How To Write When You’re Not In The Mood – 7 Remedies For Writer’s Apathy

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writer's apathy

What do you do when it’s time to write and you just don’t feel like it? For those moments when you just aren’t feeling motivated, we offer seven remedies for writer’s apathy.

Writer’s apathy – it can happen to anyone, even the best writers in the world. It’s those times when you know you should be writing your book or your blog, but you just can’t get yourself motivated.

You just don’t feel like it. Cleaning the toilet or mowing the lawn seem like more attractive uses of your time. Come to think about it, my lawn is looking a bit unkempt at the moment…

First thing: don’t panic. Writer’s apathy is completely normal. You’re not alone and you’re in very successful company. But you don’t want this to carry on forever, otherwise, nothing ever gets written, does it?

So what do you do? Here are some quick and easy ways to get going.

Just do a little

writer's apathyTime yourself to write for just 30 minutes. By committing only to a little bit, it’s less daunting. When the time is up, give yourself full permission to walk away from the keyboard. On the other hand, if you’re in full flow, carry on. It’s amazing how often that happens.

Here’s my 15 minute timer, it’s flowing as we speak!

Don’t break the chain

Many years ago, the famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld created a writing system for himself which he called “Don’t Break the Chain.” It was very simple. In January each year, he would stick a huge year planner on his office wall, and each day he wrote new material, he would mark a big, fat, rewarding “X” on the calendar. After a series of consecutive days’ writing, the Xs ran into a chain. He made it his goal never to break the chain.

You’d think as a world-famous comedian, Seinfeld could afford to take the odd day off. But he kept going every day, because when he saw a day without an “X,” it wasn’t a good day.

Change location

Maybe a change of scene would do you some good. A local coffee shop could be a comfortable setting to write in and provides a different atmosphere. Or how about taking your laptop out into the garden, or your living room? Being outside may also have the added advantage having no WiFi to distract you (there’s also the option of disconnecting – wherever you are).

Warm up

Creative juices can be tricky to turn on and off at will, and doing some creative writing exercises will improve your writing, whether you’re motivated or not. See this article from Author Unlimited for some practical creative prompts for nonfiction writing.

Remember the times when your writing flowed

This is a nice little self indulgent exercise. Flip back to the blog posts which got you lots of interested comments (whether in the blog itself or on your social media platforms), and think back on the times when you’ve really enjoyed your writing. Underlying a lot of worries about writing is doubt: not being sure you can do it, or if you’re any good. You’ve done it before, so you can do it again.

Dream of your goals

What’s your book going to do for you? Skyrocket your sales, help more people, bring you more speaking gigs, elevate you to the position of go-to expert in your niche? That won’t happen if you don’t write it, so let that dream motivate you to get going.

Do it anyway

My favorite. If we waited until we were in the right mood before we did anything, how slowly would our lives progress? What would we achieve? There will be countless times when you will have just got on and “done it” even though you didn’t feel in the mood, so why would writing be any different?

Sure, it’s lovely to think of writing as simply typing away, perpetually happy and inspired, but we all know that life isn’t always like that – in fact we’re lucky to get the odd moment!

And did I say just get on with it? I did? OK I’d better follow my own advice and start ghostwriting the next chapter of my client’s book.

What works for you when you’re not in the mood for writing? Do share so we can all learn from you.

 

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40 COMMENTS

  1. I have never had apathy. But if all I have going on outside of writing is keeping me from my time to write (I mean that I run a small publishing company and business sometimes is priority, besides other life crisises) well, I get my recorder and at night as I am laying down I let those things go. I pick any character in our epic series and think of what is happening to them and begin recording where they go from there.

    • Try to write something that’s really bad. Then you at least have something on paper rather than nothing. Then you can switch roles to proofreader/editor. That’s what I tell my English 101 students who claim “writer’s block.”

  2. Just get started. The quote that is attributed to Hemingway, Red Smith and others, “Sit at the typewriter and bleed”, never goes out of style. Get a flow, whether it is a thought, a character, a plot move or what ever. Even if the f low starts with only a drip, get it going.

  3. I just write my characters doing the most crazy, off-the-wall stuff I can think of, without any regard for whether or not it continues where I last left off in the story. Then, once I’m in the flow, I’ll just cut out what I wrote and get back to writing the “real” thing. As a bonus, I’ve actually gotten some useable material out of this exercise.

