When you don’t feel like writing

Long ago I stopped asking myself on any given day if I felt like writing. Often the answer would be, “Actually, I don’t.” Another question I stopped asking was “Well, WHY don’t you feel like writing?” Not that there aren’t a bunch of pretty good reasons not to write your story, or not today, anyway.

  • discouragement about how the last story sold
  • resentment of the industry which is so vile and unfair plus random
  • a shrewd analysis of how your writing sucks
  • embarrassment over the total absence of anything professional to Twitter about
  • fury and sorrow that your agent does not answer your emails
  • you are on page 85 or page 200, two classic pages that are hard to write. OK, those are just the ones that are tough for me. Getting stuck at typical points in your manuscript is mysterious and irrational. But on those pages or nearby, I way too often get a bout of I don’t feel like writing today.

Your friends, sometimes even strangers, can help.

Other people help us get out of ourselves. We can turn our attention to someone else, and when sincerely done, it is such a relief not to be stuck inside our monkey brain.

You can really notice someone in your family and give them your full attention. You can be especially kind to clerks, front office staff, and people who are late or forget to show up. Shine the light somewhere else besides yourself.

But if that seems too gooey . . .

You can complain to a trusted friend. Or even relative strangers. Back when we had in-person conferences, you could often hear fellow writers in the halls or in the bar complaining loudly about writing. Because sometimes it jsut feels so good to let out the worries and even exaggerate them. That only works around other writers, though. Ordinary society doesn’t understand our need to complain. Our need to recognize our industry as being heartless and confering success randomly.

However, if you are at all introverted, seeing people when in these kinds of doldrums is excruciating. Any energy we might have scraped together is instantly bled off. We limp home, reaching for the TV remote so we don’t even have to be with ourselves.

The awful, ironic, unpalatable fix for not feeling like writing

Write the next page.

Maybe you don’t have the energy. Maybe you’re not even sure you care. But your energy (usually) is not gone, it’s just buried.  As to caring, that’s worth looking closely at. If you truly don’t care, OK. There are easier ways to spend the hours of our lives.

But what if, in your more honest moments, you know you love storytelling. You love the writing when it spins through you like gluons on the way to creating the universe. Saying you don’t care is a way of defending against the emotions of discouragement, self-doubt and anger.

The thing about losing the desire to write is that the feeling will visit you now and then throughout your writing career. You will be sailing along, and then–vast silence–you are becalmed. So, if you want to be a professional writer, you must learn that writing will make things better. You don’t need inspiration to write. Writing creates inspiration. Therefore: butt in chair and just do it. Why does writing lead to feeling like doing it? Because:

  • Writing will light a fuse. You remember how it feels: How you sometimes shake your head and think: Wow, where did that awesome story bit come from?
  • Getting pages, even if you consider them inferior, will contribute to a respectable forward progress. Not writing can build up a debilitating anxiety that the book is going to be stuck on page 200. Forever.
  • You are conserving what little energy you do have, because you are not frittering away that battery power on cleaning out the basement or on excruciating conversations with friends who will ask you if you are so miserable why don’t you just quit.
  • The muses are a bit snotty and random. You may write drek for several days, and all of a sudden you get a lightning bolt of inspiration. Your hands fly over the keys. Your eyes fill with tears. You say to the Muse: I’m sorry I didn’t believe, I’m sorry I was such an ass, you are a goddess. She roles her eyes. Yeah, whatever. Now get on with it.

I’m terribly sorry to be the one to tell you to stop resting and start writing. I know it is unfair, unsatisfying, and you really don’t feel like it. My friend, I know. Recently I got back to writing after a about a year and wrote–and finished!– a very fun and satisfying novel.

This is why I don’t ask myself if I feel like writing. It’s irrelevant. The better question is: Do I still care? Or better yet, sit down to write at your designated time without checking in with yourself. Get a page or two or five.

In a weird and wonderful way, the problem of writing becomes the solution of writing.

4 Responses

  1. Kay, What a perfect way to put it. And I so, so agree with you. Writing is the answer to the problem. If you are a writer, that’s what you need to do. “Do what you can’t not do.”

  2. Kay says:

    Thanks, Terry. It can be hard to come by this wise course, and keep believing in it. And sometimes I create writing posts to remind myself what I’m all about!

  3. Carrie says:

    Love this!

  4. Kay says:

    Thanks, Carrie! I know so many people who love to write except a lot of the time, they don’t Feel like it. And even though that sounds strange, I SO empathise.

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