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Losing the desire to write.



Hi everyone, I'm making this post in hopes that some of your encouraging words can snap me back to what I love doing: writing stories. The past couple weeks have been a struggle for me. My motivation/desire to write just isn't there.

I have finished a couple stories the past few months and I was doing really good, but now I don't care. I have strong ideas, characters, and plots that excite me. I've tried a few different things to get going again but nothing helps. So then what if I give writing a break for now? And massive guilt sets in. I'm seeing people make it in this business. Its doable. I know its work and I look forward to all of that. But right now, I can't even turn on my laptop without groaning.

I just don't want to write. But I feel that I'm losing time. I really want to publish by my personal deadline. Its something I have wanted all my life and now that I'm close, its like pulling teeth to make myself give a care.

Has anyone had this problem? What have you done to get past the hump and keep writing? Thank you.


Felis amatus
I think you have to look at how you want to approach writing. There are plenty of people who do it for fun, to decompress, because they find it therapeutic, or for any number of reasons other than because they want to be a professional writer. And all of those reasons are great and perfectly valid. If anything other than wanting to be a professional writer is why you're writing, then I'd say put it aside for a bit, don't force yourself into something that may burn you out further, and come back to it when the act of writing once again brings the pleasures that it has in the past.

If you want to be a professional writer, then I'll echo the advice I've been told by more than one successful, published writer: you treat the writing like a job. I read not long ago comments from a successful writer who talked about the necessity of sitting down and writing even when the mere thought of doing so filled her with dread. In other words, it's like any other job. There are days I enjoy being at the office, and everything goes well. There are other days where I wake up and the last thing in the world I want to do is go to work. But I go anyway.

If you want to be a professional writer, you write anyway. I just sit down and start writing something - anything. Just to be writing.

If you don't care about that, then don't put yourself through the wringer trying to make yourself write. None of the reasons for writing I've mentioned in this post are write or wrong, they simply are what they are.


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
It's that ongoing battle between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation . . . . . you've got to find something about writing, about your writing, that you find awesome, and enjoyable, and carry that with you.

We could talk about goals, and deadlines, and "write every day," but I read an article in HBR which said that goals are great, but they're still an extrinsic motivation. You've also got to find that intrinsic motivation, that thing about writing which you find awesome and fun, if you really to get through the workload that comes with writing a novel.

I'm not saying you need to wait for inspiration. I'm saying you need to go find that inspiration, and find it in your own writing. What about your writing do you find awesome? Go through your stuff, and find it, and revel in it, and then go forward with the goals and deadlines and stuff.


Article Team
I don't really have anything to add to what Steerpike (edit: and Devor) said. I just wanted to wish you the best of luck with whatever you decide to do.

Though I hope I'll get to read your werewolf story at some point. :)
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I would have to agree with Steerpike, you really have two options and neither are wrong, it's just a choice. If you choose to write to publish then unfortunately, it's a job. I don't know about you, but while I don't hate my job, there are other things I would rather do than show up for work every day. Some days I absolutely love it and other days I would rather eat rocks than drag myself in there. You'll have to force yourself to sit down and write, even if you hate it, even if it's crap, it's a job and you have to do it. On the other hand, if you just do it for fun then you can enjoy the pleasures of just writing for leisure. Use it as a tool to unwind and release. I find it very therapeutic and relaxing.

Back to your original question. Yes, I have been there, I'm probably there right now actually. I just force myself to write no matter how much I don't want to, but there have been times I've just simply taken a break from it as well. Sometimes when I get hung up, I find small challenges to do. Maybe I write a short in a totally different POV or on a subject I normally wouldn't have an interest in. This usually helps me to clear my head and focus on something else as well as make me appreciate my main WIP. Once you step back and evaluate the reason you want to write, then you can make the choice on how to proceed.
If it's not fun, you're writing won't work, so step away, do something else creative and trust you'll come back to it later, probably with some interesting insights from whatever it is you do for a while instead.


My suggestion is just sit back and give it a break for a week or so. During that time try doing something else that motivates you, and even do your best to pick an activity that will take your mind away from writing. Not sure if this will help, but I find it useful when I lose my drive here and there.
I agree with stephenspower and Khama. If you are not enjoying writing in the least and actually find yourself disliking it, it's not going to work. I've had this happen a several times and each time I ended up using the time in which I was supposed to be writing browsing the web. So just take a break. Take time to just reflect on your story, maybe get a cool new idea, then when you come back you will want to write down that new idea. You'll get into it again, don't worry. Until then, keep your head up.


