Have you ever sat down to write, and it felt like something was stopping you?
You’re trying to write something, anything, but it feels like shoving against a brick wall.
So after sitting there for your only spare hour of the week (after work, kids, school, and general life stuff): you give up and escape to Twitter.
At least Twitter doesn’t make you feel the mental void of death.
Well . . . debatable, but I digress.
The fun of writing can feel like a chore at times. Sometimes it can be the very thing sucking all the creativity out of you.
Maybe you don’t even know why you try to write anymore, or what your reason was in the first place.
Ah, I’m personally attacking myself now, let’s step back real quick.
So what’s going on here?
Well, there can be several reasons why this happens.
And today I’m going to discuss three things stopping you from writing that big project or continuing a beloved hobby, and how you can push past it.
What are these three road blocks?
- A lack of motivation to write.
- A lack of time to write.
- A lack of ideas to write.
Basically, do you understand your goals to motivate yourself, are you having trouble finding time to write, and if you do have those first two, do you even know what to write about?
Do any of these resonate with you?
Maybe only one of these items did, maybe all three do.
Regardless, feel free to skip ahead to any section you need at the moment, but I always want you to keep all three in mind.
I’m here to give you the tools to reach your goals, and I hope you stick around to get the most out of this blog post.
But before we can reach those goals, I have to ask:
What are your goals? Why do you want to write?
1. Motivation is Stopping You
I have two questions for you:
- What motivates you to write?
- What inspires you to write?
What’s the difference?
As Mr. Ron Prasad points out in his 2014 article, “The Difference Between Motivation & Inspiration,” is that the key to motivation is to have a motive. Basically, you need to know the reason you’re doing something to motivate yourself to do it.
While inspiration comes from outside sources (he suggested speakers, books, songs, people, etc.).
Quoting Prasad, “[Inspiration] is more of a process . . . . [it] connects you to a state of being more excited, productive, purposeful or anything that comes as a result of being inspired.”
In my own words, the difference is:
Motivation is the desire to reach an outcome; to climb a mountain and hold the goal in your hands.
Inspiration is the fuel you throw into motivation to both keep you going or get you started.
- Motivation — Writing because you want to publish a novel and make a living writing.
- Inspiration — Listening to an author talk about their experience in publishing, and feeling excited to publish yourself.
So in knowing the difference, really ask yourself what brings both motivation and inspiration to your writing.
- Do you want to write about frequently uncovered topics and make your voice heard?
- Is it therapeutic for you? Is it how you wrestle with your inner demons?
- Do you want to have a writing career, and make a living off it?
- Do you love an author’s work so much it makes you want to write yourself?
- Do you see interesting story concepts in the world and believe you could do it differently or better?
- Do you listen to podcasts or YouTube video essays, and it excites you to hear the dissection of stories? (This one’s me!)
Maybe you’re all of the above. Either way, it’s important to consider why your writing, and what inspires you to write.
And hey, maybe your motivation is it’s just fun to write, and your inspiration is anything.
That’s okay, too.
Your goals can be whatever you want or need.
However, you inevitably need to put words down on paper or a screen. Understanding your motivations and inspirations can help kick you into writing mode, but they won’t make words appear on the page.
Motivation and inspiration are kinda like coffee. They give you the boost you need to reach your desired outcome, but you still have to move towards that outcome.
You can’t wait around and expect things to just happen.
If you wanna incorporate writing (or anything really) into your life, you need to at least put “schedule writing time” on your to-do list.
You need to carve out time to write in whatever gaps you can manage in your life.
This brings me to my next point.
2. Time is Stopping You
Let me ask you something:
Do you have kids?
Do you work?
Are you in School?
Do you have any responsibilities in your life that always come first?
Then it’s a bit more difficult to carve out time for writing.
You want to make sure you take care of your kids, work to earn a living, and further your education.
But you also want to write.
Whether it’s because you’ve always wanted to publish something, it’s a release of your thoughts and feelings, or it’s a fun hobby.
That’s all valid.
You deserve to write too, but you don’t know when or how.
And I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to feel frustrated in not having time to write.
’Cause here’s the thing, you don’t have to sit down and bang out 1,000 words daily if you have more important responsibilities to attend to. If you don’t have a whole hour to spare a day, that’s fine.
Every day isn’t NaNoWriMo, and you don’t need you’re novel ready in a month.
That doesn’t mean don’t try to write if it’s something you want, but know where your obligations start and limits end.
