How To Write When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

Right now, I am lockdown in my home city of Sydney, Australia. So it’s not an amazing time to write anything. When the most exciting part of your life is going grocery shopping, it’s kind of hard to feel enthusiastic about writing. Especially when misery is seen every time you leave the house. All those masks, all them harsh restrictions, all that mind-numbing boredom!

And yet, despite all this misery, I’ve somehow managed to write almost every day. Here, let me show you how:

1. Know that you really do want to write. 

Some days, when the going got tough, I didn’t write. I was just too full of doubt, stumbling into the dark recesses of writer’s block. It’s like sinking into quicksand, where every time you think (move), you sink deeper. Eventually, your thoughts will question everything you know about your love for writing, and one of the hardest things to get through is the thought of whether writing is really your thing — a thought, I’m sure, every writer has conjured up. 

But I can already tell you love to write. I mean, here you are, reading this, trying to figure out how to write when you don’t feel like writing. This clearly means that you want to write, but you just don’t know how to get past those negative feelings. Yet, if we reconsider my quicksand analogy, we can see the answer to your problem: if you don’t think (move), you won’t continue to sink. So stop biting all the bait your mind flings at you and know that you are a great writer who wants to write. 

Stop thinking, start doing!

2. Don’t hate yourself when you don’t write.

As we all know, you’re gonna face days where you just don’t want to write. And so you don’t. Sometimes it’s as harsh as someone close to you dying, and other days it’s as simple as not being “in the mood”. When this new Sydney lockdown hit the news, I was just so blasé about everything. UGH! Not another lockdown! In fact, I was so helpless that I spent the first day at home playing Grand Theft Auto IV and eating takeaway.

But I didn’t hate myself for doing so. And this is important to note because hating yourself doesn’t help, especially if you want to write again anytime soon. It’s okay to take a day off from writing. 

Of course, if your writing is paying the bills, you have more than enough reason to write, even if you don’t want to. But, just like any job, you’re life is not beholden to it. If you need a day off, grant yourself one. You come first, first and foremost.

And if you’re totally unsure of what to write about, spend your day off doing something different and interesting. Inspiration will eventually come knocking again.

3. Know that your feelings are not concrete

So you don’t want to write today? Well, that’s not what you felt yesterday. And this conclusively proves your feelings are not concrete. You do have the ability to change them. Just like you have the ability to wallow in them. 

But the feeling of not wanting to write, even though you want to, is a problem in and of itself. And it’s one that you are choosing to focus on. To be precise, you are letting your thoughts get the better of you by inadvertently accepting that you don’t want to write. So my question is this: how do you know you don’t feel like writing unless you actually write?

So give it a go. Grab a notebook or open up a new document and start writing. Write about anything. Describe the scene outside your window. Discuss what you did yesterday. Perhaps have an ironic bitch about why you don’t feel like writing. If you really don’t want to write, this quick experiment will prove it. 

4. Trick yourself into writing with one tiny goal.

A clever trick that I use on myself is setting a tiny goal. Something so easy that I could do it right now. And that is to write one sentence. Just one. If you’re a prolific writer with a handful of half-done drafts, pick one of your favourites and just start one new sentence. Just one. The trick here is that if you write one sentence, you might titillate yourself into writing another, simply because you want to know what happens next. Soon your half-done draft will be complete, and now you have something to edit! Look at you go!

If you don’t have any half-done drafts, maybe start a new story you’ve been thinking about lately. You’ve got the idea, all you need to do is write one sentence. Just one! Can you whizz up a fabulous opening sentence in under 25 words? Give it a go! Or maybe you’re not entirely sure where to start — and with that, I implore you to do some research. What are other people saying about this topic? Can you find any golden nuggets?

Remember: success can come from small goals, too. 

5. Always be proud of your writing.

Whatever amount of writing you do today, always remember that you’ve done better than nothing. And that’s something! Even if you only have a half-done draft, you can trick yourself into finishing it tomorrow rather than having to start from scratch. 

And even if you don’t get any writing done today, you should be proud of all the writing you’ve done so far. There’s no golden rule saying that you have to write every day. Because while you’re writing is important to you, there’s something much more important than writing. And that’s you. 

Feature image: Glenn Carstens-Peters via Unsplash

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