5 Writing Tips: How To Write When You’re Not in the Mood

On some days, writers would rather eat worms than write. You decide that you really need to clean out your closets, mow the lawn, go shopping for Christmas presents (in July), and so on — anything rather than sit down and focus, and write. Let’s look at some writing tips to help with that.

Important: if you’re a new author, you may feel that the “I don’t wanna” feeling means that you’re not meant to write your book. You imagine that authors sit down, and that words flow from their fingertips like water gushing from a tap.

Nope. On some days, the words won’t come to you easily. The great author Thomas Mann said: “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

I wouldn’t go that far. Generally speaking, authors love to write, and when it’s going well, writing seems easy. Then you meet RESISTANCE, and resistance can take many forms.

Writing tips to eliminate stress and make writing easier

In my day job, I work in marketing, which involves a lot of writing. On some tasks, I procrastinate endlessly. The clients become unhappy, which makes my boss very unhappy. I’ve found ways to eliminate stress and resistance, and write anyway.

Here are some tips I’ve found useful.

1. “I’m not writing because…” and “What you need to do now…”

Your first step is to find out what’s going on with you.

Take out your writing journal, or grab some paper (these exercises work better if you write by hand), and write down this phrase: I’m not writing because… Set a timer for five minutes, and keep writing, without lifting your pen from the paper. Write in stream-of-consciousness style — write anything that comes to mind.

Next, do the same with this phrase: What you need to do now…

Set your timer, and write for five minutes.

Sometimes, this exercise is enough to change your mood, because you’ve acknowledged your resistance. (More on resistance in Tip 5.)

2. Time and words: set clear and easy boundaries

Currently I’m writing a mystery novel. Except, I’m not.

For some reason, I can’t get started. I know the crime that’s at the heart of the mystery, I know and love my sleuth… BUT. Words? No — huge resistance.

So, I’ve decided that I’ll write just 200 words a day. I can write 200 words on even my worst day, so I’ll write my 200 words while I’m waiting for my resistance to pack its bags and leave.

You may not feel like setting a word count goal. If that’s the case, set a time instead. Decide to “write” your project for 20 minutes each day. You don’t need to write in those 20 minutes, but if you choose not to, you can’t do anything else. Turn off the Internet and your phone before you set the timer.

3. Listen to yourself: are you ready to write?

Sometimes you’re experiencing resistance for a reason. You may not be ready to write. Perhaps you don’t know your characters well enough, or you haven’t thought through something. Or you need to do more research.

If you’re convinced that this is the case, do whatever you need to do. You’ll know what you need to do. If you can’t think of anything, that’s resistance. Use Tip 5.

4. Set a deadline for your writing, but no longer than a week ahead

It may help to set a deadline — if it’s a short piece of writing, the deadline is the day it’s due. If you’re writing a book, and you’ve started writing, ditto — your deadline for your final draft is the day your book’s due.

If you haven’t started writing, the deadline is the day you START.

No excuses.

5. Say YES! to resistance and conquer your shadow self

Have you heard the saying, what you resist, persists?

Unfortunately, it’s true. The more you try to force yourself to write when you just don’t want to, the less you want to, and the more the words won’t come.

Try saying YES! to your resistant self.

Like this:

Resistance: I don’t want to write…

Self: Yes, I acknowledge that. You don’t want to write…

Resistance: I don’t want to because it’s a commitment…

Self: Yes, I accept that you don’t want to write because…

You’ll have the most success when you simple agree with your resistant self, in writing. When you try to do this mentally, your mind will float off, and you’ll find yourself thinking about what to have for dinner, and should you buy those shoes you saw, etc. etc.

When you write down your acceptance, agreeing YES! to whatever your resistant self has to say, it has two effects. Firstly, writing it down ensures that you’ll won’t wander off into discursive thought, and secondly, you’ll see that the reasons for your resistance are pretty silly. Sooner or later, you’ll get fed up with your resistance, and you’ll write.

Be kind to yourself: treat yourself like a little child

Psychologists talk about your inner child. Your inner child is your creative self. So, don’t be harsh. Be kind.

Indulge your child. Be playful. Keep a “happiness” list, so you’ve got a selection of fun things to do. Then, do something that makes you happy every day.

Before you know it, you’ll be in the mood to write. 🙂

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