It's that ongoing battle between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation . . . . . you've got to find something about writing, about your writing, that you find awesome, and enjoyable, and carry that with you.

We could talk about goals, and deadlines, and "write every day," but I read an article in HBR which said that goals are great, but they're still an extrinsic motivation. You've also got to find that intrinsic motivation, that thing about writing which you find awesome and fun, if you really to get through the workload that comes with writing a novel.

I'm not saying you need to wait for inspiration. I'm saying you need to go find that inspiration, and find it in your own writing. What about your writing do you find awesome? Go through your stuff, and find it, and revel in it, and then go forward with the goals and deadlines and stuff.
I second this advice. You should evaluate why you're interested in writing in the first place and what about it appeals to you most.

For me, it's probably something to do with creating the world and the characters that populate it through prose. What about you?


Article Team
Writing is hard enough as it is without you putting artificial deadlines on yourself. So what if you don't publish by this arbitrary deadline. Does that mean you'll never be published? Does that mean anything at all? Having goals is good. It can help drive you, but having unrealistic consequences of not meeting those goals can crush you.

What if I said if I didn't meed the woman of my dreams and fall in love before I was 35 I was going to give up and realize it wasn't meant to be. I'd instead work on getting used to being alone and be happy with that. Does that make sense to do?

Writing is a marathon, not a sprint, and everyone wins if they get to the finish line, not just first person across. You're not good enough until you are. And the time it takes to be good enough is different for everyone.

Mur Lafferty, a well known podcaster, started out many years ago saying she may not be the most talented writer in the world but she was going to be one of the most determined. While others faded she would continue, and she did, and now she has book contract from Orbit.

Here's a video of Neil Gaiman on writing. It might help. If it does I suggest you google up interviews from him. He gives good interview, and I find him very inspiring.

One last thing. I remember an interview with Neil Gaiman he told a story about someone who said to him that they didn't know where to find the time. They had all these ideas in their head and they didn't know how to find the time to write them all down. Gaiman's answer was something to the effect of you don't have to. There's no idea police to come take you away if you let the ideas sit. You don't need someone's permission not to write. It's OK. It's a perfectly fine choice and there's no reason to beat yourself up because of it.

Write or don't. The choice is yours. But for myself, I don't want to be 80 years old and wondering what if I'd tried a little harder or gave it a little more time, regardless of results. I'd rather go down in flames over-and-over than be constantly wondering about what if.
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Philip Overby

Article Team
I agree with others that it's good to take the pressure off yourself in some way. That could mean not taking self-imposed deadlines as seriously or even just taking a break for a while. If taking a break for a couple of weeks sounds good, you can actually see if you miss it. If you don't miss it, then maybe a longer break might be deserved. If you sit around thinking, "Wow, I really want to work on this story" or "I have a great new idea!" maybe you can return from your break much earlier.

I've always determined if I get apprehensive and stressed when I don't write, then I'm spending my time well when I am writing.

It's that whole "if you love something let it go" thing.


toujours gai, archie
Do others feel this way (the way Chesterama described)? Yes. Me.

There are days when I not only hate writing, I hate what I just wrote, what I'm currently writing, what I'm contemplating writing. I hate the physical act. My writing is mediocre, meandering, maudlin. Here I am retired and instead of "enjoying retirement" (whatever that's supposed to mean), I'm inflicting this whole writing business on myself -- and it's not just the writing, it's the marketing, the research, the editing, the ... well, you know. All of it.

And it just doesn't matter. I still do it, for one simple, inescapable, stupid reason: because I dislike *not* writing even more. Because when I don't write, there's a nasty worm that starts working in my gut, and the longer I don't write the more twisted up I get. So I write to make the worm be quiet.

Taking a break doesn't help. It's like saying I should take a break from thinking. I do agree that maybe some new stimuli may help. The degree you can, read some kind of literature you don't normally read. Or go somewhere you've not been (even if it's just across town, or even into a building). Eat different food. Listen to different music.

But I encourage you to keep writing, with one condition: the condition of one. Just write one thing. Don't switch horses. Write until the damn thing is done, no matter how lousy it is. Then put it away and work on one other thing. Just one. Until done. Eventually, you'll write one that you feel is worth the time to edit and present to others.

I wrote a story once, when I was young (in my 20s). I submitted it to Galaxy. It got rejected. It was okay, but it wasn't real strong; it was rejected rightly. But here's the thing: I got a rejection letter. I mean a real one (this was back in the 1970s), on letterhead, signed by James Baen. Handwritten. It told me to keep trying. I kept the note.

