Friday, April 23, 2010

Writing Tip: What to do when you don't feel like writing

It's a problem we all run into, yes? We know we should be writing, but we're tired, unmotivated, or frustrated. Or maybe we just don't wanna. So what's a writer to do in this situation?

Answer really depends, doesn't it? If the writing is a hobby, I think there are more choices. We can give ourselves a rest, putter around a bit, figure out whether we really wanted to write this story in the first place. Or try to force ourselves to write anyway.

If the writing is a job? We get to sit down, shut up, and write, because it's our job. We don't not go out and earn money at the office because we don't feel like it this week, and writing is no different. Now, maybe we've learned how our brains work and every once in a while we NEED to take a day off. Hey, we all need our breaks during the week, right? But sometimes, we get to suck it up and write, too.

So, what are some good ways to get over that hump and get the writing out when you REALLY don't want to? Author Wil Kalif has a couple methods that I like:

I've used the carrot approach he mentions before: rewarding myself with something if I do my writing. That works sometimes, but I'll admit, most of my 'carrots' involve things I have to buy. If I don't have money, I don't have much to make a carrot with. The other carrots I'd use, like 'time to myself,' only work if I can involve someone else in the endeavor as they watch my kids for me. Again, this isn't always an option. But still, it can be used effectively, especially if that motivates you.

I'd never thought of the 'stick' approach until I read this article, but I really think it is something that works better for me. Frankly, because I tend to make the 'stick' into chores that need to be done anyway and I've been putting off, so whether I end up writing or paying a penalty for not writing, I still end up better by the end of it.

His thoughts on internal dialogue seemed as though they could be a definite help for those of us who self-defeat when we don't want to write. As my own 'not writing' moments tend to come from exhaustion or laziness, it's not as much use for me.

However, here's a few more ideas that have worked for me to get the writing started when I really don't wish to.

1. The 10 minutes sprint
This stemmed from my NaNoWriMo group a couple years back. Set a timer and simply write as much as you darn well can for ten minutes. You can't stop, you can't pause, you just write like it's a competition for how many words you can get out. The best I've done was 927 words in 10 minutes. I thought my fingers were going to fall off, the sentences ran together, and I don't even know what I was trying to say in the middle, but it didn't matter. I'd written something. I scrapped most of it, and kept a little. But I continued to write for another hour, and that's what I'd been hoping to accomplish in the first place.

2. Write Part of Your Unseen Story
This has been helpful when I look at my own writing and feel that it's exceptionally craptastic that particular day. I don't want to stop writing, but every word feels like it's dragging me under in a pile of...well, crap. So what I've done is picked an event in one of the character's lives and write about that instead. This is not something I plan to put into the story, or to ever let anyone see. It's simply to bring a little fullness to that character, and their life, in my head. It often helps me relax because I know it doesn't matter how bad it is. And it tends to improve my understanding of the character, and often make me want to write more about the story, as a result.

3. Go on a Walk
Yeah, so it's a bit simple, but this is a walk with a purpose. Step out, walk in a place that works for you, whether that's your own living room, a busy street or a country lane, and think about your story as you walk. Let your mind drift, play around with plots in your head, just let your body move as your brain works on it. Walking, or any light exercise, seems to be very beneficial to revving up your thinking. Might as well use that for our stories, eh?

As a side note, if you have a problem you're trying to solve in your story, you might want to consider walking BACKWARD to think about it. This one is based on a study. No really. Check it out:

In the end, I suppose...I'd better stop writing this blog post rather than using it as an excuse not to sit down, shut up, and write my next chapter. ^_^ Good luck to the rest of your with your stories, as well!


Akasha said...


On one hand, thanks for the info... I have taken to writing about Writer's Block to break it (no luck) and you just gave me a lot of ideas for a new post...

On the other hand...sit down and write!! Pretty please? *puppy eyes*
Oh! And thanks for updating the recommended reading list on your web...I had a very entertaining afternoon yesterday....(instead of studying, but is too short to waste, hu?)

And again, this has gotten too long...damnit....

(yep, that was abrupt. I am a very talkative person, and reflects on my comments. Trying to work on that! =D)

TwistedHilarity said...

Your welcome for the list - it's going to be updated again soon. Had some time these last weeks to read a lot more!