How to Write When … You Don’t Feel Inspired
This is the first post in a new monthly series, “How to Write When…” which will come out on the first Monday of each month.
Today I wanted to tackle something that comes up for every writer at some point:
How do you write when you don’t feel inspired?
As writers, we tend to use the word “inspiration” in a couple of different ways:
- Getting an idea – there’s the type of inspiration that involves a really great idea, one that you’re excited to work on. This is the kind of “inspired” that can happen when a great thought pops into your head while you’re having a shower.
- Feeling motivated to create – this is another way we tend to use the word “inspiration”. Maybe you’ve planned to write one evening, but when 8pm rolls around, you don’t feel at all inspired. You might have an idea that excites you, but you’re lacking the creative energy that makes you want to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
The Truth About Inspiration
Here’s something you probably already know, or at least suspect:
Writers don’t feel inspired all the time. Or even most of the time.
Of course, there’ll be times (wonderful times!) when you do feel truly inspired. Perhaps you hear a song and it makes you think of a character or a story, and you want to explore that further. Maybe there’s a line of a poem or song that you hear for the first time, and it grabs your attention.
But in the day to day, page after page, long haul of writing — you probably won’t feel inspired a lot of the time.
This does NOT mean any of the following:
- You’re doing something wrong
- The project you’re working on isn’t good enough or interesting enough
- You’re not cut out to be a writer anyway
Instead, it means you’re a very normal writer. Talk to anyone who’s written anything of length — a book, a long-running blog, an academic paper — and they’ll definitely have had times when they wrote despite a complete lack of inspiration.
How to Sit Down and Write When You’re Not Feeling Inspired
The hardest bit of writing is often getting started. (I also find this the hardest bit of exercise and housework…)
Some writers find it helpful to have some sort of ritual or routine to get them into the writing mood. Maybe they make a mug of tea, or light a candle, or listen to specific music. Just doing these things can help ease you into writing mode, even on days when inspiration feels like it’s gone for good.
I find it helps me a lot to plan ahead, at least a bit. With blogging, that means outlining my posts in advance. With fiction, it usually means stopping part-way through a scene and jotting down a few bullet points about what’s going to happen next.
If you’re struggling with a particular section of your writing, skip forward to the next scene that you’re excited about. (You might later find that you don’t actually need to write everything that goes before it anyway; perhaps you can have a couple of sentences of summary and leave the reader to fill in the blanks themselves).
The More You Write, The Easier it Is to Stay Inspired
I find myself thinking about my novel, eager to get back to writing it, in the day or two after I last wrote. If I go more than a week or so between writing sessions, though, that energy quickly ebbs away.
While you don’t need to write every day, it is helpful to be writing at least once or twice a week. If that’s too much to manage, can you find some other way to stay in touch with your work?
Maybe you don’t have the time or energy to write, but you could jot down some notes for 10 minutes during your lunch break or in bed at night before you go to sleep. If you can’t face writing anything at all, how about re-reading something you’ve already written instead?
It’s wonderful to feel inspired: eager and ready to write. And I definitely don’t think writing should be approached as a chore – yet another thing to check off a to-do list.
But if you can accept that inspiration won’t always be easy to come by,, and write anyway, you might find yourself getting into the flow.
I know that the “sitting down to write” bit can feel incredibly hard when inspiration’s lacking, though – so in Thursday’s newsletter, I’ll be giving you some quick ways to get inspired to write.
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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:
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.