It’s Crucial to Write When You Don’t Want To.
I don’t write every single day. Nor do I write at the same time every day that I do write. If doing either or both of these things helps you as an author, by all means continue. If you think my rejecting both creeds and stating as much on my blog is heresy, then label me a heretic. I happen to feel that a writer understands their own proclivities and routes to producing work better than I, or any instructor or online writing guru ever could.
One thing is certain, though. Whether you take the hard-nose daily route at the same time each day, or you take the slightly more chaotic approach of this writer, the time will come when you will not want to write. It will probably come often.
This can happen as a whole, when you find yourself not wanting to write anything, or it can be confined to a specific project. (As it has been with me lately. I blog with ease, but tiptoe around some of my longer fiction.)
Who knows why these doldrums arrive when they do? There are plenty of superficial reasons, such as wanting to be outside, or engage in petty distractions like Twitter. Then there are more substantial reasons; you might be ill, or fatigued. There are also psychological reasons for you not wanting to write any given day or week; maybe you’re experiencing doubt as to your worthiness, or you can’t stand being unsure how to fix the current chapter. You fear the failure or success that may come with finishing the piece. There are even a few instructional reasons why you could be putting it off; perhaps you’re brainstorming, or you’ve been sucked into a research black hole out of which you cannot, (or do not wish) to escape.
Whatever the reason, you will at times totally lack any desire to write. If you’re like me, you indulge that feeling here and there. Yet the time will come when you will have to write when you do not want to write.
Writing when you don’t want to is not a choice when you’re on a deadline. You do it or you get fired, or don’t get paid. No need to explore that motivation. But what about the times when you are accountable only to yourself and your creative vision? If you don’t have a deadline from elsewhere or yourself, what’s the big deal about avoiding work that isn’t setting your creative soul on fire? I’ll tell you.
First, you’ll never get it done otherwise. Unless you are willing and able to spend a literal lifetime on one or two projects that you don’t need anyone else to ever see, you’ve got to get on with it. For a change, I agree with the conventional writing wisdom, when it states you cannot wait for inspiration. Writing is work and like any work it doesn’t do itself on days you don’t feel like doing it. Some days you’re sculpting the vase, and other days you’re just lugging that dirty, heavy, unseemly hunk of clay onto the potter’s wheel. But no clay, no vase.
Making yourself write on days you don’t want to write is not just about getting on with it, however. It’s about your identity as a writer.
By working on a piece when you’re too tired, too sick, too occupied or distracted, you’re sending a message into the ether. (Define that according to your own belief system.) You are telling yourself and anyone/anything else out there that the act of writing is a priority-a priority over minor health issues, a priority over fatigue, over boredom, over distractions, over whatever else you want to be doing that moment. By projecting such priorities, you are also projecting your identity as an author.
The product during these times of no desire may not be voluminous; it may only be a paragraph or two. Nor is the work you force yourself into likely to be your best writing. It’s often not even going to be your mediocre writing. (Though sometimes when we force ourselves to write when we don’t want to, we find ourselves suddenly inspired a few minutes later.) Either way though, doing this represents a commitment to the process of writing, and it leaves an impression on the universe, or the deities, or the ether, (whatever persuasion you happen to be in such matters.) Before long, that impression reflects back at yourself, and you will then see yourself as a writer more clearly. Which in turn feeds your writer’s identity that you project into the world, and so on.
Your desire to write is not what makes you a writer. I suspect about 90% of humanity on some level for at least a few minutes desires to be a writer, and they may even write for a few days or a few hours. It’s one of those things, like New Year’s resolutions that nobody keeps. But they stop when they don’t want to do it anymore. (Like me watching the World Cup here and there.) What actually makes you a writer is a steady commitment to identify yourself as such by actually writing whether you want to or not on any given day. If you never want to do it, and have no stories to tell, than of course don’t write, now or ever. But if tales live within you and wish to see the rest of the world beyond your heart and mind, give them, and the craft what it deserves and requires; priority status.
- Posted in: Writing