Saturday, April 13, 2024

Two Things You Can Do When You Can’t Write

by Beth K. Vogt @BethVogt

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.”
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), American author & screenwriter

If you’ve been a writer for any length of time at all—say six months or more—you’ve probably heard some version of the “a writer is someone who writes” mantra. 

I’ve been writing for decades. Here’s the truth: I don’t write every day. 


Guess what? I’m still a writer. I’ve just had to figure out what process works for me.

My husband Rob was in the U.S. Air Force for years. A favorite mantra of his is: “Flexibility is the key to air power.” Flexibility works in my writing life too. Sometimes I write early in the morning when everyone is asleep. Sometimes I write late at night when everyone is asleep. Sometimes I put on my Bose headphones and write when everyone is awake, and the house is chaotic. 

Then there are days my word count is zero while I mull over my story, usually with video calls and texts to my writing partner to brainstorm characters and plot lines. 

What can you do on those “I can’t write” days?

1. When you can't write big, write small.

Sometimes you need a brief break from your manuscript: a few hours or even a day or two. Write something else. On "I can't write" days, I work on my monthly Learn to Write a Novel post (like this one), upcoming guest posts, my submissions for Stop2Read—a read through the Bible program—or other shorter articles or posts. 

2. When you can't write, rewrite—but just a little bit. 

I’m an advocate for fast drafting: write forward, write fast. Fall in love with your story. Discover things about your characters by the end of the story you didn't know at the beginning, and then weave those elements through the story during your rewrite. 

When I stall out on my novel, I reignite my creative spark by rereading one or two scenes—no more. Fast drafting is about forward motion, and I don’t want to get dragged backward in my story. Sometimes I read on the computer, or I might print the pages out. And yes, I allow myself to pick up a red pen—or maybe a fun purple one—and mark up the scenes. I'll ask myself questions like:
  • What's the main emotion for this scene?
  • Is this an action or reaction scene?
  • Did I start the scene strong? Did I end the scene strong?
  • Have I used all five senses? 
  • Where's the spiritual truth?

Before I dive back into my manuscript, I weave the new developments into those scenes and make notes to rework any changes into the entire book. Taking time away from the full-length manuscript refreshes my perspective so I'm ready to write again.

I’m curious: What do you do when you can’t write?


Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She’s authored 15 novels and novellas, both contemporary romance and women’s fiction. Beth is a Christy Award winner, an ACFW Carol Award winner, and a  RITA® finalist. Her newest contemporary romance novel, Dedicated to the One I Love, released June 20, 2023. Her novel Things I Never Told You, book one in her Thatcher Sisters Series by Tyndale House Publishers, won the 2019 AWSA Golden Scroll Award for Contemporary Novel of the Year. An established magazine writer and former editor of the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth blogs for Learn How to Write a Novel and The Write Conversation and also enjoys speaking to writers group and mentoring other writers. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people. Connect with Beth at


  1. Love getting into your "writer head", Beth. Good points. Sometimes plain old mulling things over is a part of being a writer.

    1. Thanks, Sally Jo. I always love discovering how other writers think. We get one another. And yes, mulling is such an important part of the writing process.

  2. Beth,

    Thank you for these truths and insights. I loved your statement about figuring out the process which works for you. Each of us as writers are on a journey and need to take the actions which work for us. Sometimes I write in bursts and other times I spend a long time at the keyboard. It's definitely a learning experience and process for each of us.

    author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition) [Follow the Link for a FREE copy]

    1. Hi, Terry! I prefer large chunks of writing time -- and yet, I so rarely find those precious blocks of time. I treasure them when I do and make the best use of the other times.