What if You Don’t Feel Like Writing?

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.  😀

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).

Final thoughts:

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.  😀

 

33 Comments

  1. lornafaith says:

    I’ve struggled with that ‘ugh’ feeling of not wanting to write…especially this past month Ruth, so I know what you’re talking about. Like you said, I’ve just kept at it…even though it still isn’t going as fast I’d like it to, it still feels good to know that everyday I’ve gotten a little farther ahead! I find writing in my journal helps me untangle my thoughts so that I feel ready to write and I do write upstairs where it’s quiet…I can’t concentrate when our teenagers get to talking …:) Great tips…thanks the great post and for the link!

    1. It’s such a frustrating experience, isn’t it? Some days, it feels like we’re treading water.

      I like your journal idea. And yes, teenagers talking is distracting. 😀

  2. This was such a timely post for me! You mentioned getting comfortable. I’m really going to have to break down and buy a new office chair. Mine just isn’t comfy anymore. I HAVE to get my motivation back.

    I know what you mean about people not thinking you have a “real” job. I have a friend who works from home, and people think she can just drop everything and leave when she wants. And I had a friend who owned her own business. Even though she had a commercial office, they thought she could do what she wanted.

    1. A good chair is key. It helps to want to be at your computer if you’re comfortable. 😀

      Ugg for your friends! I hate that people assume because you run your own business, you can run off to do other things. It’s so annoying. You try to explain that you still need to put in the hours to work, and they look at you like your nuts or being mean. My sympathies go to your friends.

  3. everabi says:

    Great tips, Ruth. Thanks 🙂

    1. I’m glad you found them helpful! 😀

  4. JoanReeves says:

    Great post, Ruth Ann.

  5. Juli Hoffman says:

    I LOVE the 15 minute rule! Sometimes getting started is harder than the job itself, whether it’s writing, cleaning, or…whatever. Thanks for sharing this!!! 🙂

    1. It was the only way I got through the day. I did my 15 minutes and took the 5-10 minute break. I remember doing this when I studied in college. I forgot all about it until today. I even cleaned up a lot of my inbox during my breaks. I wish every day was so productive. LOL

  6. Rugi Kielfa says:

    As a child I found it easy to write, and loved it, uninhibitedly writing poetry and songs mainly. As I grew up life and its responsibilities and a number of major traumas got in my way.

    Now I’m 69, and for the last two years have been trying to get back to writing, this time stories of my life, our animals and fictional stories about the animals. Usually nothing more than about 1000 word pieces.

    I find I take up to an hour just to write someone a short email, as I go over and over anything I write, trying to find a better word or phrase, polishing, coming back to it a bit later to check with new eyes (and often horrified to still find a mistake or two).

    I’ve tried to set a time and write without stopping or revising until later, but so far have found it almost impossible to do – I couldn’t bear even my husband to walk into the room and see a mistake up on the screen. I believe that once I have completed a piece it reads well, but meantime struggle for every word, often getting as little as one paragraph written a day, which is ridiculous.

    The only articles I’ve ever submitted for publication were half a dozen to a Christian magazine which comes out each three months. All were published this last year. There is no payment made for submissions.

    If anyone has a suggestion or two that may help me, I’d be ever so grateful. Or perhaps someone (or several of you writers) would be kind enough to read some of my completed pieces and make comments that may help me see if my writing is worth doing anything with or not.

    1. To be honest, I don’t think you need another writer to tell you if your writing is good or not. I think you need to give yourself permission to be human. 😀 No one has written or will write the perfect story.

      What was it about being a child that freed you up so you found it easy to write? If you can tap into that aspect of who you were as a child, I think that would also help you. After receiving a number of negative reviews, I had a hard time writing for a couple of months because I didn’t feel adequate to write any more books, at least for public viewing. I had to remove myself from the Internet and write for myself. After that, I had to come to grips with the fact that some people would hate my work no matter how I wrote it. It’s impossible to please everyone. I took a lot of comfort in browsing the popular traditionally published books and authors on Amazon and Goodreads. They had a team of people helping them polish their books, and they still get 1-star reviews. I kept reading these reviews until it finally sunk in that what someone else thinks of my books is subjective. The key is that I am satisfied with what I wrote. I tell myself, “If no one else enjoys my books, it’s important that I do because I’m the one stuck with it.” 😀

      My suggestion is for you to get a private journal (online or on paper) where you spend five minutes a day writing. It can be any topic you want to write about. Maybe write some poems or songs. (You can even write how pointless you believe my suggestion is. ;)) Whatever your topic, avoid going back and polishing anything up. I know it’ll be hard, but I think you have to break the habit by picking up a new one. When the five minutes are done, close the blog or notebook and start fresh with a new item the next time you sit down to write for five minutes. According to this article, it takes 66 days to form a new habit, so I’d do this every day for 66 days. After the first 33 days, I suggest going back over and reading through everything you wrote. Did it get easier to write as each day passed? Were you able to tap into the mindset you had during childhood when writing was fun? Then after the next 33 days, track your progress again. Is it any easier now? Can you write for longer periods of time when you sit down to write? Are you enjoying the process of writing? How do you feel about your work?

      You don’t have to do anything I mentioned in this comment, of course. I just thought I’d throw out some ideas.