Write whatever amount you can fit whenever you can fit it.
Have kids? Write before they wake up or after they’ve gone to sleep.
Have a job? Write during lunch break or commute.
School and homework? Write between classes or homework.
After that, how long you write is up to what you can manage.
If you don’t have an hour daily, could your goal be a cumulative hour weekly? That’s only about 8.6 minutes a day.
Could you write daily for 10 minutes? 5 minutes? Even just one minute would be more than you’d have otherwise.
Make smaller more digestible ways to write in between real-life activities that NEED your attention. Even if you’re writing is sticky note-sized, that’s more writing than none.
Sound too simple?
Maybe. But it’s getting you to write, right?
If you still find you’re not getting the most out of what little precious time you can, here are a few techniques to help you reach peak proficiency.
The Pomodoro Technique
If you’ve been on the internet looking for methods of time management, you’ve probably heard of the Pomodoro Technique. The quick explanation is you set a timer for 25 minutes, do a task during those 25 minutes, the timer goes off, and you take a 5-minute break. Rinse and repeat.
I’ve used this to start writing ’cause it puts pressure on me to write, and then after 1–2 times I can write easy and don’t need the timer anymore.
You also don’t have to go with those specific times. I’ve always done 20 minutes of work and 10-minute breaks, ’cause 5 minutes didn’t feel like enough of a break to me.
If you need longer or shorter work or break times, adjust it!
Make it work best for you, the point, after all, is to help you be more productive.
There’s also the FlowTime Technique, which is a modification of the Pomodoro Technique created by Zoë Read-Bivens. In doing this technique, you drop the timer and keep track of the time you spend on a task, being mindful when your body says it needs a break.
This allows you to get into the flow of work while keeping you on track.
Here’s another blog post I found explaining it.
Which I think would be technically called “brainstorming” or “stream of consciousness,” but I’m calling it word vomit since both feel a little too official in my mind.
Clogs up the creativity.
Basically, take a couple of minutes before a writing session and write whatever comes to mind. Get your mental gears moving before you start what you planned for that session.
For example, you have an hour-long writing session for the day? Spend the first 10 minutes writing whatever comes to mind, like describing the texture and colors of your desk or something you ate recently. After the 10 minutes is up, start writing what you actually wanna get written for the day for the remaining 50 minutes.
You don’t have to follow these times exactly, again adjust it however works best for you.
The point is that if you’re having a hard time writing down what you want, write down whatever comes to mind first to help make it easier to write what you need.
Plan Your Writing
If you find you’re having a hard time figuring out how to use your precious time wisely, try planning ahead what you’d wanna write about in your sessions. Or even a list of bits you wanna work on, and that you can look at when you go to write.
For example, deciding “this week I want to work on this chapter” or “I’ll work on this scene this weekend.”
You can be as vague or specific as you want, the point is being somewhat ready when you sit down to write.
That’ll help you cut down on wasted writing time figuring out what to write, and instead give you a tiny head start to use time more efficiently.
Now, to prepare ahead of time means you do have to use another allotted bit of time. You don’t necessarily have to sit down and make a huge list, even keeping in mind as you go through your day what you want to work on this week is good enough.
If you do want a list to keep track of things to write about, use bits of time in between major activities or use a whole writing session to put something together.
Whatever helps you write more efficiently with what little time you have.
Now that we’ve gone over how to manage your time, let’s take a moment to discuss you.
Listen, if you have important life stuff taking up all your time, it’s understandable that you can’t always fit writing into your life.
Do what you can where you can. But if you can’t fit it in, you can’t. Give it time till you can again.
If you have a newborn baby and you already don’t get any sleep, don’t try to pick up writing right now. You can try again when you have a more manageable schedule figured out.
Same goes for work or school.
If you’re trying to fit any new hobby or project in the middle of life, just take a moment and see where you can make time.
If you can’t do it in the moment, that’s valid! Again, write when you know your schedule is more manageable.
If you really want writing in your schedule, figure out what activities you can let go of for writing.
The point is don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself about how much and when you can write. If you can’t sit down for a daily hour of writing, but you can fit 5 minutes between your life, fantastic!
That’s more writing than you had five minutes ago!
Being easy on yourself, but also challenge yourself.
So when you do have your schedule figured out, what do you write in those five minutes?
3. Ideas are Stopping You
Let’s say you’ve made the time, you know what your goals are, and you’re ready to write.
But you’re stumped on what to write.
How do you get ideas?
