You don’t have to be a slave to your keyboard.
I get the write-every-day-no-matter-what advice. I do.
Having a daily habit of attempting to write is better than no habit at all. I get the gist. Sometimes we don’t feel like doing something, but we show up and do it anyway. Sometimes that something it turns out awesome.
But the advice I just can’t seem to understand is “write when you don’t feel like it.” I’ve been writing online for the past 10 years and this advice still makes me cringe.
Writing isn’t like painting a wall. It doesn’t matter if you want to paint the wall or not, the finished product will look the same.
Writing is different. When you force words onto the page, they turn out as crap. If you’re a good writer, your readers might not notice, but you will.
There’s a fine line between treating your writing as work and treating it as a calling and when you publish crap words, you’re turning your craft into a chore.
You don’t have to be a slave to your keyboard anymore. There are other ways to “write” when you don’t feel like writing.
Work on back up projects
When you don’t feel like writing, it may very well be because you don’t feel like writing one specific thing. I write online articles multiple times a week. Sometimes I get bored.
That’s why I have multiple other writing projects to fall back on. I write a newsletter to help people build their side hustles, I’m working on a book, I have a couple of niche sites.
If for whatever reason I don’t feel like sitting down and writing another personal development article, I simply write something else.
If all of your writing efforts are directed at one thing, you’re going to burn out. Then what? If you mainly write in the non-fiction space, take a class on creative writing. If you’re stuck writing for a specific niche topic, start a new site instead.
Give yourself some variety to fall back on.
Refill the tank
It’s okay to not write and instead read other people’s writing. Let your brain soak up new ideas.
What you read has a profound influence on what you write. I can look back on my past writings from this year and know exactly what books I was reading at the time.
When you feel like you’re out of ideas, turn to man’s greatest invention and read.
Of course, it’s important to be intentional. Don’t skip writing for a 2-hour scroll fest on Twitter. Have a variety of books on hand. If you haven’t joined your local library yet, are you even a writer?
I write with my Kindle on my desk in case I need a quick break. The highlight feature lets me easily remember interesting passages for future articles. I also have a “scrap heap” notebook to handwrite any ideas I come across.
Your brain needs ideas to collide and mesh together. There’s no excuse for this one. Read a book when you don’t feel like writing.
Pick up a pen and write on paper
Sometimes I don’t feel like writing simply because I don’t feel like looking at a computer screen. There are days I’d rather just lounge in my comfy POÄNG chair than sit at my desk.
When this happens, I grab my Moleskine and Pilot pen and free-write.
I don’t know if it’s been scientifically tested, but there is definitely something different about writing on paper versus writing on a keyboard.
Although it’s a bit slower, I feel like free-writing with a pen allows my thoughts to flow better. There’s less of a temptation to check email or Twitter. I feel more focused and oddly calmer.
When you don’t feel like writing, it might be your setting. Change things up. Go analog.
Go for a walk
The act of writing, although mentally stimulating, is a sedentary one. Sitting in a fixed position for multiple hours a day isn’t healthy so it’s no wonder our bodies crave movement instead of another prolonged writing session.
Get outside and walk around. You might not be putting words on a page, but you’re doing something better: giving your brain a moment to process.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone for a walk and crafted an entire piece in my head. When I returned to my computer it flowed onto the page. I was more productive going for a walk than forcing the words out of my head.
Why does this work? What’s the connection between our feet and our brain? The two polar opposites of our bodies. The New Yorker has one idea:
“Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander — to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight.”
I live in the city next to a big park. Sometimes I take the urban route for more stimulation, other times the pastoral route for some peace and quiet. Whatever route I’m taking, my mind is letting ideas percolate and brew.
Just because the words aren’t actively being written doesn’t mean you aren’t writing. Go for a walk when you don’t feel like writing.
Don’t force your writing
Spewing the same get-your-butt-in-front-of-a-keyboard advice is not helping.
Writing requires dedication and consistency, I get that. But look at writing as a whole: you need rest, fresh ideas, and time to let everything permeate in your mind. If not you end up repeating what everyone is saying.
And that’s not writing. It’s annoying.