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It Just Isn’t Fun Anymore

Monday, October 11, 2010

“What do you do when writing just isn’t fun anymore?”

This question was asked of me after my local group meeting Saturday morning. The member who asked it is someone who’s been struggling with their calling—their identity—as a writer, even questioning if they have been called to be a writer. God has been working in certain areas of this person’s life which has led them to make decisions to whittle out certain things, and much of that affected the writing.

“I feel like I should be writing, but I just can’t.”

I’ve never spoken to a writer, published or unpublished, who hasn’t felt this way. I’ve felt this way before (after completing my second full manuscript in 2002—I actually remember saying to a family member that I wasn’t sure if I’d ever write again).

There is a difference between “not feeling like writing” and “can’t write.” No, writing isn’t always going to be fun. Just like running a marathon, there are going to be those walls we’re going to have to face and break through. No, we’re not always going to feel like writing every day. But that’s when the shoulds should kick in. Most of us, if we discipline ourselves to go ahead and sit down to meet that daily quota, once we get into it, we find we get lost in the story and we actually enjoy it.

But what about when the words don’t come? When cleaning a rest-area bathroom with a Q-tip is preferable to writing? When you’re tired, when you’re stressed, when life interferes, or when God isn’t speaking to you one way or the other?

What do you do when this happens?

Stop.

I know most of you reading this are currently unpublished. You are at a unique place in your writing journey at which you don’t have to feel obligated to write. You don’t have to force yourself to do it. While discipline in making yourself write every day is important, there comes a point in time when forcing yourself to write becomes negative reinforcement and may keep you from ever being able to do it successfully again.

There comes a time in every writer’s career (again, whether published or unpublished) when you just need to take a break and stop writing. Stop thinking about writing. Stop reading about writing. Stop talking about writing.

Take the time to read—read all those novels sitting in your TBR pile. Read the book of the year from every genre (either the Christy winners or the Carol winners). Read through the New York Times bestsellers list or the USA Today bestsellers list.

Watch movies—clear out your Netflix queue. Catch up on complete TV series like LOST, The Young Riders, Dragnet, or The Muppet Show.

Learn a new hobby or pick up an old one. Interested in photography in the past? Pick your camera up again. Want to learn how to knit? There’s someone at your church who would be more than happy to teach you. Have a bunch of family photos sitting around in boxes or on your computer? Go to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, get a scrap-booking kit, and put some family albums together.

Refurbish and replenish your creative energy by channeling it into something else for a while; feed your brain by reading and indulging your imagination with movies and scripted TV shows; and then, when you get to the point at which you can’t think about anything else other than writing, start writing again.

14 Comments
  1. Monday, October 11, 2010 12:43 am

    Good advice, Kaye! I realized this summer–after finishing a book on a pretty torturous deadline–that I’d forgotten to have fun. I’d forgotten that I was supposed to write what I want to read. And the last several months have been about getting back to that for me. It’s important to replenish the creative energy. And I found that by writing what I really wanted to write, that replenishment happened naturally.

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    • Tuesday, October 12, 2010 3:18 am

      If I didn’t rely on writing as a major source of income, I’d hold off on the contemporary proposal I have working right now (I’m about halfway through the second of three synopses for it) and just wait to see what happens with the historical proposal that’s out and take a slight break in the crazy three-books-a-year deadlines I’ve been on the last two years. I really could use a break, but since I don’t want to have to go out and get a “real” job, that’s out of the question.

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  2. Debra E. Marvin permalink
    Monday, October 11, 2010 8:36 am

    I can and have done this when I’ve been creatively wiped out–reading, movies, even another creative task that is NOT writing. And it works. I guess my fear is what if that happens under contract, someday?
    Personally, I am often chomping at the bit with enthusiasm during my ‘paying job’ to get home and write. Problem is, after two jobs, when I get ready to write at 7pm, I’m often exhausted and I can’t always push through that wall. I just plain write whenever I can, 3AM, 10PM. Currently editing some meaty stuff, but I just keep plugging away and if I only get one page edited, at least it’s one page closer… Quitting now is not an option.

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    • Tuesday, October 12, 2010 3:19 am

      It’s amazing how the adrenaline/panic that comes from being up against a deadline can activate that creative energy!

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  3. Monday, October 11, 2010 11:01 am

    Thanks, Kaye. Sometimes we need to be told we don’t HAVE to write. I found that I had to take a break, and I’ve been a voracious reader most of the summer and fall. Of course, now that I WANT to write, and NEED to write, my computers have conspired against me. But this, too, shall pass.

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  4. Monday, October 11, 2010 1:11 pm

    Awesome post, Kaye. It’s nice to have “permission” to walk away from it for a little while. Even when I “take a day off” my brain still spins. Learning to shut that down is the hard part!

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    • Tuesday, October 12, 2010 3:22 am

      You’re probably not at the “can’t write” point, as is the person I had this conversation with. It’s different to take a break from writing when the voices/stories are still there or to take a break from it when you’re just completely tapped out.

      If I were at a point where I could take a break from writing, I’d probably still have stories forming/running through my head.

      My challenge is to find some other creative outlets/hobbies/things to do that aren’t writing related while still getting my writing done. For me, everything in my life is about writing. That really needs to change.

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  5. Monday, October 11, 2010 3:59 pm

    I’m at that point right now. So now I’m pursuing something that I’ve always wanted to do more…singing! And I’m loving it. Writing is something I love, but I feel like I’m in a season right now where it’s not the most important thing.

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    • Tuesday, October 12, 2010 3:23 am

      I’m planning to get involved in the choir in my new church as soon as I’m past this deadline. I haven’t sung in a church choir regularly for years, and I’m especially excited about the almost professional-level quality of this one—a bit scared, too, since my sight-reading of both music and Latin (the choir always has two or three Latin pieces in the works at any given time) is a little bit rusty.

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  6. Kav permalink
    Monday, October 11, 2010 4:40 pm

    Great advice! I also think that having other outlets and interest definitely helps round out your writing. Sometimes we can get so focused we forget there’s more to life then just the computer! As a single person living alone it is very easy for me to get pulled into writing and reading and not work at going out and going other things. Well, my dog makes sure we go for walks at least twice a day. 🙂

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    • Tuesday, October 12, 2010 3:25 am

      As a single person living alone and working from home, it’s been far too easy for me to let my life become focused on nothing but writing and editing. I have almost no connections outside of that world, no conversations with anyone that doesn’t include something about writing, my books, marketing, etc. I really need to change that!

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  7. Monday, October 11, 2010 9:54 pm

    Great post Kaye! Thank you for being so honest….refreshing honesty.
    I know we all get in this place and begin to “carry our gifts as if they are burdens.”
    Thank you for reminding me…I do this because it’s fun and sometimes it’s OK to walk away…even if just for a moment.

    I appreciate you.
    Aj

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    • Tuesday, October 12, 2010 3:26 am

      I’m definitely looking forward to taking a month off from writing before starting on the next book (due April 1). It’ll give me time to catch up with everyone I’ve been ignoring the last ten months as I’ve written three books!

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