One of the most common struggles writers face is the “I don’t feel like writing today” syndrome.
(Ironically, this is how I’m feeling today, so this post is also to help me get going. ;) )
The reasons for this are many, but here’s a short list of possible ones:
- Real life creeps up (such as car accidents, illnesses, house repairs).
- Someone says your story sucks.
- You lose interest in the story and want to work on something else.
- Sales aren’t what you hoped they’d be.
- You don’t know where to go next in the story.
- You’re burned out/tired.
When this pops up, don’t despair. These (and more) are all valid reasons for not wanting to write.
But…it’s important you keep writing anyway. Take a short break if you must.
For example, I took the last two weeks off of writing because I had just finished five books ever since May and was so exhausted, I couldn’t even speak/think straight. I was going over my grocery list with my family and was writing muffins and waffles but said “Does anyone want muffles?” The thing is, I was doing a lot of this. I was even reading things wrong. So yes, it was time to take a break.
We all need to recharge our batteries at some point. But the story will only getting written if you sit down and write.
So today, I’m going to share some strategies I use that help me when I don’t feel like writing.
1. Make writing a priority.
If you don’t make writing a priority, it won’t get done. Make a list of things you want to do for the day or week. Then divide the things between needs and wants. Needs go to the top. Wants at the bottom. Writing must be a need if you are going to finish the story in a less than a year. The more books you want to write, the higher this need must be.
So when real life creeps in, you can buffer against it by making sure you make time to write. Even if all you manage to get in is a couple hundred words that day, it’s a couple hundred that wouldn’t have been written otherwise.
2. Pace Yourself.
If you’re squeamish about setting the high goal of 5000 words a day, there’s no need to aim that high. On average, I do 2000-3000 words 5-6 days a week. Sometimes I only get a couple hundred words in during a day. Sometimes I am able to hit 4000 or 5000 words (though I have to be super psyched and ready to write to get that kind of word count in).
Since November 2007, I have written 45 romances (1 of which is in the editing stage). I am just starting my 46th romance. That’s averaging 7 novels a year. And I’ll reach 50 romances in 2015, which is really exciting for me. (My goal is 100.)
How do I do it?
I pace myself. I do a little at a time. I don’t sit down for a couple hours and do nonstop typing. I go in smaller chunks of time, usually 15 minute bursts. Sometimes I am able to go 30 minutes to an hour. But mostly, it’s 15 minutes because I have four kids and a husband, and someone is usually coming up to me during the day. My husband, who now works, will be working on weekends when the kids are home, so the thought of having no one in the house and having total silence is not going to happen. I have to work around distractions.
It helps immensely that I have a laptop so I can carry it from room to room, which comes in handy when the kids need something upstairs. Or when I do a little cleaning, write for a few minutes, clean some more, etc. I also take it to the park or other places where I can sit so the kids can play. (And don’t think just because they’re playing, they leave me alone because they don’t. Even at the pool this summer, at least one would come up to me every 15-30 minutes.)
There is no secret formula. You just have to sit down and write whenever you can. If you can do a schedule and make it work, that’s awesome. I’m not able to do it, but I would if I could. My point is, it’s possible to write in small chunks of time and even when real life distractions creep in.
3. Set aside periods of rest.
If you’re in this for the long haul, you need to pace yourself to avoid burn out. Some say serious writers write every single day. But I’m going to give you a freedom from that type of thinking by assuring you it’s okay to take breaks. Periods of rest are vital to our health. If we don’t get enough sleep at night, our bodies will physically, emotionally, and spiritually suffer for it.
I don’t write 365 days a year. There are days when I take the day off to spend time with the family and rest. I don’t dwell on what I’ll write next, though if ideas come, I let them. I let my mind take a break.
Whatever word count you want to aim for is up to you. You don’t have to write a book in a month. Your goal can be to write a book in 3-6 months. Maybe it’s a book a year. Maybe it’s a book every two years. Nothing is wrong with that. The longer your book, the longer it’ll take to write. The more research involved, the longer it’ll take, too. But if you take time to rest (like 1-2 days a week), it really does a world of good for maintaining your creative flow.
4. Push through the rough patches.
Writing is not easy. It is hard. It is work. But it can be work you love and are passionate about. However, you don’t always love it or feel passionate about it. Sometimes it feels like you’re pulling teeth.
It’s important to write anyway. Why? Because the longer you put off writing, the harder it’ll be to get back into the swing of things.
As mentioned above, breaks are good, but breaks are short periods of time (a couple days each week or a week each month) you choose not to write. Breaks are intentional and done by choice.
The rough patches are not the same thing. These are obstacles standing in the way of you and your dream of a finished book. You can’t let these things paralyze you. Even if all you manage is a couple hundred words every day for a week, do it. It will get easier. You just need to make yourself do it. This is where the blood, sweat, and tears of writing comes in.
Next time, I’ll look at characters. (Today I wanted to put up an inspirational post instead of an instructional one.)