But I Don’t Feel Like Writing

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Have you ever had one of those days when you were supposed to be writing but you found yourself staring at the screen, whining, “But I don’t feel like writing!”

Let’s explore some ways to eliminate ennui, to beat the blahs, to energize the uninspired and to reignite your passion for writing.


Get back in touch with your love of the craft.

  • Read one of your favorite books on the craft of writing
  • Listen to conference tapes.
  • Read writing blogs.
  • Have lunch with a fellow writer and ask him/her to remind you why you love to write.

Visit a place that always gets your juices flowing.

  • Visit the setting of your novel.
  • Drop into a library just to poke around.
  • Visit your favorite bookstore, buy a latte, and take up residence in one of their comfy chairs.
  • Watch a documentary featuring some of your dream settings.
  • Sit by a stream and write by hand.
  • Find a coffee shop peopled by creatives.

Take a break.

  • It does no good to stare at a screen saying, “I don’t feel like writing.” What do you feel like doing?
  • Maybe what you need is a nap.
  • Could it be you are merely (a) hungry, (b) thirsty, (c) cranky? Can you address the root cause?
  • Think about Thoreau’s extended break, On Walden’s Pond. Maybe you need a long walk in the woods.
  • How about a self-imposed writing fast?
  • One of my favorite books, A Gift from the Sea came from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s week at the shore. Would a week at seaside cure your writing doldrums?

Push through.

  • Sometimes when we don’t feel like writing we’re on a deadline and must use discipline to push through. There are writers who prime the pump by typing gibberish or “blah, blah, blah” until they can get in gear and write.
  • Perhaps a change of schedule will help you push through. If you don’t feel like writing during your regular writing time can you sleep then and write at three o’clock in the morning? The quiet of that wee hour may allow a fresh writing perspective.

Take time for truth.

  • Maybe you’re feeling like it’s just not worth it. You’ll never (a) finish the uncontracted book, (b) get an agent, (c) get a contract (d) any number of self-defeating thoughts. Devour stories of writers who never thought they’d make it.
  • Acknowledge that your feelings (I don’t feel like writing) do not last forever.

Do mindless chores.

  • Cleaning toilets, washing dishes, sorting laundry– these make writing look like a great alternative.
  • If you’ve got a huge lawn, by the time you are finished mowing, you’ll probably have several new angles for your book.

Read, Read, Read.

  • If you read a great book, chances are you will find fresh inspiration.
  • You may want to analyze the craft– just to see how that author handled something.
  • If you read a cringeworthy book, it may just be the kind of kick-in-the-pants you need to continue writing your carefully crafted book.

Review past triumphs.

  • When I hit a writing funk I used to pull out the stack of grade school reader letters, written in pencil on ruled paper, that generally ended with the question, “Do you have a dog?” Remembering my precious young readers was often just the inspiration I needed.
  • So. . . read any reader mail.
  • Read all those great reviews.
  • Relive each of your contest wins and awards.
  • Bask in the applause for a few moments and then get back to work,

So those are a few of my suggestions. How about you? What can you suggest? What do you do?


29 Responses

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  1. I don’t feel like writing, and so…I don’t. My blog has been handed on to Barbara, and my nascent books will not see the light of day.
    * Life simply hurts too much now, and perhaps more telling, pain has changed me. The person who journeyed in hope has been turned into something fatalistic, and even nihilistic. That does not need to be shared.
    * I can still, I hope, encourage others, and I’ll sure do my best.

  2. When I don’t feel like writing, I ask, “Lord, is there something else I’m supposed to do right now?” I sometimes use my desire to write to avoid doing something else–cleaning, laundry, having that difficult discussion with someone, praying.
    * If it’s simple lack of inspiration, I’ll do something mechanical: start formatting the next lesson or chapter, rearrange some paragraphs, outline future blog topics. It’s like the Jordan river in reverse. The priests had to step in before the water stopped flowing; I have to step into writing before the ideas start flowing.

