Every writer runs into writer’s block – that dreaded time when your story comes to a screeching stop because you have no idea where to go with it next. This post is not about that.
This post is about when you wake up in the morning and feel like there is absolutely, positively no possible way you could spend an hour or two in front of a keyboard or a blank sheet of paper and arrange words in a comprehensible fashion. You may have five or six ideas on the back burner, just waiting for you to put ink on their bones. You may have a great scene all blocked out in your mind, or even on paper! You just can’t bring yourself to put pen to page and do the hardest part – write it all out.
There’s any number of reasons you may not want to write. It’s too nice outside, or you’re depressed, or the classic – you’re just too busy right now. Add to this list as you see fit.
But the fact is, writers write. It’s kind of a given. So what do you do when you just don’t wanna?
Eliminate distractions. I can usually manage to listen to music and write at the same time. It helps block out distractions, like a white noise generator, and it gives me a rhythm to play with. But if I’m having a hard time finding the will to write the music has to go – it will just suck me in and I’ll spend all my time singing along or thinking about they lyrics, not about what I want to write. This principle applies in other ways. For example, if you usually write in a coffee shop or something, stay away from it. The traffic in and out will demand your attention and your manuscript won’t get it.
Take five minutes to do something else and get your head in the game. For me this usually consists of doing a few stretches and getting a glass of water. I almost always do this before I start writing and repeating these kind of rituals often at times when you don’t want to write helps keep your focus on what you should be doing. If you don’t have a ritual like this you don’t need to start one, although it may very well help, but find something to do that will get your focus back on writing.
Set a concrete, attainable goal. A couple of years ago, when I was struggling to finish my first novel (still unpublished) I found myself writing in the middle of the holiday season. It wasn’t ideal, and with all the stuff going on I very frequently didn’t want to write. So I told myself just to do one sentence a day. Just one sentence, and I’d be good. I managed to get that sentence in every day and it frequently turned into more than one sentence as the ideas got flowing. An attainable goal is not only a motivator, it gives you a sense of accomplishment when you’ve reached it. It’s okay to shoot low, as sometimes just taking the first step gives you the will to go farther.
Decide not to write. Okay, this last one may sound like crazy talk. And it’s important not to over do it – try not to go more than one day without writing or you’ll lose your edge. Be deliberate. Set a fixed amount of time where you’re not going to try and write, say two hours in the afternoon. Take a nap or get some exercise, run some errands and just get out and about a little. Don’t think about writing at all. Then come back and you might be surprised how much your attitude has changed. Just be sure to come back and write, or else there won’t have been any point in taking the time off. You’re not quitting, after all, just straightening yourself out.
Writers aren’t superhumans that just crank out idea after idea for the betterment of mankind. It would be nice if we were but the fact is that you will get tired of writing from time to time, no matter how much you love it. In this way, writing is a lot like a relationship.
And just like relationships, the fact that you go through rough patches is not something to shy away from. If handled correctly, rough times just makes you a better writer in the end. Hopefully this handful of tips will help you handle them better. Of course, the more tricks in your bag the better, so if you have any good ways of dealing with writerly apathy please share them! I think we could all use the insight.