Sunday, August 28, 2022

What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like Writing


by Dr. Craig von Buseck @CraigVonBuseck

It happens to all of us. For whatever reason, we don’t feel like writing. There are times when we are stretched, or stressed, or exhausted and then this feeling overtakes us. As a WRITER, I almost always want to write. So when I don’t feel like writing, I know there is something wrong. When this weariness overtakes me, I want to do what I need to do to push past the blockage and get back to writing—whenever it is healthy to do so.

And that is the central idea here—being healthy. As writers we can’t bring life-giving words to others unless we ourselves are walking a healthy path.

Writers Write

Let’s begin with this premise: writers write. Electricians work with electricity. Plumbers plumb. Writers spend their time writing. Now, we all know that the writing process consists of pre-writing—planning, doing research, outlining, interviewing, and so on—and also editing and re-writing. But this can all be considered part of the job of the writer, which is to write!

What would happen if an electrician signed a contract to wire a house or a commercial building and then suddenly didn’t feel like doing the job? He or she could take a day off, or maybe a few. Eventually they would have to get back to work or they would lose their contract, and in time, their business.

It is the same for the professional writer. A person who makes some or all of their income as a writer doesn’t have the luxury of an extenuated case of writer’s block. 

As my mentor, former New York Times reporter and editor, Bob Slosser often said to me, “You gotta keep putting the good stuff out there.”

Getting Unstuck

There are a few ways I have found over the years to get unstuck when I’m in a writing rut. These have come to me by trial and error. You will need to find what works for you, but these are some things that I have done to keep the writing juices flowing.

Change Location: While many writers have their writing rooms or spaces, sometimes it is helpful to place yourself in a different atmosphere. I’m able to write in a noisy space, so I sometimes will go to a restaurant—especially if they have free refills of coffee or soda! You may want to go to a park, a church, a beach, or a playground. You may have a friend who will allow you to write at their house without interruption.

Get Out Into Nature: I love to go to state or national parks, to the waterside, or to the mountains to write. Just make sure your laptop is fully charged! My car has a plug-in for me to recharge my battery, which is helpful. You may want to bring a notepad along, just in case the creative juices start flowing and you run out of power on your electronic device.

Exercise: Hike, walk, run, go to the gym, play volleyball, go kayaking. Do what you need to do to get the blood flowing and get your mind uncluttered.

Media and Musical Inspiration: Watch an inspiring movie or documentary. Attend an inspiring lecture. Take a master class just for fun. Listen to an inspiring symphony. The New World Symphony/Number Nine by Antonin Dvorak is my favorite (learn the heartwarming story behind this symphony in my book, Nobody Knows: The Harry T. Burleigh Story). Listen to your favorite band—digitally or at a concert. 

Visit an Art Museum: My father was a world-class portrait painter and we visited countless art museums across the country. My mother always said, “The arts travel together.” My siblings and I found this to be true as only two of seven have painting skills, but all of us are artists in other ways. Among the seven we have singers, actors, comedians, writers, musicians, video producers, and public speakers. All of us were inspired by our father and the hundreds of visual artists he introduced to us.

Visit Museums or Historical Sites: Another pastime that I inherited from my parents was my love of historical sites and museums. With their big tax return, as a result of having seven kids, my parents took us on vacation every year. They always found some interesting historical site to visit along the way. Sometimes the historical places were the destination—like Colonial Williamsburg or the Gettysburg National Military Park. I first acquired my love for history on these vacations and I still find myself recharged and inspired as I visit similar places today.

Find a Hobby: What do you like to do that renews your spirit? It could be photography, stamp collecting, woodworking, pottery/ceramics, bird watching, gardening—the list goes on and on. 

Watch Your Favorite Sport: Whether on TV or in person; whether little league, minor league, or major league; whether academic or professional—take time for recreation through watching your favorite sports.

Family and Friends: Spend time with loved ones and favorite people among your family and friends. Surround yourself with people who like to laugh and tell stories. Make gathering with friends and family a priority and set aside slots in your calendar for regular get-togethers. 

Worship and Prayer: Scripture declares, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)

Years ago I observed a ministry co-worker who was always bubbling over with joy. At the time I was experiencing a season of stress, so I admired his positive demeanor. One day I asked him to pray for me to have more joy. He wisely refused my request. Quoting Psalm 16:11, he explained that it is by being in the presence of God through worship, prayer, and reading God’s Word that we receive the fullness of joy. I never forgot this important exhortation. 

An empty joy tank may be part of the reason you are having difficulty writing. Scripture also tells us, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, ESV). So, we need joy to renew our strength and that joy comes from being in God’s presence. Fill your joy tank through worship and prayer and then get back to the work of the Kingdom! 

Once you’ve recharged your creative batteries, start writing! Get back to putting words on the page, even if it isn’t on the subject at hand. Once the flow begins, switch to your current project. Do what you’ve got to do to get the job done! 

Tell yourself again, and again, and again—writers write!

TWEETABLE

Watch for Craig’s new books coming this year: Telling the Truth: How to Write Narrative Nonfiction and Memoir from Bold Vision Books and Walking in Faith: The Peter, Paul, and Mary Principle from Elk Lake Publishing.

Dr. Craig von Buseck is an award-winning author, international speaker, and a Digital Content Director for Focusonthefamily.com. More from Craig at vonbuseck.com.

Featured Image: Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

5 comments:

  1. Craig,

    Thank you for these wise insights. I agree that writers write. Sometimes when I don't want to write, I just do it and then when I do, it begins to be fun and remind me why I love doing it.

    Terry
    author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition)

    ReplyDelete
  2. When my first book sold, my husband turned the small formal living room into an office for me (I'd been in a corner of our bedroom for years). Besides that corner, I'd often go to Starbucks or a restaurant. Like you, I can write in noisy places. But since then, since I have an office, I feel I have to use it. However, next time, I feel stalled, I think I'll go back to out somewhere. Thanks for the reminder!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great insights, Craig. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Williamsburg and Gettysburg and museums. I always leave having learned something I didn't know and with a list of questions because I want to know more. All material!

    ReplyDelete