Even if you have an excellent writing practice with well-established routines, there will still be times when you just can’t bring yourself to the page.
Sometimes, that’s a sign of burnout or that you just need a rest. If that’s the case for you, do what you can to get the rest that you need.
But, if this is regular old garden-variety reluctance, a slight grumpy sort of resistance, or just a toddleresque ‘I don’t wanna’ – it might be time for some gentle coaxing. You don’t need to be hard on yourself, this isn’t a time for being cruel in the name of self-discipline.
This is an opportunity to add a little more self-kindness to your practice.
If you are struggling with resistance right now, here are 5 steps to help you take your writer self by the hand and invite them to join you at the page.
Set up your space
Pick a place to do your writing – your usual spot or, if it feels right, a new location – and get your stuff ready. Clear some space, turn on the laptop or set up your notebook. Depending on the temperature, grab a blanket or a fan, and a hot or cold beverage. Gather what you need to make the space feel right. (If you are going to write later in the day, you can set up almost everything now and just plan time for gathering beverages later.)
Pick a time
If you are already at your usual writing time, pick a short time frame for starting your next session – set a timer from two minutes from now, or decide that you will start on the count of three.
If your time is later in the day or if you don’t usually have a fixed time, pick a time a few hours from now and set an alarm to remind yourself to start.
Either way, say, aloud, “When the alarm goes off, it’s time to write.”
Instead of letting your inner monologue run on about not writing or about the other things you should/could be doing, feed your brain some encouragement. Phrases like ‘Every writer has times like this.” “It’s okay to ease into my writing – even if things start off badly.” “I’ll feel better once I get started.” – all of these can help you to remember that you don’t have to be a literary genius every time you sit to write.
Once you take that pressure off, it will be a lot easier to get going.
Do the easy part
When it has been hard work to get yourself to start, it’s very important to build momentum and keep yourself going. If you work on something that you find easy and enjoyable, you will quickly get comfortable with your writing for today. Once you have momentum, you may be able to branch out into more challenging writing tasks. But, even if you stick with easy writing for today, you will feel a sense of accomplishment from just getting started..
Give yourself an end point
When you are having trouble getting to the page, your writing task can feel endless and it is hard to convince yourself to start an endless task. If you lower your expectations and decide that a very short writing session ‘counts,’ it will feel easier to convince yourself to start.
This is less about carving out time from a busy schedule (the purpose our timers often serve) and more about making the task feel manageable.
It’s okay to be reluctant to write. It happens to every writer sometimes. However, unless you are consciously taking a break from writing, skipping your writing sessions can get you out of the writing habit and take away the joy you find in your work.
If you can be kind and gentle with yourself on hard days, you can keep your practice going and shape your stories the way you want to.
*FYI, there is NEVER going to be a good time to be cruel to yourself. You can be determined and disciplined without being cruel (and you will feel better during the process.)