Seven Things to Do When You Feel Like Giving Up on Writing
This post was originally published in February 2017 and updated in February 2022.
Should you just stop writing? Maybe it feels like it’s taking up a lot of your time and energy, and you’re not getting much (if anything) in return.
Most writers go through times when they feel like giving up. It’s a normal and natural, if difficult, stage in the writing life.
Some writers do give up, of course: either permanently or for a very long – perhaps stopping after their college years and not starting again until retirement.
And, of course, it might be that you don’t really want to write. Maybe you tried your hand at freelance writing but it hasn’t really worked out for you, and you want to pursue something different. Maybe you enjoyed the creative outlet of writing, but you’ve now decided something else suits you better: sketching, perhaps, or composing music. That’s completely fine!
But if you still do want to write (at least a little bit), here are some options:
#1: Take a Proper Break from Writing
Don’t force yourself to keep on when you’re feeling burned out. Sometimes, simply giving yourself permission to have a true break from writing can be enough to get you out of a temporary slump.
Take a couple of weeks off, or maybe a full month. You might use your writing time to read, to knit, to craft, to walk … whatever you enjoy.
What matters here is that you’re taking a deliberate break, rather than the guilt-wracked “I should be writing but I just can’t face it” kind of break. Make a deliberate decision to have some time off from writing. Even writers get days off!
#2: Create Some Breathing Space in Your Life
Do you feel like giving up on writing because there are so many other pressure on you? Perhaps you constantly feel behind with everything, and your writing time has to be snatched in the corners of your life. Maybe you’ve taken on too many different responsibilities, and you feel like you can’t manage any of them properly.
Start to create a bit of breathing space. I know that’s much easier said than done! It might mean:
- Handing over a particular role: maybe you’ll step down as secretary of a committee, for instance.
- Getting help around the house: this could be from your spouse or kids, if they’re able/willing to assist more; alternatively, you could pay for someone to help (even if only occasionally).
- Going to bed earlier so you can get up 15 minutes early and start your day calmly – rather than having a mad rush every morning to get ready for work.
- Renegotiating deadlines with clients so you’re not trying to get so many projects finished all at once.
- Passing on a particular opportunity – even if it sounds like fun, you may simply not have time for it right now.
Even if you can only make one small change, do it: sometimes, just feeling a little more in control of your time can make all the difference.
#3: Look at Tangible Evidence of Past Successes
If you’ve been writing for a while, go back through some of your past successes. Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember all that you’ve achieved when you’re going through a bit of a crisis of faith with your writing.
Find something that can give you real evidence that you’re a successful writer. For instance:
- Pieces you’ve had published in magazines or blogs that you admire.
- Nice reviews of your novel on Amazon.
- Emails from satisfied clients.
- Lovely testimonials that people have written for you on LinkedIn.
- A glowing comment on Facebook about some of your writing.
If you find it difficult to stay confident and motivated, you might want to print out some of these or save them in a special folder on your computer, so you’ve always got them to hand.
If you haven’t yet got to the stage of receiving external feedback on your writing, look for other writing milestones that show how you’re succeeding. For instance:
- Stories / poems that you’ve finished.
- Drafts that you’ve started, even if you didn’t finish them.
- Classes or courses that you’ve taken.
- Work that you’ve submitted to competitions (even if it wasn’t shortlisted).
#4: Put Negative Feedback into Perspective
Negative feedback can take a lot of forms: sometimes, it’s simply a lack of positive feedback. Maybe your book isn’t selling, your blog posts aren’t getting any comments, editors never seem to respond to your pitches.
We all tend to fixate on that one nasty comment, one bad review, one line of criticism from an editor … it’s just human nature. But it is discouraging, and it’s important to remind yourself this is just one tiny piece of feedback.
I find it also helps to remember that the feedback is, often, not really about me. It’s about the person giving it. If someone writes a mean comment on one of my blog posts, chances are, they were simply having a bad day and lashed out at the nearest target. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrible writer.