      If anyone else has some ideas, I hope they’ll chime in. 😀

  7. rohan7things says:

    Excellent post! Some great tips there, I definitely agree that when you are knocked out of your routine for a few days it can really be hard to get back into it. And like other’s who commented I agree that the 15 minute rule is great, I’ve used this for many tasks that I’ve been putting off or avoiding.

    Thanks for sharing Ruth 🙂

    Rohan.

    1. Yep, the routine is so important to staying on track. 😀 I never realized how much that was true until last month. What I think I’ll start doing is taking a list of things I need and want to do and break them up into smaller tasks.

      1. rohan7things says:

        Yes that’s a good idea. Also I find picking a time during the day do something all at once is better that doing bits and pieces throughout the day. Emails and messages for example, it’s much more efficient to check and answer all your emails/messages in one hour than it is to constantly check and answer throughout the day.

        Really appreciate all the advice from a prolific author such as yourself Ruth, thanks for taking the time 🙂

        Rohan.

        1. That’s very true. I have to break the habit of checking them during the day. That’s what I struggle with because it ends up wasting more time. I need to set aside certain days and times where I’ll deal with them.

          I hope writing becomes easier for you. 😀

  8. Mary Spiro says:

    Really excellent. I also find that having short tasks helps me. Last year I wrote a short piece every day related to an upcoming event. The deadline forced me to get it done because if I skipped a day I got behind. It all needed to be written before the event. Very motivating.

    1. That’s a great idea. I should start thinking of things in terms to short tasks, too. 😀

  9. dm yates says:

    Good advice. A 15 minute rule is perfect. I like the idea of having a reward waiting. Great motivation.

    1. Thanks! I like breaking the writing into smaller chunks. Lately, when I think of an hour or even half an hour, I get overwhelmed because my motivation is nil these days when it comes to writing. 😀 At least with 15 minutes, I don’t feel like it’s an impossible task. The reward is what gets me going more than the time thing, though. And if I can get the reward in 15 minutes instead of 30, that’s even better.

  10. Very helpful post Ruth (as always), great tips … like the treat idea too. You and all the SPAL contributors always post / write with such honesty and conviction, with much gratitude, thank you. Dave

    1. Thanks, Dave! I always appreciate your comments.

  11. RavenWest says:

    I found that when I signed up for my third Novel in a Month challenge, I was REALLY motivated to get those 50,000 words written by Nov 30. Actually finished on Nov 29 even WITH work, family, Thanksgiving, etc., but now that the pressure is off to write 2,000 words a day, I just can’t seem to get motivated to finish it. Then, there’s my blog that I’m not writing, the “monthly” newsletter for my business that is overdue a month and a few letters that I owe some friends. I think after those 50K, I’m totally out of words!!

    1. LOL I know what you mean. Something about NaNoWriMo is a wonderful motivator. I’ve tried other methods to get the same motivation (like running my own NaNoWriMo in another month), but it’s not the same.

      I’m terrible when it comes to emails. Those are a huge time suck, so I tend to put them off for a few days (at least). I’ve found myself writing less blog posts, too. I don’t know if it’s this time of year or what, but it’s been hard to get going. Too bad there’s not another national writing month.

  12. dederants says:

    Reblogged this on From Slacker To Scribe and commented:
    I have this issue all the time, mainly because I have many distractions. But once I get away from those distractions, and I’m not so comfortable in my bed, I get started on writing, and there are times where I lose myself in what I’ve written! Thanks for the tips!

    1. I removed the double comment, so no worries. 😀 I’ve had that happen to me, too.

      It’s the distractions that are the hardest things to overcome, especially when you have to tend to them. Whenever I can get away from them, I grab the opportunity and give up lots of sleep just so I can keep the momentum going. hehe

  13. Thank you for this post. It is hard to make yourself write. There is always something else to do — plus fear, self-doubt, etc. I found NaNoWriMo’s deadlines to be quite motivating, and have found some other tools that work too: the 750 Words website (great for pushing you to write every day), the Write or Die app (great for timed writing pushes). I have information about these at jenbrownwriter.com, with links, for anyone who wants to check it out. Speaking of which, I haven’t manged to write anything on my blog for . . . weeks!

    1. Thanks for sharing your website! The extra information is greatly appreciated.

      I agree. Our emotions play a huge role in our motivation. It’s harder to be a writer than people realize.

  14. I love your books and your blog Ruth Ann…you are the reason I ended up on Smashwords to begin with! 😀

    I use the timer (there’s an app for that) method almost every day…usually one hour for writing and then another for a 45 minute break in between to clean, eat, or nap. 😉

    Thanks so much for everything you do ~ you and the other contributors are so inspirational to other indie authors and are an incredible asset as well!

    1. Thanks, C.A. I appreciate that. 😀

      A timer is an excellent idea. I think that would be less distracting than checking the clock. The breaks make it bearable. I had no idea how refreshed I feel when I take a break. Love your method. 😀

  15. I just started making a goal to write 5 days a week. It can be adding to a work in progress or it can be editing a story that is already done. I don’t set word goals or time or page limits. Once my kids go to bed I sit down and write til I am too tired to do any more. For the other two days of the week I take one day off. And the final day I devote to marketing my already published book.
    I do notice that the more I write the more ideas I get so I believe it is very true that writing begets writing and not writing begets not writing.

    1. I like the system you have. The greatest inspiration seems to come after the kids go to bed. 😉

      I’ve also noticed that writing encourages more writing. It seems contradictory to what we’d think, but every time I stopped writing for more than a couple days, the harder it is to get back into it.

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