Whether it’s for warming-up, practice, or you need a plot for an epic story: here are some ways to conjure up ideas.
Really, describe anything. If you’re warming up, practicing descriptions, or just want something to write about — this is a fantastic way to start.
Consider any of your senses when writing a description.
Describe your room or yourself down to the most minute details.
As an example, let’s narrow it down to your desk.
What’s the color? Brown, black, rainbow?
What about the texture? Is it smooth, rough, matte?
Does it have shelves, drawers, platforms?
Is it a circle, square, or rectangle?
Does it have a smell?
How does it sound when tapping different things against it?
Write about every possible detail of your desk that you can think of.
Congratulations! Now you have written something. It doesn’t have to have some larger purpose, it can be for practice or just for the joy of writing.
Regardless, you’ve written something!
Writing doesn’t have to only be about writing a novel and publishing, you can write about literally anything.
Your journaling doesn’t gotta be anything too fancy or deep, you can just describe your day.
A string of bullet points for that day’s events is plenty of material.
Did you go to a grocery store today? Write about your groceries, or what you bought to cook!
Did someone drive dangerously fast on the way to the store? Describe how you felt or what you would’ve said to them!
Write whatever you want however much you want. Hell, write the above suggestions like the news if it makes it more fun for you.
If sitting down with a notebook is too intimidating at first, you can use this app called Daylio. It’s a mood tracker/digital journal to talk about as much or as little of your daily happenings.
Even if it’s only a sticky note with a single thought or feeling, that’s more writing than staring at a blank page where you’ve re-written the same sentence over and over.
Whether writing is a hobby, therapeutic, or for a career; you can get plenty of use out of journaling.
It’s an unfiltered form of writing, and that’s part of what makes it difficult to get past those blank page moments. Your inner critic trying to filter everything before you’ve even written a single letter.
If you want to start writing, and you’ve sat down and written nothing on one too many occasions, then even a sticky note of a single thought is the simplest way to just . . . start.
When you’ve accumulated enough sticky notes, get a notebook or open a writing app on your laptop or phone and fill it up with all your tiny thoughts.
Look at how much you’ve written and be proud!
Also, if you feel encouraged to do so, start writing directly in your writing tool of choice.
The key here is to build yourself up.
To get yourself to a point where you can write more and write regularly.
And who knows, maybe you can get a cool story idea outta your day-to-day life.
If all else fails: use prompt generators!
Prompt generators are websites or apps that give writing prompts for you to write about.
Don’t have any ideas? Let a computer help you with that!
Some generators give you a prompt based on genre (mystery, romance, etc.), some give on a specific use (like a starting sentence or song lyrics), and some give fill-in-the-blanks, Mad Lib-type prompts.
Here’s a small list you can refer to:
One of these generators could give you an idea of something interesting to write, just keep hitting the generate buttons until something tickles your fancy.
It’s pretty fun to play with.
If you want to save any of the prompts for later, either write them down or screenshot your screen and save it as an ms paint file. Or take a picture with your phone.
It’s always a good idea to have an idea journal with you anyway. For when you get random ideas and write them down before you forget.
Do whatever ya’ gotta keep the writing train going!
In Conclusion: writing’s hard.
You’re not gonna sit down and suddenly become the next Stephen King.
You might not have all the time in the world to exclusively write.
You might not always feel super creative, and have no idea what to write.
And that’s okay, no one’s expecting you to.
You shouldn’t put that kinda pressure on yourself.
It’ll only hinder you, and get you stuck in writer’s block town: home of the blank page and rewritten sentences.
The tools I talked about in this blog post also won’t turn you into a writing machine.
What they will do is help give you a boost to reach your writing goals: whatever they may be.
Writing is a fun, creative process.
I want everyone to go out and reach their goals, and having realistic expectations is necessary.
You don’t sit down and think “I’m going to write a novel!” and then that just happens. There are a lot of steps that lead up to writing something that big.
And that’s not to discourage anyone, but I’m asking you to look at what you personally need to start.
Know your limits, but challenge yourself.
Find what works best for you, and what you need to reach the goals you want to achieve.
If writing feels like you’re shoving against a brick wall, the tips in this post are like tools to help get you over the wall.
Like a ladder, some wings, or a bunch of bricks for stacking like stairs to reach the top.
I can’t use these tools for you, but I can show you how to start.
So please, use them to help you create the wonderful things hanging out in your mind.
Because you deserve to create.
Thank you for reading and happy writing!