#5: Reconsider Your Goals
If you’ve genuinely lost interest in a goal, you may want to simply stop trying to reach it. Often, though, you don’t need to give up entirely. Instead, review your writing goals and consider modifying them.
Maybe you’ve realised that you had some pretty unrealistic expectations (e.g. “I can write my first novel in a month and become a bestseller overnight!) Maybe your goal was a good one, but you need a bit more time, or you need to pursue it in a slightly different way.
If you’re not sure whether your goals are realistic or not, check out Are Your Writing Dreams Unrealistic?
#6: Seek Emotional Support
All of us need a friendly ear (or a friendly shoulder to cry on) once in a while. If you’re feeling really down about your writing, find someone you can talk to. It might be your spouse, a good friend, someone at your writing group, or members of an online group or forum.
I know how hard it can be to reach out for help and to tell people you’re struggling – but it can be hugely helpful to share your feelings about writing, and to feel that you’re not alone.
#7: Get Practical Assistance
Sometimes, you might come to a sticking point in your writing career where you’re not sure what to do next. Perhaps you just can’t get your head around setting up a blog, or you don’t know how to structure a novel, or you’ve tried all sorts of things to market your novel but nothing seems to be working.
If this is the case for you, get some practical assistance. Find someone who’s been there before you, and who can show you the path ahead.
That might mean joining a group like the Alliance of Independent Authors, who have an invaluably helpful Facebook group full of experienced indie authors. Alternatively, it could mean paying for mentoring, editing, cover design, or another writing-related service.
If you’re strapped for cash, blog posts and books can be good sources of help – or you may find a fellow writer who you can swap support with (e.g. they’ll help you set up a blog, you’ll beta-read their manuscript).
Whatever you’re facing right now, don’t give up! Do take a break, do reach out for help, and do change your goals if necessary … but don’t stop writing altogether.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing?
The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
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Thank you so much for your post. It really gives me hope Ms. Ali.
Just yesterday everything I’ve written so far in the past few months was lost because my flash drive was bent and its internal chip broke. And I couldn’t restore its memory anymore. Although I have a back-up flash drive, I haven’t made a back-up for all of my progress so far. That includes an almost finished small book, a rough draft of my short story, and a complicated plot twist of my saga. Well, there are others as well. Now, I don’t know if I can be able to restore them back through my mind, especially my short story…those exact words…
I don’t have a plan to abandon writing, but I felt like I was half-paralyzed. I couldn’t describe that feeling before until now. It’s the feeling of loss..that something very precious was taken away from me and my dream was slipping away as well.
Thank you. Thank you for inspiring me…
May you have a very great writing day!
Oh Minerva, what an awful thing to happen! So sorry about your flash drive and the loss of all your work. It is so terribly frustrating to lose work like that. But you’ll always have had the experience of having written it, the words you put down, the time you spent … none of that is lost, all of it feeds into your growth as a writer.
So glad this post was encouraging for you, and very best of luck rewriting the lost pieces of work.
It really gives me hope when a writer says that.
Yes, you’re right. The most important and often taken for granted is that growth of a writer.
This gives me a really very traumatic experience. So I will back-up my work regularly from now on.
I will do my best.
Have a wonderful writing day!
I really needed this today. There’s so many projects I wish I have finished by now, and so many things going on constantly…I’ve gotten tired of waiting for things to settle.
Thank you for this post – just gotta remember that when things finally stabilize, be it a year or a week, I’m still allowed to write.
Sometimes life is just one thing after another to deal with … and the time / energy drain can make it really difficult to write. It’s fine to take a break. Hope things do get easier for you soon, and enjoy the writing when you can get back to it. 🙂
All very good advice. For me, giving up writing falls into two categories: pre and during the self-publication revolution. Giving up writing in the days when you had to have a contract with a publisher to, say, bring up a family was pardonable for years, even decades but giving it up now, when success can come overnight, seems petulant.
Thanks, Linda. That’s an interesting take on things. I’ve every sympathy with any writer who wants/needs a break while they’re raising kids (or tackling any other huge challenge!) … though equally, I’d always encourage writers to find the time to write if they want to.
This was especially helpful. Thanks.
