Ever hear the old adage about how if you do something you love you’ll never actually have to work? The truth isn’t quite that cheery. Anything can get stale and difficult at times and there are days you just don’t feel motivated to do it—including writing. What’s more, work like writing also has an added level of difficulty; it often relies on feeling creative. But just because you’re not feeling creative, you shouldn’t let it stop you from doing the work. Writers write. So here are some tips for getting words on the page when you just don’t feel like it.
1. Set Writing Goals That Are Attainable
One of the biggest reasons writers find themselves having a hard time putting words on the page is burnout. Sure, lofty goals of “I’m going to finish this manuscript this month” or “I’m going to write 2,000 words per day” can be excellent motivators at times. But sometimes—and especially if you’re not feeling like writing—it can be important to step back and analyze that you haven’t made the goals a bit too difficult to achieve. At the end of the day, it’s better to have written 500 words than 0 words, even if it puts you 1500 words off-pace.
2. Creativity Breeds Creativity
One of the best ways I find to get myself writing when I’m not feeling like it is to take some time to pursue another creative hobby. Whether it’s painting or playing music or baking, the act of creating has a way of inspiring creativity. Often it allows us to come back to writing feeling more refreshed and energized than we otherwise would. Whether you choose to pursue a different creative hobby in conjunction with writing or only during times when you’re feeling less creative, flexing your creative muscles can be the key to staying motivated.
3. Try Some Old-fashioned Writing Techniques
Freewriting, writing prompts, writing exercises, journaling—more than likely when you were taking creative writing classes in school you were asked to use these writing techniques to get started with a project or dig deeper into a scene. The more experienced we get with writing, the more we have a tendency to forget the things that were taught to us as newbie writers. These techniques can be powerful assets when we have a hard time figuring out where to go with a project.
4. Make Yourself Accountable
The difficult thing about being your own boss or in charge of your work as a writer is that you have no one to answer to when you can’t finish the work. It’s extremely easy to shelve a project or toss a manuscript when you don’t feel inspired to continue a story. Having writing friends can help with that though, especially if these friends come in the form of a critique group you have to submit to. If you have a deadline or a group waiting for a submission by a specific date, it will force you to get the work done.
5. Treat Yourself
A writer friend of mine recently posted about how she had decided she wouldn’t let herself go on social media until she had written a certain amount of words each day. Other writers I have known give themselves rewards in the form of a dessert or a new book after getting the work done. Giving yourself a treat when you cross a goal can be a good motivation for those times you need an extra reason to write. And—it’s fun!
Whatever it takes to get yourself to put the words on the page, it’s good to remember that all writers go through dry spells. On the other hand, writing shouldn’t be such a drudgery that you can’t ever get yourself motivated. Remember what brought you to writing in the first place. Chances are, your reasons for writing started with the joy of it. And if you can find that joy again, there’s nothing better.