How to Write When You Don’t Want To

Photo credit: Nenyaki on Flickr
As writers, we often like to fantasize that every day is a fabulous writing day—the kind of day where the moment we sit down, the words just come pouring out (and beautifully, I might add) until we’ve written a couple thousand words with minimal effort. We like to pretend that every time we sit down to write, we’re magically imbued with that can’t wait to write excitement, and as we open up that WIP, the dam of ideas breaks and floods us with perfect plot potential.

Unfortunately, that’s not really the case.

While writers do love to write (otherwise we wouldn’t want the title of “writer”), it’s not necessarily a requirement to love writing every day. The fact of the matter is, every writer has ups and downs—days that the writing comes easily and we can’t get enough, and days where we’d rather do just about anything else.

The ugly truth is this: some days, we just don’t feel like writing. And you know what? That’s ok. We’re permitted to have a couple off days here and there. It’s when the off days begin to accumulate, or they come at particularly inopportune times (i.e.: right before a deadline) that we have to take action.

The thing is, there isn’t a magical spell or special technique that can immediately money-back-guarantee make us want to write again, nor is there a button we can press that’ll instantaneously fulfill our daily writing quota—it’s up to us to get our butts back in gear and pound out a new chapter or scene or page despite not wanting to. It’s our responsibility as writers to write on the good days, the slightly more difficult days, and especially on the bad days.

So what can you do to jumpstart your writing when you’d rather be doing just about anything else?

  • Find inspiration. Inspiration doesn’t always just make itself known to us—sometimes we have to go after it with a pitchfork. Try reading a good book, or listening to music, or finding inspiring pictures online (Pinterest and tumblr are great for that). The key to this step however, is this: if you don’t find it, that’s not an excuse to skip writing. 

  • Remind yourself why you love your story. I read this guest post by Stephanie Perkins on Natalie Whipple’s blog a while back about creating a love list for each of your WIPs, and I think it’s a great idea. In short, you write a list of elements that you love about your story and add to it as you continue to work on your WIP. Looking back on or creating a list like that is a great way to spark that excitement again. 

  • Write anyway. Even if the above two steps don’t work for you, there comes a time when you have to sit down in that chair and write despite not wanting to. No, it probably won’t be the best thing you’ve ever written and no, it probably won’t be the most enjoyable writing sprint you’ve ever had, but that’s not the point—the point is that you get words on the page and continue to progress through the massive task of completing a novel. Don’t check Twitter or Facebook or tumblr (or whatever social media site you enjoy). Don’t watch TV or catch up on your Hulu queue (as tempting as it is). Just get your butt in that chair and write. 

You’ll be glad you did.

Now it’s your turn: What tips do you have for writing when you don’t want to?

8 comments:

Morgan Shamy said...

I love this post. I know I try to embrace the lows as well as the highs--and know that I can still be progressing even when the writing isn't coming as easily.

Patricia said...

I'm having one of these moments. Finally, got myself to sit down and write and just hating every word. Getting the words down is worse than pulling teeth, but at least I'm trying.

Emily Mead said...

I love the idea of making a "love list" for your novel. Definitely going to try it. What motivates me is the fact that I know my critique partner is awaiting my next chapter/scene/bit, and I don't want to disappoint her. Even though I'm not published, I set deadlines for myself - and disappointing myself is even worse than disappointing my crit partner.


Sometimes you just gotta do it :)

Ava Jae said...

Absolutely, Morgan. Any progress you make is progress regardless of how easy or difficult it was.


Glad you enjoyed the post! :)

Ava Jae said...

It's not easy when it hits, but if you keep pushing and writing anyway, you'll break through the spell. Good luck!

Ava Jae said...

I thought the love list idea was a fantastic one as well, which is why I shared it with you guys. ^_^


I can certainly see how a critique partner or beta reader at the ready while you draft can be a great motivator, and I also think it's fantastic that you set deadlines for yourself. Learning to work by a deadline is very important and it's a skill that can be applied to many different aspects of life. Good work!

Tinnis said...

I was just reading through your very interesting blog, you have given me many ideas and things to think about:) Thank you very much! I love your blog since it gives a writer like me that doesn't have very much experience and no writers among my acquaintances very much tips and things to think about:)
And I just had to say what I always try to do when I don't wan to write a particular story because I can't get any inspiration. I try to write a short story. Since you are always almost excited or inspired by something I try to write a short story about that one thing and when I get that thing out of my head I can then once again go back to what I should be writing^^

Ava Jae said...

Hello Tinnis! Welcome to Writability--I'm glad to hear you've been enjoying my blog so much. :)


Are you on Twitter? I've found that Twitter can be a fantastic place to meet other writers (because as it turns out, Twitter is CRAWLING with writers who should be writing but are tweeting instead. I am totally not guilty of this [yes I am].)


I think it's really interesting that you write short stories to help to inspire you. I haven't written any short stories in years, but I can see how it might kickstart you into a great writing session.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts and welcome to the community!

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