“I’m sick of this.” “I hate this.” “Not again.” “Can’t stand it!” “I'm gonna quit.”
If you’ve ever thought -- or said -- those things about writing, you’re not alone. I’ve experienced those thoughts. As someone who writes a lot, I get it.
After a while, you get sick and tired of writing. You just want to quit. Is it that notorious condition known as writer’s block? It could be, but in many cases it’s a little bit different.
There are a few things going on:
You’re bored with what you’re writing about. Boredom kills affection.
You’ve exhausted your creative energy. Creativity, like a muscle, has its limits. Push it too hard, and it caves in.
You need something more challenging. Lack of challenge -- goals, vision, perspective -- leads to disillusionment.
You need some fresh experiences. Fresh experiences will give you a fresh perspective.
It’s time to figure out how to get your brain back on task. How do you get past the drudgery and enjoy writing again? Let's talk through a few tips.
5 Ways to Fall Back in Love With Writing
1) Take a long break.
If you're feeling a little burnt out, it's probably a good idea to put some time and space between you and your writing. Depending on how much time you have, this might mean a 20-minute break or even a few days off.
When you take a break from writing it gives you time to recharge mentally. And if you’re truly meant to be writing, it’s not going to be long before you’re chomping at the bit again. You’ll feel it. The need to start writing again will surface.
If you’re really at rock bottom, I recommend taking a break longer than one week. Try two weeks ... or even longer.
"But, Neil, I need content for my blog!"
Of course. But do you need low-quality content for your blog?
If you can’t write, you can’t write. Why force it? It’s better to take a break and come back with some good stuff, than to fry your brain and produce awful stuff.
If you decide to take a break, but still need to produce content, here are some tips:
2) Write for five minutes about your thoughts and emotions surrounding your lack of writing affection.
Weird. I’m telling you to combat your lack of affection for writing by writing about how you feel about not feeling affectionate towards writing.
Here’s the point of this exercise. It jogs the mind, and breaks you out of a funk.
Some evidence, please?
In a study published by the Academy of Management Journal, researchers rounded up a study group comprised of people who were discouraged over their job loss. They divided subjects into three groups:
They told one group of people to write about whatever came to mind -- the “thoughts and emotions surrounding their job loss.”
Another group wrote about “non-traumatic topics.”
A control group did not write at all.
The results? Read the abstract for yourself:
Those assigned to write about the thoughts and emotions surrounding their job loss were reemployed more quickly than those who wrote about non-traumatic topics or who did not write at all. Expressive writing appeared to influence individuals' attitudes about their old jobs and about finding new employment rather than their motivation to seek employment."
When you ignore the feelings of dissatisfaction with writing, you’re just compounding the problem. The solution isn’t to ignore it and keep on truckin’. The solution is to stop, reflect, and face the feelings.
Sure, getting sick of writing isn’t the same as losing your job. But if expressive writing helped people cope with a job loss, it’s likely that it will help you engage with writing again.
3) Change your writing environment.
Your writing environment -- the thoughts, habits, preparation, and place in which you work -- has a profound impact on how you write. If you make changes to your environment, it could spark changes in how you perceive and respond to the task of writing.
There is no ideal writing environment. The ideal is the set of circumstances that allows you to be productive. If you’re happy with your own productivity, both in terms of quantity and quality of writing, then perhaps your routines and environment ought not be monkeyed with. But if you’re dissatisfied with your writing patterns, perhaps a set of experiments is in order. Try working in a new environment, different in nature from where you typically work."
He’s suggesting the same thing that I am: ”Try working in a new environment.”
When I run into a brick wall with my writing, I typically do something totally different with my writing environment -- go outside with my laptop, go to a different room, write at a different time of day, whatever. Changes in environment can spark changes in your approach and attitude toward writing.
4) Read more interesting stuff.
What and how we read influences what and how we write. If you are sick and tired of writing, then what about reading? Again, the power of differencecan be the catalyst.
If you’re used to reading material that only discusses your industry, try reading something from a different industry. Better yet, take a novel from off the shelf -- something that you’ve been wanting to read for a while -- and take some time to enjoy it.
You might be surprised by what happens:
Your creativity skyrockets.
You banish boring content.
You’re fired up about writing.
You begin to write with a passion.
5) Take intentional time out of your schedule to do nothing.
When you hate writing, your brain is stuck. It’s stuck on the negativity of writing. How do you break the logjam of negativity? By doing nothing. On purpose.
How does this work?
Neurologist Marcus Raichle conducted a study in which he analyzed MRI images of subjects completing various tasks. The study was innocuous enough in its hypotheses, but what Raichle discovered from the study was something he hadn't expected: During times of activity, the brain’s salience network and central-executive network were hard at work -- processing input, and exerting problem-solving skills.
That’s not a bad thing, but because the activity was so intense, it crowded out what Raichle called the default mode network.
The default work mode is a discrete brain system that is responsible for self-reflection and self-thought. The crazy thing is, the brain can only operate this way when you’re doing nothing. In Raichle’s study, the subjects were in “quiet repose either with eyes closed or with simple visual fixation.”
In other words, only by mental relaxation could the subjects prompt their brains to involuntarily process the thoughts, feelings, emotions, self-understanding, and presence that help to unlock creativity and greater insight.
What’s the takeaway? Give your brain a break. Chill. Walk. Sit. Do nothing. Visualize. Meditate. Take a nap. Whatever you do, give your brain a chance to return to its “default mode network,” and you’ll discover a refreshing state of creativity that you didn’t realize you had.
Feeling the love?
You don’t have to love writing in order to be good at it ... but it sure does help.
When you enjoy your writing, you tend to do it so much better. Readers can tell if the author enjoys her topic. Your writing is clearer, livelier, and way more interesting.
But falling in love with writing is a tricky thing. You can’t force love -- especially love for something as inanimate and conceptual as writing. However, you can change a few things in your mindset, your habits, your environment, and your activities to spark a change.
Who knows, you might come back with a passion for writing that makes your content even better than before.
Have you ever experienced a total loss of interest in writing? What did you do about it?
Originally published Apr 8, 2016 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017