When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

Multi-colored paperclips

“I don’t feel like writing today.”

Ever said that to yourself? I’m saying it today. But if I followed through on the impulse this page would be blank.

Why You Won’t Write Today

1) Physical
Illness can strike without warning. And some suffer from chronic conditions. I have clients who pray for a “good” day so they can put a few words on the page.

If you find a consistent malaise, consult your doctor. I know of a writer who had severe writer’s block for five years. Turns out it was an imbalance in her prescription medications. Once she made the adjustment she was fine!

2) Procrastination
Putting off until tomorrow what you should have done last month…

The art of procrastination is a refined ability honed over years of practice. At least 10,000 hours if you follow the Malcolm Gladwell principle. Have you rearranged your paperclips by size and color today? Have you watched the new cat videos on YouTube yet? Have you updated your Facebook status or read the latest blog from The Steve Laube Agency?

Just a minute…I need to answer this newly received email. I’ll be right back…

3) Lack of Inspiration
It is hard to be creative when the well is dry. Inspiration can be elusive at best and absent at worst. Learning how to write anyway is a learned disciple.

Why You Will Write Today

1) Deadlines
The perfect cure for those who need motivation. They say “dead” is in the word “deadline” for a reason. (See the story of the origin of the word “deadline”)

If I didn’t have the obligation to post every Monday my blogs would become increasingly sporadic.

A publisher will assign a due date for your work for a reason. Too many writers treat a deadline like a suggestion. A number of things should not or do not happen inside a publishing house until the manuscript is in hand. Without it coming on time all sorts of work flow plans come unraveled.

But maybe your deadline is self-imposed and it would be so easy to just let is slide. Who is going to know? “Beware of that snare” (he said while speaking to himself).

2) You are Rested
If you are truly burnt out it may be time to rest. To let the ground lay fallow so that it can become a place to grow again. Too often we push ourselves too hard to achieve and forget the necessity of rest. Today, you are rested and have the strength to carry on.

3) Dedication
Writing is hard work. And if you are in the midst of a long project the end is a long way off. But the dedicated writer gets something done…even when it doesn’t feel right. That is the mark of dedication. The one who wilts when the going gets difficult will rarely see the final piece finished.

Your Turn

Do you have things that keep you from writing?
What do you do when it doesn’t feel right?
Do deadlines work for you or against you?

13 Responses to When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

  1. Dianne J. Wilson November 3, 2014 at 6:50 am #

    Deadlines are wonderful things! They wave the proverbial magic wand that makes my priorities rearrange themselves in height order and ask how high they should jump. Not really, but they do help me figure out what needs my attention most. I enjoy working toward a deadline.

    I struggle to write if I haven’t had enough brain space or thinking time to figure out where my story is headed next. (I have three daughters, and they take turns chatting to me.)

    When I am struggling to write, I’ll either brainstorm for a few minutes first, or glue my bottom to the chair and ‘vomit’ write regardless of what comes out. Most of the time, I can use what comes from those sessions with a little bit of editing.

  2. Kathy November 3, 2014 at 7:05 am #

    Readers. Every time I hit one of those “I don’t want to” moments, I remember the old farmer who told me he loves my little community news column in the local paper. “I hate it when you miss,” he said.

  3. Jeanne Takenaka November 3, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    I loved this post, Steve. And the truth in it. This line really struck me: “But the dedicated writer gets something done…even when it doesn’t feel right. That is the mark of dedication.”

    I try to keep a balance between real life and writing life, but sometimes real life issues keep me from writing.

    As for deadlines? Love them. They motivate me to keep pressing on to finish the work!

  4. Rick Barry November 3, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    Deadlines are wonderful motivators. They help authors to perform triage and arrange the demands on our time in order of priority.

    Right now there are two things keeping me from doing original writing: (1) my commitment to edit all the articles for a magazine that I freelance edit each issue, (2) My publisher has sent back my novel m.s. with a fine batch of suggested changes/corrections. Sure, it’s all good and for publication; yet, I wish I could clone myself to send the creative half away to pen fresh material while my editor half improves material already on the page.

  5. Elizabeth Van Tassel November 3, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    The gift of a deadline is very real and always a huge help to motivate me to reach the next page, to complete a detailed edit, to breathe further life into a scene so it’s as real as my fingertips. Just as my plot elements motivate my characters to press on, the deadline urges me forward.