  3. Usually when I’m struggling, I’m caught at an intersection. Turn right or left? If I can pinpoint my issue, it helps me to run a hot bath and meditate and pray over the issue. Give that issue my complete focus. When I sit down at the desk, soft music by David Nevue, especially “The Gift” … and peanut M&Ms always help. 🙂 *Once, I drove out to my setting and discovered a nearby tiny town with the same name as my character’s nickname. It’s a very unique nickname, so that felt like a shower of blessing. I took pictures. And the scenery gave me a few more words to pour onto the page for one particular scene. *And Wendy, letters from grade school readers … what a blessing. Recently, I had a lady want to talk to me about an article I wrote over an Amazon missionary. The lady was preparing to speak to her missions group and wanted more information. I called her and was so blessed. I shared a few bits of information that didn’t make the article, and she was so excited. Made my day. Which reminds me … I adore reading deleted scenes from authors. I know how hard it is to delete scenes, but they aren’t to be thrown away, because readers like me love those. *And Instagram always inspires me.

  4. Some excellent tips here! (Now I need to find a permanent place to save them 😉 ). Other thoughts? Write something else – a short story, an article, something simple that isn’t due for months. Or, if all else fails, edit what you already have down. It’s still progress toward the finished product.

  5. Daphne Woodalk says:

    I’ve used several methods you’ve suggested. Another that works for me are movies where author/writers are part of the plot.
    Some favorites and the actor:
    “I Remember Mama” 1948
    Barbara Bel Geddes

    “Sunset Boulevard” 1950
    William Holden

    “Finding Forrester” 2000
    Sean Connery

    “Stranger Than Fiction” 2006
    Emma Thompson

    “Julie & Julia” 2009
    Amy Adams as a blogger

    “Midnight in Paris” 2011
    Owen Wilson

  6. May I add a couple of further suggestions?
    * Invest in a new experience; bungee jumping, or perhaps skydiving. They’ll give you a fresh perspective both on life, and on your own abilities to be brave. (Obviously, there are other lower-profile things you can do as well; Barbara recently gave herself the gift of an archery lesson, and in that vein – though perhaps not currently PC – if you’ve never fired a gun, you can go to a shooting range. The point is to step beyond that with which you have been comfortable.)
    * Gain experience in a different culture. You don’t have to go to some exotic land; if there’s an auto-racing track in your area, stop by there. It’s a different world, and not an unattractive one. Wander through the pit area, and ask questions. You’ll find that most of the drivers and their families (for such are support crew) will be only too happy to talk, and they’ll sincerely hope that you return on the next Saturday night.
    * Join a bowling league. Robert Putnam’s landmark book “Bowling Alone” defined, through the decline of league play, the alienation that plagues our society…so it’s not a bad idea to join an organized activity that has no real purpose BUT the building of community, since building community is the biggest part of your job as a writer.
    *Take a break from social media and news feeds; getting overwhelmed with information and feeling an itch to know up-to-the-minute news can damped motivation. Writing’s long-term, and getting lost in the immediate can give a false sense of a kind of accomplishment (“I’m clued in to what’s happening!”). But what’s happening only rarely has anything to do with you at all.
    * Don’t follow bad news, especially the kind drawn from statistics. I’ve seen too many well-intended blog posts that describe how many proposals agents get as compared to writers signed. It can be awfully discouraging. The problem with the raw data is that a lot of those writers are submitting junk, poorly written, poorly researched, and out-of-genre for an agent or agency. What YOU write and the professionalism YOU bring to a project will be the arbiter of your odds, at least to some degree. (Disclaimer – I’m not an agent or writing professional; this is merely a comment on posts I have seen on other blogs, which did use raw data in terms of submissions versus success, and they really slammed my desire to write, even though the authors did try to put a positive spin on the subject…once I waded through the horrible statistics, I was done.)

    • Great suggestions! And I once heard a statistics teacher say that statistics can be skewed to make any point you want, so just be careful and take in the whole and not just the bits. You have the perfect example with the blog post statistics you mentioned.