  4. I don’t know why this works, but it’s how I often get a short-short rolling. I get up from the computer, get a sheet of blank paper and a PENCIL, sit across the room in my comfy rocker and just scrawl the bare bones of the plot. Then I go back to the computer and write it out.

  5. This came at the right time for me. I have begun a novel and just shut down for no apparent reason. Now I know it’s writer’s apathy. I thought I was just lazy. lol Thanks for the article.

  6. I guess that being ‘in the mood’ day in day out is the mark of the professional.
    The professional has developed a habit whereby he or she just sits down/stands up and
    just does it day in day out.
    Hemmingway , rain or shine, hangover and all, walked his little elevated
    gangway from bedroom to study to log in his prerequisite 1000 words day in day out.
    Writer’s block is another thing.
    I am no great writer but i know the only way to break through a bleak patch is simply to
    rely on your habit.
    The other way to handle a “lack of inspiration” is to review the objectives of the piece you are composing.
    If all this fails, well, seek other advice…

  7. My favourite is exercise. Exercise improves your mood, makes you feel great, and gives you time to escape. When you return from a walk at a speed that makes you heart beat (so just a little faster than your normal walk), you are a lot more relaxed, happier, and have probably removed your writer’s block too.

  8. Ginny, I think writer’s apathy fits me to a tee. I’ve written a murder mystery (unpublished), a half dozen short stories, and had two short comedies performed at a local theatre. When I say that fast it seems like quite an accomplishment, but when I factor in the years it took me to do it, maybe it’s not such a stunning feat. I always seem to find something to distract me, but the one thing that helps me get back to writing is to read something I’ve written. It never fails to get the juices flowing because I’m my greatest fan. I write to please me and that’s why I enjoy writing.

    Bill

    • You sound like you’ve written a lot Bill – don’t be too hard on yourself. And if you’re your biggest fan, that’s a great start. Think of your successes such as your comedies, and work out why they went well – apply that to your unpublished work too?

  9. I think what might have gotten me over any possible case of writer’s apathy is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). In case you haven’t heard of it, in November each year the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. You sign onto the site and there you are in public pledging to go for it. In order to do that, and keep up, you have to write 1,667 words each and every day. I did it. I came home from work every day, made dinner, then went to my “other job” for the month of making sure I got those words in. It didn’t matter whether I felt like it or not, I just started typing. Sometimes it was usable later, sometimes it wasn’t. But I wrote anyway. Whenever I feel like I’m stuck, I sometimes just do that–write whatever comes to mind about that story. Amazingly enough, it’s usually useful in some way.

  10. I’ll work on a new idea. I’ll write an out of sequence chapter. You write what flows. If you are stuck you move on and write something totally different. Maybe a new short story or article. Or I’ll work on my website. Or I’ll listen to music. Or I’ll watch a video. I also go do laundry and cook a meal. One thing that sometimes works is reading a book and then I’ll say: “I’m just as good or better!” Then I set the book down and go write.

    • Such a good idea not to worry about whether what you’re writing is in the right order or about the right thing. Just use whatever inspiration you have and go with it! Plus getting laundry done is no bad thing 🙂

  11. I agree that writers apathy is real. It so happens that sometimes you just don’t fee like doing justice to those thoughts and ideas shouting so loud in your mind by recording them. Your piece of writing is quite educative.

  12. Forced writing does not always tend to be that great. It often lacks style and reflects your apathy. But there are other things you can do. Research agents, book publishers who take open submissions, press for your promotion time. Research things for your book or for the next book. One thing I’ve done is read a book and I’ll put it down and go “I can write this good or better!” and I get my juices up. Go out and see the world. If you’re like me you live in a bat cave hanging upside down staring into a computer screen day and night. Go out and visit a museum, go to a mall Look at people. Find characters to write about. You sit in a mall and look at all the people and those are your characters. The girl wearing the black spandex, knee high boots that go clack, clack, clack as her hair bounces and she has this intense look on her face. That’s a character. Maybe the evil one or the good one or the driven one. I make up my list of names for future characters using the phone book and baby names book. I’ll make lists and annotate them as bad guy, good guy, bad girl, good girl, daughter, son, best friend. I might find a name for that girl in spandex with the boots. A name that fits her perfectly and suddenly I may have a new story to write.

  13. Such a great and always timely article. I’m just doing the edits on my second book and needed a bit of a nudge to get in the mood, so sought out online help. I was delighted to see your blog…which makes me think that this would be a great #8 on your list of “what to do when apathy hits”: Check out great online blogs like this!

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