I didn't. I was in school, I got my degree, all the way to a PhD, so it took a while! and then off to a career. I kept sort-of writing. Then, just a few years ago, my wife found that note. She left it on my desk. That's all. No big speech, just left it there.

I've been writing ever since, in a serious way, and have a couple of minor publications.

Here's the thing: if I hadn't written that first one, and sent it off, actually submitted it, I doubt I'd be writing now. I'd probably be "enjoying my retirement." It's getting that first one all the way to submitted that counts. It's a huge step and immensely gratifying. Rejected or accepted, it meant I was at the plate, swinging. I wasn't just sitting on the bench.

So, keep writing. Eventually you'll hate it so much you give it up. Or, you'll finish one, and you'll submit it, and you won't even care about the rejection letter because you'll be busy with the next one. Quieting the worm.
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I have days when I sit down, either at a laptop or a notebook, but I can't write. I'll doodle, I'll write dumb edits hoping to humor myself into writing. But I've found these days are those after days of intense writing or editing.

So I've found taking a break, like posting here, hiking, and reading most of all, helps to get the gas tank refilled. Another idea is to try and write a different story. Try to make it something you either have never written before, or only dabble in. For instance I don't write horror, so once I wrote the first page of a horror story then had to stop because it was too creepy. But it worked, it scared me right back to the beautiful fantasy genre.


Wow, thank you everyone for the responses! All the suggestions here are good and I appreciate them so much. I do want to write professionally, and I have been treating it like a job for the most part. So I do want to keep writing also because it feels worse not to. I did end up writing yesterday. I was an hour early for an appointment, so I wrote in my car. Not much words, but what I produced was better than it has been lately.

Devor, I really like your advice on finding what it is about my writing that I love. It gave me something to think about. I love that I emphasize on emotion a lot in my stories, about the human condition in the most jacked up of situations. I like my fantasy stories to have an element of terror in them. Plus I like getting lost in my story world.

Penpilot, that video was just what I needed! Thank you!

Maybe I've been putting too much ridiculous pressure on myself lately. I read an article yesterday about how its better to at least write 100 words per day than none at all.


Felis amatus
And keep in mind, even professionals have days where they say "Screw all of you, I'm going to the beach," or whatever. You have to have those days as a human being. So when we talk about treating it as a job and writing every day whether you want to or not, it should be understand that this does include the occasional "screw this" day, or vacation time, or whatever else you need to do to step away from things from time to time. Then, after your break, you come back and dig right in again.
One thing I do that may only work because of my unbridled arrogance is immerse myself in the fantasy/sci-fi worlds of others, be they video games, books, anime or movies.

Eventually, any sort of dive into them has them coming up short, questions of, "why didn't they do that?" or "I hated that particular aspect of this story" or "NOOOO< WHY DID IT HAVE TO END?!?! IT WAS PERFECT" or "NOOOOO< WHY DID IT HAVE TO CONTINUE< THEY SHOULD HAVE ENDED WHILE THEY WERE AHEAD> IT WAS PERFECT!"

The last two push my boundaries on fanfiction, but even the biggest draws never hold my attention for long and it really depends on the story and characters.

Anyway, the point is, I'm not happy with what other people are putting out there, and the only way I can enjoy the best stories and characters and struggles is writing on my own.

I assume this happens to everybody after they've been writing for any period of time. I became so much more critical, even if I still enjoyed something, there were nearly always annoyances. If I've truly immersed myself in something, the annoyances become too much to handle and I flee to the relative safety of my own works. And if it's so good there were only trivial details of annoyance, then that just makes me want to do even better.

Recently, one anime series did both: ソードアート オンライン。 The first season was incredibly amazing, arousing my passion and envy, while the second pushed me over the brink of despair from overwhelming dismay. The two seasons digested within a single day were extremely effective at prodding me towards writing my own work again.

...Oh, I suppose the other issue is that there may be external forces. People with ADHD procrastinate more, so medication helps with that (or liquid medication in the form of coffee); having your writing space's chi disrupted is pretty terrible, so make sure that you keep it clean enough to work in; if you have aches and pains, consider stretching, sleeping, physical therapy, medication, etc (obviously, see a doctor for anything that might cause you damage and don't hold me liable). Lots of external factors that might unduly influence you.


