What To Do When Writing Every Day Feels Like A Chore

Nandhu Kumar


Most writers procrastinate about writing because (most often) they don’t have a good enough handle on their story.

Others doubt themselves and think their writing sucks, or fear success, and twitter away their time for those reasons.

Then there are writers who have reached a point where they loathe writing.

If you’ve never hated writing or thought it far too much hard work, then it’s difficult to grasp the idea that anyone would bellyache about writing every single day, especially if they’re doing it full time.  After all, they’re living the dream, right?

When I first saw this question raised on more than one writers’ group, I was puzzled, but the sheer number of people hopping in with comments and questions of their own seems to indicate that finding writing a chore is very common indeed.

What can you do about it, if you’re in this boat, too?

First, Is It Burnout?

Burnout is a serious psychological condition with physical symptoms, and needs expert medical intervention in extreme cases.

I wrote about Burnout here.  Eliminate the possibility that you are suffering burnout, and get help if you think the symptoms and conditions describe your situation.

If you’re not clinically burned out, then try the following to help you reach a point where each day’s writing does not sap your enthusiasm.

Increase The Positives

The overall strategy is to increase the positive attributes of writing.

There is a psychological measure called the Losada Line.  Research says that if an experience provides three times more positive aspects than negative, then overall, the subject will consider the experience a positive one.

Can you see how easy it is to reach a point where writing feels unpleasant?  If more than three quarters of the experience must be positive in order to make a writing session feel good, that means only one quarter of the experience needs to be unpleasant, to feel negative.

That 25% could be something very simple, like a negative review, or an argument with your spouse, and boom, you’re below the line.

Once the bloom and rush of writing and producing stories wears off, then you may slip below the Losada Line and get to hate writing.  It doesn’t take much to get there.

There is a compounding effect, too, that is also subject to the Losada Line:  If, for example, more than a quarter of your recent writing sessions were tough or didn’t go well, or were simply blah, then you will be below that magic ratio of positivity and will feel like writing in general is way too disagreeable.

On the other hand, if you can engineer some (many) happy outcomes from writing, then you can make writing feel good once more.

How do you engineer positives?  Glad you asked.

Why Do You Write?

The first comes first.  Why do you write?

Even if you know the answer to this, it is easy to put it aside and overlook it when writing fights back.

You need to keep the reason you write in mind, every time you write.

Then you need to let yourself feel the satisfaction that comes from having met that purpose at the end of your writing session.

Do you write to inform?  To help people?  Are there specific types of people or readers you write for?

Do you write to entertain?

The reason you write could be purely to entertain yourself.

Remind yourself of who you are writing for and why you’re writing for them, as you sit down to write.  At the end of the session, sit back for a few seconds and tell yourself you did what you set out to do.  You entertained, or informed, or delighted.

You can add a Post-It© to your monitor with the reminder, or make a graphic for your phone or your computer wall-paper, to keep the reminder front and center.

Learn To Love The Process

This whole post is about learning to love the process of writing, but there are specific steps you can take to make aspects of writing lovable.

The primary one is to watch your self-talk.

Do you bitch to yourself and others about having to rewrite?

Do you hate grammar nazis and wish editors were not necessary?

Do you hate plotting?

Does having to come up with yet another hook at the beginning or end of the scene drive you crazy?

There are many moving parts to writing a novel, and you may be telling yourself you dislike any number of them.  Remember, you only need to abhor a quarter of them for the entire writing process to feel horrible.

These are all attitudes that can be changed, and the first step is to watch what you tell yourself and others about aspects of writing.  Catch yourself being negative, and correct yourself.

Eventually, your attitude to whatever process you find burdensome will shift.  Change your opinion about enough of them, and you’ll start to love writing.

Become interested in all aspects of writing.  Grow a curiosity bump which wants to know about every facet of novels and how they’re built.

Become absorbed with the processes and the incremental steps you can make to improve them.

Delight in signs of improvement in your techniques and attitudes, no matter how small.

See every single aspect of writing a novel as a chance to blow your readers’ minds.

Read Back Over Completed Work

The trick with this one is to not read critically.

Read your stories when they are very cold—when you haven’t read them for months or years, and you’ve forgotten entire scenes and passages, and can be surprised by turns of phrase you don’t remember writing.

The idea is to read the story and appreciate the positive aspects of it.  What did you get right?   What about the story pleased you?

Read and let yourself feel a sense of accomplishment for what you have written.

Remember that achievement, the next time you feel any reluctance to write.

Have Some Play Time

Especially when you are writing full time, but also when you’re writing around a day job and giving it your all, you can find yourself locked into a production schedule and calendar of releases.  Even if you haven’t published the schedule, you can still grow to resent that you have to write such-and-such book next.

In particular, this can happen to writers who are writing purely to market, which is why you should work toward finding the common ground between market demands and what you want to write.

But if you can’t do that, or don’t want to, or are locked into a series or genre because readers are buying it in droves, then you can grow to hate the series or genre, if you let yourself.

To counter that resentment, build some “spare time” writing into your schedule.  This is time where you write, but you write whatever you want.  No pressure.  No expectations.  Experiment and have fun.  Or even write complete stories, if you want.  But it can be anything you want to write.  Whatever you feel like writing.  And if the story or novel doesn’t get finished, no biggie.

Some of the play time writing you do is a form of story development—you might find yourself super excited about new story ideas that you can adapt and add to your product schedule for commercial release.

At the very least, you will be having fun, which is the point of it.

These fun, play time writing sessions remind you about the joy of writing.  Take that thought with you when you turn back to the “serious” stuff.

Writing is work.  Stop romanticizing it.

This is the tough love bit.

Ultimately, writing is work.  You may have buried in your subconscious the idea that writing is supposed to be endlessly creative, fascinating and fulfilling, and that every day you sit at your desk, bluebirds should warble and the sun should shine…or whatever version of the writing myth you may have allowed to plant itself.

In the long term, writing really is all those things:  endlessly creative, fascinating and fulfilling.

But from day to day, it is work.

So is painting and singing and designing and every other so-called glamorous profession out there.

You need to approach writing in your mental shirt sleeves (preferably rolled up).  With that attitude, the hard work loses its negativity and becomes merely work which must be done.

This is the point where Just Starting (here and here) and other solid habits help you get to your desk and actually do the work.

You CAN Make Yourself Love Writing Again.

Ultimately, it is a numbers game.

Work to create more positive aspects (at least three times more) than negative aspects emerge from your writing, and you will love it (again).

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