We’ve all been there, in that dark place where we procrastinate and downright abhor writing. We avoid the imperfect sentences, the sagging storyline in need of an overhaul, or perhaps we avoid the new project. We think about that twisting road to completion and it overwhelms us to the point of shutdown. There are loads of other reasons we don’t want to write, of course. Maybe it’s because:
- You’d rather be doing something else. Anything else. Like eating chips and watching Downton Abbey re-runs, or clipping your toenails.
- You’re fed up with the roller coaster, soul-destroying nature of the industry. You’re so crispy-fried burnt, you can’t get out of a funk.
- For some reason, people just don’t get your story, your characters, or what you’re trying to do and you’re frustrated to high hell with it.
- You’re suffering through a multi-tiered attack of rejections.
- An alien has redirected your creative brainwaves and you can’t seem to recover them. Words fail you, ideas are whispers on the wind.
- You’ve just finished a major project and your brain feels like a decaying carcass.
Whatever the issue, one thing remains the same: sometimes you don’t want to write. But there’s a funny thing that happens to writers after a few days of abstinence. You feel unmoored and float in fathomless depths with no hope of finding land. You go through waves of angst and agitation. Worse, you beat yourself up for not spending every precious minute you can at the keyboard, plotting, drafting, creating. The guilt swarms you and you think desperate thoughts like, “what if someone else steals my idea before I get to it?”, or “I’m not a true writer if I don’t write every.single.day.” We’ve all read about a hundred posts and articles in craft books that tell us we must write every day. If we don’t follow this simple piece of advice, are we a failure?
I suppose it depends on your definition of failure.
Maybe what we really need is to be pleased with the amount of care, discipline, and passion we’re expending on our manuscript. Maybe what we need is to make peace with the process; ride the rollercoaster with arms raised, whooping along the way. Or perhaps it’s simpler than that. Perhaps we need rest and processing time; time to do the other things we enjoy that inspire us and fill us up again. To not write for a while, knowing we’ll find our way back to it when we can’t stand to be away a moment longer.
Sometimes we need to turn away from the screen, turn down the volume, and be silent. Observe, listen, absorb. Writers depend upon experiences as much as discipline and inspiration. We depend upon faith in what we’re doing to press on. This faith comes with time and a deep understanding of our process—without guilt, and injected with a strong dose of self-kindness.
One thing’s for sure. If writing is your calling, it won’t be long before you’re back at it. Take the time you need and stifle the evil voices in your head. Sometimes the thing you need most is to not write for a little while.
Do you feel guilty when you don’t want to write?