I’ve been in the same place as Minerva, sort of. I didn’t lose nearly as much, but I accidentally deleted three chapters of my current novel. That alone was a huge setback and I couldn’t find inspiration to continue until I just started the book all over again. That triggered a whole series of stops and rewrites from the beginning. My current draft has not gotten nearly as far as I was when I lost those chapters.
I can’t imagine losing that much writing, though…
I must say, this post has restored my confidence. Fantastic writing, as always.
Aw, thanks, Emma! So sorry to hear about your novel — ouch! Glad you’re going again, and hopefully the redrafting of these chapters will make later ones all the stronger. Keep at it, and good luck!
Thank you—and I actually have spent some time on my novel this weekend. The word count is substantially lower than it originally was, but that’s only because I did away with the alternating perspective format, thus cutting out a whole half of the book. The storyline itself is actually much further along than before, and it’s taken some interesting twists and turns that I didn’t predict. Going strong now!
Super and good on you for ploughing on! Sounds like you’re getting up some great momentum (I usually find that once I get about 50% off the way into a novel draft, I feel much more motivated to carry on … it’s getting there that’s the hard bit!)
Thanks for this encouraging, helpful, and sensible post, Ali. I’m in querying mode, and rejections are to be expected. None-the-less, they deflate me a little every time. I allow myself a little time to wallow, but no more than a day. Sometimes writing a short story or blog post or submitting to a contest will take the sting away and get me going again. As long as I have stuff out there, I’m still in the game. That’s what really matters. Best of luck to everyone out there. We need each other!
julie brown’s last blog post ..The Art of Forgiveness
Rejections are always painful — but I think you have absolutely the right attitude on limiting the wallowing and carrying on regardless! I find it helps to remind myself that a rejection doesn’t mean anything about the quality of my work, it’s just that my work wasn’t right for one particular editor on one particular day. Best of luck with those stories and blog posts and contest entries!
Thank you Ali for this post. I think the most important one here is your first tip: Take a Break from Writing. It is easy to tell ourselves we are writers and we must continue writing every day. Yet moods can impact the way we write and if we are feeling “down” it is arguably best to give writing a miss. I have also drawn the same conclusion about social media posting in some recent content.
I totally agree with you. I feel like the more meaningful a project is, the more it requires regular marination periods. In fact sometimes I’ll switch projects and work on something
lighter for a couple weeks while I regain clarity.
I agree with all the points but here’s mine:
I think we feel like not writing when we have stopped reading. If we keep reading something, we always have something to write about. This happens with me. We forget that good writers have to be good readers first.
Lately, I’ve been practising tiny habits. Doing what I want to do, just a tiny bit of it daily. Like, writing for one minute only, or doing two pushups only, or coding for 5 minutes only. Most of the days, this starts the engine and in no time, I’m doing much more than the tiny bit.
Many of us feel a burden when we think “I need to write the 500 word draft,” or “I need to code for this project.” By changing our thought and action to the tiny habit, we do much more. What do you say? Have you ever tried tiny habits?
I’ll also advise to join meetup.com and join a writers’ meetup in your area. I did that and love to attend the writers’ meetup. This helps in #6 and #7 above.
Thanks, Raspal. I think tiny habits can work very well. I’ve done them for writing in the past (“I’ll write SOMETHING … even if it’s just a sentence.”)
Like you, I’ve found meeting with other writers very valuable over the years — though it’s harder for me to get to organised groups/meetups these days, as life is pretty busy with the kids! I do still enjoy meeting with writer friends for coffee though. 🙂
Thanks for this.
I’ve found from experience that a lot of this does work.
As usual, you’re a genius.
Aw, thanks Fey!
Great advice. Thank you for sharing! I needed those points.
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It was an amazing article! I have been facing a little trouble with my writing. I had this great idea for a plot, and I completed a few chapters as well, but suddenly I lost the motivation to write. I had a schedule, but all of a sudden I didn’t want to write anymore. I have been feeling like giving up the entire project. I read your article, and I am hanging on, for now, I would love it if you could share some tips to find my motivation back.