Making writing a daily chore is a good way to eventually do it out of habit, though I haven't tried this yet. What I find to be the biggest barrier before going and writing is having gotten positive feedback earlier. I can't quite remember the process that went on when writing the piece, but it had something positive going on, so I fear writing more because I might not do as well as before.

It's nice to read something positive about the piece, but it just clicks to me as "having this exactly like this is what resulted in this being good, so altering anything will break it" and fearing that the future pieces lack that exact same formula and aren't as good. So, at least for beginners like myself, getting that positive piece of feedback and then shrouding one self in it and not writing more because of that fear is very limiting. I know this is pretty common in most likely anything that is based on complicated skill, such as painting, playing an instrument, or making practically anything with your hands. Also something like running may be difficult to do again after initial success, because you might not be as enduring anymore after that long break, but you still consider yourself to have a good endurance because a year earlier you did have.

You probably don't have this problem, because you are already more experienced and the way to get past these problems is to just continue to write despite the fear of failure, but I think there are more beginners here like myself who might recognise this problem.
I'm actually in a slump right now with my own writing. I don't write professionally, I use it more as a way to get out of reality and enjoy something all to myself. I would love to write professionally, but I spent too much time gunning for other things to turn away from that path.

As to the slump, I haven't written a single sentence for my main story in almost three months now. I personally hate myself for not continuing to write that story, but when ideas don't flow I've found that trying to push through it the same as trying to claw my way through a mountain with only my teeth and nails. So instead I changed course, and started working on side projects to take my mind off the first. I take a simple image from my mind and write it down, and sometimes it turns into something more, sometimes not, but it gets the fingers working again.

When even the most simple type of writing like my side projects fails to motivate me, or makes me look at a pen and paper or my computer as though it was a deadly snake ready to bite, then I turn to my oldest motivator, other people's stories. I read something new or I go and pick up a book I've read a thousand times before and read it again. What ever I use, I don't think about the work that needs to be done, I try not to think at all, and the inspiration, the passion, that dying flame comes again and reignites and allows me to sit down once more on the main story.

I asked one of my colleagues at work who teaches creative writing or something of that nature what she does to get passed the hump. She said, even if you write professionally, you must take time to listen to your own mind and get it to influence your fingers. Even if you feel pressured, that you must have this done by 2 am tomorrow morning, sit down and remember why you write in the first place, and use that as the fuel to push you through.

I don't know if this is of any help to you, but hey it can't hurt.

You see a lot of conflicting advice on this question but for me it's a no-brainer...if it aint fun, don't do it. Not until you've reached the point where people are paying you advances and setting deadlines.

In my case, I made the decision to get serious about writing in 1992. My second finished novel went really close at quite a big publisher...it was championed by one inspired individual who knew genius when he saw it, but alas, his colleagues at the publishing committee meeting did not agree.

After ten years of rejection and having gone so close I felt burned out. I just stopped for a little while, but when I resumed I tried a different form - something that would still be rejected but not take as long to create. Screenplays. I threw myself into this new enthusiasm for a couple of years. Rattled off three screenplays and two stage plays - learned heaps about storytelling via this very different medium - and had a little bit of success. Even had a screenplay optioned by a mid-sized producer who has actually made feature films, but nothing ever came of it.

Once again, after the excitement of thinking I might have made it, I felt let down, burned out and generally over writing.

I did nothing for two years.

People kept asking me what I was working on (politely) and I had to reply that I was just taking a break...recharging my batteries. And in the end, that was truly what I was doing...even though I didn't quite realise at the time.

Then one fateful morning I was walking to the station to catch my commuter train to Sydney and I was suddenly smote between the eyes by a really powerful story idea. And what really struck me at the time was what a 'commercial' idea it was. I'd never sat down deliberately to write something commercial and this was a really liberating thought...I had never, in fifteen odd years of writing, ever considered the readers and what they might like!!!

Armed with my strong idea and all the new storytelling skills I'd picked up writing screenplays, I started mapping out a story so powerful it almost told itself. I wrote 230k words in 13 months (despite having a wife and a professional day job) and the first publisher I showed it to said Yes.

Sometimes you just need that bit of distance to reflect and recharge, and then it might just really happen.
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"Its something I have wanted all my life and now that I'm close, its like pulling teeth to make myself give a care."

I might be reading too much into it, but is it that deep down you're a little bit frightened to let something that means so much to you out into the wild? Never heard of apathy as a defence mechanism before, but hey, the human mind can be quite weird at times.

Gone all Yoda, I have. :)