yourself in your bedroom or bathroom, then do it. (As a mother of four school-age children and a stay-at-home husband, I understand completely why that lock feature on the door is the best thing that has happened to writers.)
4. Put a treat by your side.
This won’t work in a place that will let you snack on something, but it can in other places. At the moment, I have a shrimp and crab salad on the table next to my recliner.
5. Keep an eye on the time or set a timer.
6. Don’t stress word count.
The key is to write something. Sometimes writing a blog post or doing a free writing exercise can help. Sometimes the act of writing something unrelated to your book can loosen up those stiff writing muscles. This blog post is my warm-up writing before I dive into my current work-in-progress. My first fifteen minutes is going into this post. :D
7. Put the plan in motion.
Once you’re ready, get writing in your story. If you have to pull up two works-in-progress and go back and forth between them to fill up that 15 minutes, go ahead. I currently have three works-in-progress up. A week ago, I ended up writing a paragraph in one, had no idea what to put next, went to my other work-in-progress, wrote a paragraph or two in there, and had to go back to the other work-in-progress. It can be frustrating because you’re not seeing a major progress in your works-in-progress, but every little bit helps you get closer to the goal (another finished story you can publish).
Fortunately, the words do end up getting easier as you go along. It might get easier the same day, it might take a couple of days, or it might take a month. In 2011, I went through an entire month where I couldn’t write more than 200 words a day. Talk about snail pacing it! But sooner or later, things will pick up and the words will fly from your mind and onto the computer screen. It’s the process of getting there that sucks.
I wish stories would write themselves, but they don’t. I wish all writing was easy, but it’s not. Ironically, when I started writing, it was a lot easier than it is now. It is work. Hard work. Sadly, people who don’t write have no idea how difficult it is. This is why I think it’s helpful to have a couple of author friends you can trust who can share the ups and downs of this profession. It helps a lot to know you’re not alone.
For more inspiration, I’d like to point you to Melanie Nilles’ post “How do I get my writing done?”
If anyone else has tips they’d like to share on getting past the horrible “I don’t feel like writing” feeling, please comment. :D