  7. Great list, Wendy. I’ve pinned it. Our family is rejoicing the arrival of our first grandchild. I needed a tanka for my Facebook page this morning, so I looked over at my sleeping grandson and wrote one about grandchildren:
    a sleeping newborn
    sustained by our Creator
    grandchildren are gifts
    from the gracious hand of God
    a reminder of His Love
    Sometimes inspiration is in the moment you’re experiencing.
    I also keep an idea file. I refer to it for blog and podcasts posts. And when a story comes to mind, I write a few pages so I won’t forget to finish it one day.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

    • Wendy Mac, I can’t even begin to imagine the inspiration from that first grandchild. Oh, my heart. 🙂 Congratulations, a thousand times.

      • Thank you, sweet Shelli. I’m holding him right now and I can tell you my mind is already distracted by children’s book ideas. Of course there’s an adorable little boy with a gentle but eccentric nature-loving grandma in them. I can’t wait to go birdwatching with him. xo

  8. It helps me to do something else creative if I’m stuck. I’ll draw or wander around the yard taking nature photographs to let my “background programs” run. After playing around with my art, it won’t be long before I start getting ideas again.

  9. Carol Ashby says:

    When I don’t feel like writing the next section of my WIP, I usually do one of four things.
    1) I read over and fine-edit sections I’ve already written. That gets me immersed in the story again so writing the next part becomes easier. Besides, that editing has to be done sometime, and it might as well be while I’m not making good progress on the next scene.
    2) Since I know the overall plot of the WIP, I jump ahead to a section that I do feel like writing that day.
    3) I’ve usually started the next novel in the series, so if I really can’t get fired up writing the WIP, I work on the next one for a while.
    4) I work on the next article I’m going to post on my Roman history site. This doesn’t help me meet a fiction deadline, but it builds platform while being fun.

  10. Ah, perfectly timed! And so, today, I’ll push through a little longer, take a nap, walk in the woods, and print out your list for the next time I face a day like this. (It also helps to have a husband who is ever ready with a hug and a prayer!) Thank you, Wendy!

  11. Letters from readers that end with “Do you have a dog?”
    That is priceless. I love it Wendy. Thank you so much for this list of inspirations. A long walk or mindless activity helps me and of course I have a dog! She helps with the long walks.

  12. Jerusha Agen says:

    Thanks for these great tips, Wendy! I’ve certainly had to battle this feeling way too many times. Too often, I’ve given in to what I like to call “writer’s avoidance” and allowed many things to distract me from writing. Right now, I’m finding the best defense to feeling like I don’t want to write is my new schedule. I have scheduled writing times every day, which makes them seem less optional. As a result, I sit down to write and do write because that’s the only thing that time is scheduled for (and probably because I’ve had time to know the writing interval is coming and mentally prepare for it in advance). I’m also producing a lot more because of this schedule, which motivates me to keep going. It’s working so far! 🙂 I’ll keep you posted.

  13. So, it’s been one of those days that began about twenty-four hours ago. I lived this yesterday. I knew I needed to write, but I felt a little overwhelmed with worry that the story isn’t “good enough.”

    I knew I only had a certain amount of time to write, so, I sat down and wrote. I find it helpful to have a good understanding of my overall story in advance. That way, when I have time to write, I can keep moving forward. And, I always begin with prayer.

    And what you say about reading a good book is true. The book I’m reading has given me some fun ideas for the story I’m writing.

  14. Lauren Lynch says:

    LOL! Having a rough week and lost my will to write. I needed the laugh I got in the mindless chores section! I think heading in to clean the toilet might just put things in perspective 😉

  15. I have several go-tos for “not wanting to write”.
    – Naps are always a blessing. Between migraines and children I probably take a 30 minute nap four times a week.
    – Read a novel/novella or a critique partner’s work
    – I’m not a movie person, but I will turn on some music and clean. Sometimes just the visual accomplishment of doing something productive helps.
    – If I have to sit and write for a deadline, I free write until my brain has pushed beyond what was keeping me from writing.
    – I probably should have put this one first, but a lot of the times I find my lack of desire comes from not having replisnished myself in God’s presence. So a time of prayer, study, or worship usually does the trick. 🙂