We all are creatures of habit. We all have our set routines. Our morning tea or coffee, our workouts, our commute to work, etc. We feel safe and comfortable in these routines. But every once in a while, we need a break from routines. One fine morning you may decide, ‘I’ve had enough of tea. I’ll try something else’, and you rummage through your pantry/cupboards and out falls a derelict, unopened packet of jasmine tea, and you tell yourself, ‘this is what I’ll have today’. It isn’t particularly a wake-up potion like your tea or coffee is, but it’s a change from the routine, like vacations are, and that’s why you like it. Will you do this everyday? No, you won’t, but every once in a while? Why not?
Which brings me to our week’s topic – Writing when you don’t want to write. For most writers, professional or otherwise, writing is a habit. We write as often as we take our tea/coffee. But there are times a writer will just not feel like writing. It’s quite different from a writer’s block which is characterized by an absence of a writing impetus. What I am talking about is just not wanting to write at all, like not even wanting to look at the screen or paper at all, even when the inspiration or the muse is still there. Yes, we all do it, even the best selling authors do it. Because everybody needs a break from the routine.
The question is – Is it a good thing?
That depends on where in your writing process you have stopped.
To give you an example from my own life, I have been suffering from a bad case of ‘not-wanting-to-write-feeling’ for some time now. If it were for a day or two, it would have been alright because I would have only sought a change, but it has stretched into weeks and I’m beginning to fret now that it may just tip into the ‘Writer’s block’ territory which is a dreaded thing for any writer, because then the writer can’t produce anything, even when he wants to.
If you are at a crucial point in your writing, like editing your novel, or if you have just started writing on an idea, this feeling of not wanting to write can prove fatal, because you will lose interest and coming back to the project with the same zeal will be very, very difficult. Also, if this feeling is prolonged, like in my case, beware that you may just end up giving up on your project altogether. (I know I have 😦 )
DO NOT LET THAT HAPPEN!
In other words, it’s okay if one day you wake up and decide I’m not going to write today, I want to be Van Gogh and paint. It’s okay for one day, two days… alright even a full week, but ENSURE that this doesn’t overtake your zeal for writing. Because that’s the day you stop being a writer – when your love for writing is overcome by your laziness to not want to write.
Remember that writing is a habit, and for every serious writer, it SHOULD be a habit, even if you’re only demarcating 15 minutes of your whole day for writing. If you’re serious about it, you will ensure that you have time, every day, even if you write when you’re on the toilet pot. Emergencies happen, life sometimes compels you to pay attention to other things, and it is alright to not write on such occasions. But doing this everyday will push you back in terms of writing skills and your love for writing will surely fade away. When you let your life interfere too much with your writing habit, it means you’re not serious about writing, buddy. Harsh but true.
Even though I just told you I’m not in the writing mood these days at all, this is what I do to try and force myself to write –
- Prompts – Look for word prompts, picture prompts, even music, listen to it to put yourself in the mood. I swear music always compels me to create. It has worked wonders for me on occasions when my writing spirits were in the dumps. You will be surprised at what prompts can stir up.
- Read your old works – Sometimes I go back and read my old works, not just from a critical standpoint, but to inspire me just as I was inspired back when I was writing that particular piece. We all have those pieces that we are proud of. Go back to them and see if inspiration comes to you again.
- Brainstorm – I used to do this a lot when I had just begun blogging. As a new blogger, you often feel you lack ideas to blog about. The best thing to do then is to brainstorm and write down the first 10 or 15 things that come to your mind. Then go back to these points and see if you would like to work on something therein. You never know what ideas lurk inside your head.
- Do it like your job – You know there are days even at work when you don’t feel like working but you still sit through the 8 hours at work because you’re supposed to. Treat writing like that when you’re afraid that the writing gap is tipping into the Writer’s Block territory. Just force yourself to write – something! I’ve done this when I was writing for NaNoWriMo and I was surprised that even on days when I had no desire to write, I could still churn out at least 500 words.
- Change where you write or what – Sometimes we don’t feel like writing the same thing again. You could try writing in a different genre to kickstart your brain. If you’re into poetry, try prose and vice versa. Similarly, sometimes one can benefit from a change of place too. Writers frequently take writing vacations or have writing retreats where they not only get a change of scene, but a change of influences, fresh outlooks and a peaceful environment to concentrate on writing. Don’t worry, I’m not saying you take a trip to Thailand necessarily to change your view. Just take your writing gear and maybe head to a different room, or sit before a window, or head to the local park. You never know where ideas may come from.
- Talk to other writers – Take suggestions from fellow writers who too may have suffered from this at some point in life. Some writers have the weirdest ways of searching for inspiration or writing motivation. Dan Brown likes to hang upside down (inversion) to concentrate and relax himself!
The bottom line is, do not scare yourself into believing that your writing skills will fade away just because you took a break. But do not let things slide so far down that you never have the will to get back to that same writing frenzy that once inspired you. So when you feel like you don’t want to write – write, my friend, write!
Remember the words of Stephen King (I don’t like his books much, but his quotes are fast becoming my favourites) –
The scariest moment is always just before you start.
Wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.