    It may seem simple, but prayer is my regular “go to” with starting the day and setting goals too. Having a list to cross off the priority items is also very helpful.

    Most of all, if my attitude is seeing the process as an adventure rather than a burden, my heart will come into place as my actions bring movement, like stretching before a long walk.

    Thank you for giving us perspective, and a good push to keep going!

  6. Vannetta Chapman November 3, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Wait a minute. We’re supposed to FEEL like writing? 🙂
    Thanks for the post, Steve!

  7. Caro Ashby November 3, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    God blessed me with a father who taught all his children the importance of delivering what we promised on time and to the best of our ability. While no one can achieve that 100% of the time, I’ve always tried, especially when others are depending on me finishing when I promised. Fixed deadlines truly can be a gift in focusing and sorting conflicting priorities, even for left-brain, highly-organized types like me. What I have found helpful is to always set my personal deadline at least one if not several days ahead of the true one for simple tasks and at least a week ahead for more complex assignments. A wise mentor early in my career told me that the last 10% takes 30% of the time. I’ve found that to be true more times than not.

    Since I started writing Christian novels a little over a year ago, I can’t say there has been a day I didn’t feel like writing. It’s addictive to enter the parallel universe where my characters live and observe what happens to them. My husband says I’m incredibly lifelike when I disappear into my laptop. I thank God for iPhones for checking e-mail! If I turn on the laptop, I can’t resist opening that Word document where my characters live.

    What I do find is that I may not feel like writing on the main story that I’m working on. General plot ideas, specific scenes, even fragments of dialog for another story will start appearing in my mind. Rather than try to suppress them, I figure they may be exactly what God wants me to be writing about at that moment. After I write awhile based on the “distractions,” I find I can always come back to the main story refreshed and rejuvenated. Since I’m writing a trilogy right now, the thoughts for the next story often bring improvements to the current one that I would never have discovered if I hadn’t let God lead me off in that different direction.

  8. Jenelle. M November 3, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    My short term answer to question #1: For the past week, every ant on the block has decided to invade upon my house. And in every single room and bathroom except my kids’, praise the Lord. Yes, my pumpkin chocolate chip muffins are inciting to all sorts of creatures, but go take over the peach tree out back and leave my home alone.

    #2 I’m going to leave this to the brilliant Neil Gaiman:

    “If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not.

    You have to write when you’re not inspired. And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back at them and you can’t remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you just wrote because they had to be written next.”

    #3 Deadlines are the best! They get the mojo going and I always end of having to call upon Jesus to pave the way 🙂

  9. Bobbi Junior November 3, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    I had a manuscript that was almost completed, but I was bored with it. I wanted to move on to another project. My writing group was adamant. “Finish it!” they said. To get them off my backs, I found a contest that took memoirs. I made that my deadline, met the criteria and sent it in. With relief I reported to my writing group the book was finished. Two months later I got a phone call. I’d won the non-fiction category of the contest. My new writing project has been on hold for months now as I meet all the necessities for having the book published by the agency who held the contest.

    Deadlines are good! LOL

  10. Leann Harris November 4, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    It doesn’t matter if I don’t feel like it. You just do it.

  11. Sondra Kraak November 6, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    What keeps me from writing? How about a long Facebook conversation with critique partners? How can that be so wrong? But because this is my first year doing NaNoWriMo, I said goodbye to the conversation and hello to the next chapter in my new work. When I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I didn’t expect to feel so motivated by a deadline I chose and could easily ignore. Thank you type-A personality for finally kicking in after a few long years.

    And thanks, Steve, for honest words and encouragement.

  12. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 6, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    I’m writing when I don’t feel like it because of the #1 reason on the “Why we don’t write” list.

    I’m very ill, and need to get the stories out while I can. Kind of a literal deadline, if you will.

    It does sharpen the focus when I work; I find that I have need for editing, because my writing mind seems to realize that time is in short supply, and it has to be at least closer to ‘right’ the first time.

  13. Janet Ann Collins November 9, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    It’s hardest for me to write when my office is a mess and I must keep scattered appointments that interrupt my time. But deadlines are highly motivating.

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