I Don't Want To Write This
Sorry, that sounded faintly ominous didn't it? Like the kind of post that starts "It is with heavy heart that I must tell you..." and then is usually about someone leaving their publisher, or blocking unknown commenters on their Twitter account, but very occasionally something genuinely awful, like a death. This isn't any of those things: nobody's died, at least as far as I'm aware; I'm pretty sure no one would notice if I did start blocking comments; and I don't even have a publishing contract. I just literally don't want to write this blog, today. It's my own fault really.
Last week I was ready and willing to write a blog, but the world looked so very bleak, and grim and awful that I decided my time time would be better spent writing a vaguely supportive message to anyone finding the burden of existence particularly heavy. So I did that, which was fine, and then I went and wrote the words: "next week I'll try to have an actual blog post for you." So of course now I don't want to do it. Which is fine: I gave myself a get-out clause, I said I might not feel like it. But I still feel as if I have to. Which is what makes me not want to. It's all very silly really. If I hadn't said that I would write a post I'd probably be fine with writing a post, but I said I would, and now it feels like work, and boring, and I don't want to. You know, there are days when I wish I could give my brain a damn good kick. I can't, though, and I'd probably regret it if I could, so, in lieu of a foot to the brain-pan, here are five ways to make yourself write when you just don't want to write. 1: Find someone to write for.
I'm not saying you need to go out and find yourself a muse: just have someone waiting to see what you've written. It could be a fellow writer looking for company in their sprint, or a friend waiting to read what you've written at the end of the week. It could even be as simple as telling the notional readers of your blog that you'll have something for them next week*. Sometimes just knowing that someone else is counting on you turns something you have to do into something you want to do. Because you're doing it for them. This is also the technique I use to make myself get up and get a drink after I've been sitting over my laptop for three hours straight: I might not be willing to take care of myself, but if my husband or my kids - or my cat - could use a drink then I'm much more likely to get up and get it for them. I'll just get one for myself while I'm at it.
Emotional blackmail is a powerful tool, especially when you're using it on yourself.
2: Do something else.
Honestly, sometimes this is the best plan.
Writer's blocks are a nuisance, but even when you aren't blocked, when you just plain don't want to write, you may find that if you sit down to write something anyway the result is not your usual scintillating prose.
Mostly that's because when you don't want to write it you don't enjoy reading it.
Even a rollercoaster isn't fun when you don't want to be on it, after all.
You could be creating the most brilliantly crafted tale imaginable and still think it looked like warmed-over sludge.
So it's not that you write badly, exactly, when you don't want to write, but it isn't entirely true to say that you don't either.
It's much harder to spot the weak points when everything looks like like sludge.
And then again, when you can't tell the sludge from the gems you may find yourself throwing away some real diamonds.
This metaphor is getting a little confused, isn't it? I'd better stop.
The thing is that if you aren't able to enjoy your own work then you aren't able to appreciate the good or identify the genuinely bad.
So your work will slightly be the worse for it overall.
Much better to go for a walk, or take a shower, or do the washing up, or do something else that will be genuinely useful in your life in general and leave the writing for another time.
Of course, if you should happen**, while your mind is drifting along on that more-or-less mindless task, to think of some immensely clever thing you want to write...
Well that's just your good luck.
Better go and write it down quickly while you're in the mood.
3: Go somewhere else. This works much better than you'd expect: just pick up your writing materials and go and sit in a park, or a coffee shop (see previous blogs on the value of working in a coffee shop), or just shut yourself in your bedroom and don't come out until you've got something wrong. Whether it's the change of scenery, the knowledge that you are there to work, or the vague sense that now you can't leave until you've at least written something, just moving somewhere new can be a great way to put yourself into the mood to write.
On the subject of coffee shops, there's also point 4: Bribery and corruption.
Or, less dramatically: rewarding yourself for a job well done.
If you really don't want to write, promise yourself you'll do something nice when you've finished.
It doesn't have to be anything big: you could give yourself a biscuit, or go for a walk, or just sit and read someone else's book for a while, and remind yourself why you like that sort of thing in the first place.
If you went with the coffee shop plan above you can even reward yourself ahead of time: you've come into this coffee shop, you'll have to buy something to excuse sitting there, so get yourself something you'll really like and settle down to work.
Now you have to write something, if only to excuse the massive, triple-whip mocha frappé with extra sprinkles (or whatever your abomination of choice may be).
Earn your reward, and bask in the knowledge of a job well done.
Whipped cream moustaches optional. 5: Finally, if you really, truly just don't want to write, then write a single sentence and give up for the day. You may find that once you've written that single sentence you don't want to stop, in which case that's great: you can keep writing with a clear head and a good will. But even if you don't: if you write that one sentence and everything feels like just as much of a slog as it did before, you'll still be one sentence closer to the end.
Tomorrow maybe you'll write a little more.
*Yes, I know that's why I didn't want to write this. My brain is like a hive of squirrels: do you really expect me to have any idea how they work? **This always happens.
Just don't tell yourself that's why you're doing it.