Motivation,  Self Talk,  Time Management,  Uncategorized

When You Shouldn’t be Writing

by Joanna Maciejewska

You have probably seen those funny memes where cartoon characters or famous actors tell you that YOU SHOULD BE WRITING. Maybe you snicker at them. Or maybe they’re poking at your feeling of guilt, because if you see them… you’re clearly not writing.

Most of the times, they serve as a reminder or a motivator, because you should be writing. But what if there are times when you shouldn’t?

Procrastination as a symptom

It seems that no one is so effective at procrastination as a writer is. From social media dubbed as “building one platform” to binging series on Netflix boldly renamed to “research”, writers tend to excel at not writing.

Of course, sometimes it’s lack of the routine or discipline, but what is signifies a hidden problem? Writer’s block might be a myth, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t things similar to it that affect writing. Recognizing the reasons behind the procrastination might help to tackle it.

Tiredness and life

When the rest of life affects us in a negative way, it’s hard to find the focus necessary for writing. In the end, you sit in front of your keyboard or notebook, and as words aren’t coming, you feel more and more guilty. You end up browsing the net in search of “inspiration”, and before you realize, your mind is even less on writing than it was before you sat down.

Plot holes and difficult scenes

Sometimes, no matter how excited you are about your writing, there are things about it you need to figure out. It might be a plot hole that makes the complex story fall apart, or trying to understand how and why your character would do something you really need them to do. Sometimes, you need time to figure it out, or even just let it brew while you do something else, and trying to push through that particular part ends up with few words written and that guilt looming over you once more…

When You Shouldn't Be Writing

It’s okay to take a break

Most of the time, to write, you need some focus, and you need to know what to write. If you can get yourself out of a slump by “free writing” or “pantsing” your way out, that’s great. If you can use writing as therapy for your struggles, that’s wonderful! But if you can’t, don’t deny yourself a break. Identifying the real problem and figuring out the way to solve it is working toward writing even if you aren’t putting any words on the page. By taking some time to work through things ensures that when you’ll sit through in front of the page or screen you won’t be staring blankly on it or escaping to check social media every other sentence written.

But serious writing should be treated like a job!

Those of you who hope to make writing your main source of income have probably seen that argument. Discipline is, indeed, essential in a professional approach, and many writers strive for daily writing and high word count goals.

Yet, at the same time, they tend to forget that people get their weekends and vacation and sick days at their day jobs.

Just like with a day job, writing needs vacation too. Even though creative activities tend to nourish more creativity, recharging now and then is necessary. There are also “sick days” to take, and the trick isn’t to avoid them entirely, but to know when you really have to take one to not to collapse later, facing even more downtime as a result.

So, procrastination isn’t a thing?

Unfortunately, it is. And we, writers, can excel at it. So it’s up to every writer to be honest with themselves and decide whether they’re just procrastinating or their reasons for avoiding writing are .

If all you have are general remarks like “oh, my life is so busy, I just can’t find time to write” or “I’m so tired all the time”, chances are you making up excuses, and you probably should be writing.

But if you can look deeper, you might find things you need sort out before you start writing. It’s up to you to decide whether you need some time off. Whether you’ll be recovering from some serious life matters or figuring out your villain’s main speech, it’s not going to help if you’re adding guilt for not writing on top of your stress, anxiety, or frustration, or any other emotion you’re working through.

Because sometimes you shouldn’t be writing and that’s fine.

Joanna MaciejewskaJoanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science-fiction writer who was born in Poland, spent a little under a decade in Ireland, and now resides in Arizona. She had stories published in Polish magazines (“Nowa Fantastyka”, “Science-Fiction Fantasy i Horror”) and anthologies (Fabryka Słów, Replika, Solaris), and she also writes in English (“Fiction Vortex”, “Phantaxis”, “The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror”). You can find out more about her and her stories at or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram. She also designs graphics available as gadgets for writers (stickers, mugs, t-shirts, and more).


  • Susan Ekins

    Regretfully, I tend to procrastinate, especially on writing my mystery novel. Think I’ll follow your thought on treating the procrastination as a symptom and journal about WHY I don’t work on my mystery novel. The same is true in other areas of my life as well. Thank you for giving me food for thought.

    • Joanna Maciejewska

      I know what you mean. I tend to procrastinate on some of my writing too, but then I either temporarily switch projects (as you may have seen in another of my posts, I’m a fan of writing multiple projects at the time), or try to diagnose what’s wrong. It’s been a while since your comment, so I’m hoping journaling helped and you found a solution to your procrastination! 🙂

  • Patty Kyrlach

    Thanks for this absolution from the guilt of not-writing! There really are valid times when we writers need to take a break, without guilt or anxiety. Well said!

  • sjhigbee

    Yes… I fully agree with you! As a Creative Writing tutor, I’m constantly coming up against this issue, particularly with writers who want to take their writing up to another level. Something happens in their working or personal lives and they suddenly don’t have the mental energy or headspace to writer. I always urge them to give themselves to take a break WITHOUT guilt.

    And that’s the huge one. I don’t know anything more toxic to creativity than guilt. Though we’re not machines and writing takes a lot of mental energy, so quite often if we are ill, then the writing is the first thing that suffers and often the last aspect of their lives that returns after they’ve recovered.

    • Joanna Maciejewska

      I agree, guilt can be very damaging to creativity. I use it sometimes when I’m really procrastinating, but I learned to recognize when the problem lies elsewhere and take my time to fix it or just to recover. In these cases, guilt has no entry to my thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *