You’re a dedicated writer, and you’re proud of the work you do.
You’d never tolerate a slouch.
On a good day, you can’t type fast enough to record your ideas. Most of the time, the white space of a new page exhilarates you. It’s like rolling out fresh pastry dough or priming a canvas. You’re thrilled with the possibilities that await.
But sometimes, you can’t seem to find the flow you enjoyed the day before. And you know you can’t settle for a day off. You have deadlines, goals, projects backing up behind your current one.
And to make things worse, you can’t put your finger on the problem.
You know it’s not writer’s block. You already know what that feels like. No, this is something else, a feeling you can’t quite shake, a feeling that’s robbing you of your energy and inspiration.
And after sitting quietly with your thoughts, trying to diagnose the source of the problem, you’re no better off, so you decide to honor the awkward, murky feeling:
You just don’t feel like writing.
It’s not tiredness or the desire to do something else; writing just feels wrong.
So, what can you do before giving up and losing a precious day of progress?
You can try a new approach, develop new muscles, adopt some new strategies to bypass your current mood.
Let’s take a look at 10 ways to keep writing when you don’t feel like it.
Dive in to Your Writing
Start writing. I know that sounds ridiculous, but stay with me.
Write a few words, and write a few more.
During this session, allow anything to come out. Complain about your spouse if you want. Write about your job, your boss, about the dishes piling up in the kitchen sink. Complain about taxes, the president, that rude, cutting remark your mother-in-law made during dinner last Sunday.
Practice writing: anything and everything that comes to mind. Often, in a matter of minutes, the fog clears, and you find yourself ready to focus, ready to tear in to your latest chapter, post, or marketing message.
Strike a Bargain With Your Muse
We love to strike bargains.
It’s how we get kids to eat vegetables, spouses to come home for dinner, friends to do us favors.
Start with something easy, small, achievable, like a pitifully low word count.
Commit to a paragraph, 100 words, a half a page. Every time I commit to 100 words, I end up with a thousand. The relief I feel after breaking 200 creates momentum. And those first 100 words are usually quite easy and painless.
On a particularly bad day, I get to the first 100 words using the five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why.
Once you get the ball rolling, it’s easy to keep going.
Set a Timer
You’ve probably heard of the Pomodoro method. It’s a great strategy for conquering creative work in small, structured chunks of time.
But you don’t have to know a thing about Pomodoro to make this work. Set a timer for five minutes, and begin writing. The timer will help you focus your energies, providing you with a clear focus. The time increment helps you relax, knowing your session will be short.
When you get to five, you can take a break or start the timer again. In a few sessions, you’ll feel sufficiently warmed up to continue writing through to your current goal.
Remember how much fun it was to babble, to make up nonsensical stories as a child? Remember when it was okay to play in your mind, to act out anything you imagined?
Decide to write nonsense for as long as it takes. And don’t cheat with rhyme or rhythm. Resist the temptation to write haiku. The point is to relax your mind, to play with the words, to open the unconscious to regain balance.
This type of play will free you from worry about the rules of language, the importance of any word combination you select, from any kind of meaning.
In under 10 minutes, I’m usually ready for work, ready for the page again. And for a while anyway, hold onto these nonsensical paragraphs.
You might find some brilliant ideas in the mix. A day or two later, you may look at the text and make valuable connections.
Remove the Pressure
Most of us feel some type of pressure when we write.
We worry about style, about content, about the annoying rules of grammar and punctuation. Sometimes we worry about being brilliant, about showing our worth on paper.
Some part of us needs to prove ourselves day in and day out.
Right now, give yourself permission to write garbage.
Just write, and don’t worry about outcomes. For the moment, fire your muse, your left brain, and your inner critic. Don’t stop to edit or to read what you’ve written.
Pretend that your eight again, that all you have to do for Miss Loveliness, your awesome third-grade teacher, is tell a little story, a story only you can tell.
Ready? Set? Go.
Decide What to Write First
As creatives, we love to live in the moment, to follow our current trail wherever it leads. And I suspect, that we feel things more deeply than the rest of the population. So, we wake with a powerful mood, sometimes, and this mood can derail us if we allow it.
So before writing, come up with a plan. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, time-consuming plan, either. Come up with an outline with three main points. After settling on your three main points, add three subpoints.
If you’re writing a scene, divide the action into three main parts.
Whatever you’re writing, map it out before you begin. Knowing where you’re going will make a world of difference.
You won’t have to think about the sequence, and you’ll free yourself to write.
Set up a Reward in Advance
Previously, we talked about striking a bargain with the muse. Now, it’s time to strike a bargain with ourselves.
And let’s not settle for a star on the fridge or a pat on the back.
Today, in your current state, you need to bring out the big guns.
Offer yourself a reward, a thing-you-crave-most reward, and follow through with it. Assign a realistic word count or suitable time period for writing, and indulge yourself.
When you’ve finished, take the evening off; go to a movie. Buy a ridiculously sweet, layered coffee drink and a new book at Barnes and Noble. Take yourself out to lunch or dessert. Call an old friend, and meet for a drink.
My favorite reward is an ice-cold, New England style IPA and Joni Mitchell on my Ipod.
Surround yourself with comfort, and don’t renege on your promise. Your brain will begin to link writing with pleasure.
Create a File of Writing Prompts or Story Starters to Provide Inspiration
When I hit a wall with my writing, I like knowing I have strategies at my disposal. One of my favorites is a desktop folder full of writing prompts, writing ideas, and inspirational quotes.
I like to think that I’ll never have a problem finishing my work. This folder always helps.
These types of resources provide a safety net, a guarantee that you’ll always be okay, even when you’re feeling low or uninspired.
Over the past few years, I’ve developed a midweek ritual. After completing my writing and the rest of my day’s work, I sit at the kitchen counter and brainstorm. After brainstorming, I copy bits and pieces from the session, adding unique files to my inspiration folder.
Write What You’re Feeling
Sometimes, even the worst moods and feelings can be used constructively.
Whatever you’re feeling, write that into a scene in your current chapter, into your character’s worst day. Instead of running away from the feeling, dig into it, and see where it takes you.Whatever you’re feeling, write that into a scene in your current chapter, into your character’s worst day. Instead of running away from the feeling, dig into it, and see where it takes you. Click To Tweet
Think of your current mood as an opportunity, as a creative exercise you can put into your work. We’re socialized to believe that our dark, negative feelings or moods are destructive.
Often, we can gain insight into ourselves (as well as human nature) by simply honoring the way things are.
As a bonus, allowing your feelings may help you transcend them.
When you don’t feel like writing, you may be close to a breakthrough.
By deciding to work through a limiting feeling, you have opportunities for surprise, growth, and success.
What do you think?
What’s your favorite remedy for writing when you just don’t feel like it?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.