How to Write Even When You Don’t Feel Like Writing
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I get it…
Some days you just don’t feel like writing. The inspiration isn’t there and you feel like you don’t have anything important to say.
Your writing career is on the back burner because you have so many other things to do with — your job, your kids, your life, everything.
You keep telling yourself you’re going to “get around to it” but you blink and days, weeks, even months have gone by without typing a single word.
How do you get back on the horse?
How do you push through when the motivation isn’t there?
I’ve learned some tips, tricks, and mindsets along the way. I’m using them right now because I don’t feel like writing this post. Good thing I had these tips handy.
The Diamond in the Rough
I was listening to a podcast the other day featuring author and former Navy Seal Jocko Willink. His book, Extreme Ownership, details his experience in the Iraq war and translates the leadership principles he learned during life or death situations into principles we all can use in various areas of our lives from business to creativity. As a leader of his troop, he was responsible for the lives of other people. If they died on his watch due to an error he made, he had to own that.
It was great hearing the perspective of someone who’s been able to stay accountable at the highest level and a question a listener asked him during the show provides a perfect answer to those who might be struggling with their writing.
A listener of the podcast asked him about finding motivation for pursuing a creative career. He explained that the concept of extreme ownership doesn’t change with field involved. As Jocko put it, “The book isn’t going to write itself. The paint brush isn’t going to pick itself up and stroke the canvas. You have to do the work.”
He told the reader to push through and write no matter what. He said even if you only get 50 solid words out of 1,000, you have 50 more than you had before. Those 50 words can be used as a foundation to create more.
I love that. And I know exactly what he’s talking about. I’ve written 1,000 crappy words just to get 50 or 100 great ones. It’s worth it.
Some writers say you must write 1,000,000 words before you can consider your writing publishable. Once you wrap your head around the idea that writing crappy words is an unavoidable part of the process, you’ll write more.
This especially important when you’re just starting out.
I can’t overstate this next sentence. When you’re a beginner, you’re supposed to suck.
Don’t believe me? Here’s an excerpt of one of the first blog posts I ever wrote:
“I remember when I was young how thrilling, and terrifying it was to go walk up to a girl and talk to her. When I was young I would describe a girl with phrases like “she is really pretty” or “she is beautiful”. When I say young I mean grade school days, because not too long after that things began to change. I’m not sure exactly how old I was, but I estimate that around the age of 13 was when I first watched a pornographic film. I talk a lot about the cognitive functioning of the brain and how neural pathways are built constantly by one’s behaviors, especially is the behavior is repetitive.”
The guy who wrote that gloriously awful paragraph has now written two books.
Why did I just share that embarrassing piece of rubbish? Becuase I want you to know I sincerely believe you can get better. If I’m capable of ascending from the depths of suckiness, so are you.
Start With What
Bestselling author Simon Sinek wrote a book called Start With Why, which talks about coming up with a “why” for what you do to keep you motivated. When it comes to writing, however, the what can matter more than the why.
You need to know what you’re going to write about, what you’re going to do to attract attention, and what outcome you want your reader to have.
If you’re looking for a process you can use to get the words on the page, try the following steps.
Create a Reader Avatar
Some writers find it easier to write with one specific person in mind. It helps them narrow their focus. If you’re looking for direction on the message you want to communicate, a reader avatar gives you a clear picture of who you’re talking to.
Your reader avatar is a detailed profile of a member of your target audience. If you haven’t picked a niche yet, check out this post, but if you have you should be able to come up with an avatar.
Be specific when describing them. Here’s an example:
Jim is a 31-year-old marketing director at a nonprofit organization. He enjoys his work, but he feels like something’s missing. He took English for a year at University but switched his major because he wanted to find something more secure. At the time, writing for a living didn’t seem like a possibility, but now with the explosion of blogging and self-publishing, he’s curious. His main hangup is a lack of time. He has a wife and two kids and feels a great deal of responsibility for his family. He wonders if trying to become a writer would put his family at risk. Instead of going all in, he decided he’s going to start slow and write a blog post once a week to get his feet wet.
With this avatar handy, I can write directly to Jim, while reaching many members of my target audience at the same time.
Make Their Imaginary Day
People like outcomes. They want an easy win, to transform themselves, or to do something they’ve never done before.
When focusing on your reader, think of an outcome they’d benefit from.
Let’s use Jim as an example. Some possible positive outcomes could include:
- Writing his first 1,000-word blog post
- Landing his first guest post
- Writing for 7 days straight
Once you have some outcomes in mind, you can write a post around those outcomes.
For example, you can turn the aforementioned outcomes into headlines:
- The ultimate guide to writing your first 1,000-word post
- 5 Simple Steps to Landing Your First Guest Post
- Rapid Fire Writing – How to Write a Week Straight Without Quitting
Now you have a good idea what to write about. If you’re still feeling stuck, you can add an additional step.
Create a Blueprint
I use this technique for writing books, but it can be used for blog posts as well.
You can use a mind-map to get the ideas out of your head and onto the page. A mind-map works like this – you take your main idea or headline and write it down. Then, you branch off it with smaller subsets of ideas that support the main idea.
In my example of “How to Write a Week Straight Without Quitting” I could branch off the main idea with ideas such as:
- Create the right mindset
- Write at the same time every day
- De-clutter your writing space
- Prepare ideas beforehand
- Use the Pomodoro technique to stay focused
You can set a time for 10 minutes and brain-dump as many ideas as possible. Next, you group the ideas together into an outline and start writing.
A simple outline looks like this:
[Main idea 1]
[Main idea 2]
[Main idea 3]
The simple essay structure works. You make the magic happen within the structure.
I just gave you a clear-cut takeaway you can use to get your words onto the page today. Will you use it?
Tips and tricks help, but success always comes down to following through.
The Key Secret to Staying Motivated As a Writer
You know how I stay motivated? I focus on other people. I know I have to show up for you.
Even if you have just one fan, you now owe that person. Write for them.
If you have no fans, I can show you how to find some, but remember that your words matter. Instead of making it about you, make it about the message you need to share and the people you need to serve.
If you do that, you’ll succeed.
That’s what writing is all about — pushing through and showing up.
Show up today, cmon, close this damn window, open up a word doc and get to work.