6 Reasons Writers Can’t Write….

Haven't I heard that already? From you? Six times?

Writing fiction is never easy, for so many reasons…. reasons that can easily become excuses to put off getting back to the blank page.

I know that I go through periods of excitement and fun with my fiction, and period when for, one reason or another, I just can’t even open a document. I can’t even think about opening a document.

I believe, though, that writing fiction is part of who I am. So when the going gets tough, I try to examine why exactly it is that I can’t get to writing, or I can’t get excited about writing.

Here are six things, that in different times or in various combinations, have prevented me from writing. It’s important to do your best to understand why the task feels daunting when it becomes that way. Often it’s easy to blame the BIG reason, the obvious reason, when the true barrier might be a combination of different factors. Sometimes, addressing the obvious issues doesn’t do quite enough to get us motivated again.

Disclaimer: I in no way think this is a be-all, end-all, or all-inclusive list. If there is something that has gotten you separated from writing that I don’t mention here, please leave a comment if you feel comfortable adding to the conversation!

1. WRITER’S BLOCK

Let’s get the big, fat, obvious factor out of the way first. Writer’s block hits us all, and it’s never fun to sit and try to write when we have no idea what to say or we have recognized a contradiction in our plot or characters that we can’t yet solve.

I discuss two ways to break through writer’s block here. They are character-focused. Can’t guarantee anything, but it may be worth a read if you’re currently stuck.

2. SO…. VERY…. TIRED….

We live busy lives in this day and age. We’re all, always, connected to others via technology 24-7. Considering how most writers are introverts and expend, rather than gain, energy from social situations, it’s easy to understand how we might feel too drained, emotionally and/or physically, at the end of the day to write.

I used to write in the morning, and honestly prefer that. But nowadays I have to rise too early to write in the mornings, so I’m left writing at night. That often transfers into writing not at all. I’m trying not to feel too guilty about it and just do what I can, when I can.

3. ONE OF MANY PURSUITS

Many writers live rich interior lives, as well as having social obligations and social hobbies. Time spent playing sports, or exercising, or reading, or watching a beloved, thought-provoking show, or making a puzzle, or painting or knitting, is time we can’t spend writing. So sometimes writing takes a back seat to other hobbies: especially seasonal hobbies, like athletics.

We can’t let anyone tell us what our priorities should be where our hobbies are concerned. We all need exercise. We all need multiple outlets to express ourselves. If you write enough for you, and that makes you happy, then that’s enough: no matter how often you write (or don’t).  Personally, I’d say that if you find yourself really regretting that you aren’t writing more, or you seriously want to pursue a career as a writer, then maybe it’s time to consider some adjustments.

4. HEALTH ISSUES

Whether we are talking depression and anxiety disorders, or other diseases like arthritis or cancer, we can only do so much with what we have. And when our health poses a barrier to writerly pursuits, it is what it is, unfortunately. Sometimes, the focus needs to be on health and recovery and the basics. It stinks, but it’s definitely not something to feel guilty about: no matter how much you wish you were writing.

5. FAMILY LIFE

Whether it’s a child’s ball games, or date night, or house cleaning and repairs, sometimes real life has to come first. In the case of ball games and date night…. that’s awesome. In the case of house repairs and bill paying, not so much. There are days none of us wants “to adult,” as I’ve been reading lately.

(The linguist in me is fascinated by this new usage! Maybe in a century or so, “to adult” will be accepted as a legitimate verb. Has anyone else seen those memes that say, “I don’t want to adult today. Please don’t make me adult.”)

6. WORK WORK WORK!

It’s eye-opening and frightening for me to talk to different people about their jobs and what they do, or to read about different people discussing work online. I’ve said more than once lately that, in this economy, few people are winning out. Chances are that you’re unemployed or underemployed, or if not, you’ve got a job in which you handle the workload and responsibilities of,  at the least, a person and a half. It’s tough. It’s time-consuming and anxiety producing. It is what it is. We’ve just go to do what we must do…. And that, sadly, often means sacrificing writing.

Which of these barriers to writing afflict you the most? Are there some I didn’t mention? Whatever the case, you are DEFINITELY not alone in finding it difficult sometimes to get word on the page. We can at least all realize that. It’s important to admit that about ourselves, and important to understand that it’s a common struggle.

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33 responses to “6 Reasons Writers Can’t Write….

  1. Barriers that prevent me from writing?
    Nine children (six still at home); one grandson that I get to babysit sometimes because his parents are in grad school; one part-time job outside of the house; one Etsy shop (I make Harry Potter clocks) that brings in a few hundred dollars a month that we desperately need; editing friends’ novels (sometimes for free, when they’re are as strapped for cash as I am); and life in general. Oh, and sometimes my husband wants to chat or needs help with his job search.

    I write as an escape from it all! It’s my fun, my joy, and my therapy.
    (And in grad school I had a professor who said, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block; only writer’s laziness.” Ouch.)

    • OUCH! That is harsh, haha! Writer’s laziness…. I think it’s awesome that you have such a large and wonderful family, Trish! That’s truly amazing. I never knew that. I’m in awe of you!

  2. Hitting #2 now, but I still have 5 chapters to go on the book. Though #5 tends to be my biggest obstacle. At least until the kid becomes able to entertain himself and him being silent isn’t a sign that a mess is being made.

  3. This may sound ridiculous and to many it might be but I have too much time on my hands. Now that I am a stay at home mom and my kids are getting older, I have a lot of time on my hands. I could be proactive and get a lot accomplished over the course of the many hours of time I have to myself each day – doing that planning, prioritizing stuff. The fact is, I am not a planner, never have been and I have trouble making decisions until crunch time. This means that I get an unbelievable amount of things done in a short period of time – I am great at multitasking. It also means that given too much time, my mind wanders, it peruses over the many possibilities for my characters, follows every possible path the plot could take, every possible solution to any problems and the inter-relations of each possibility. This is fine except that it never gets written because I can’t decide on which I want to use until that moment that I have pressure to finish the story – then and only then do I suddenly become decisive, clear and focused and write thousands of words.

    • Some people work well under pressure! 🙂 Maybe you could find a way to induce a sense of pressure? I wish I could be like you. I’m just the opposite. I don’t plan plan and plan, but I like control and if I’m not three steps ahead of the game, I feel like I’m behind. It’s ridiculous, haha…. I’m not a type A personality, either, which would seem likely based on what I just said. I’m not a take charge, leader kind of person. I just like to have my stuff together and be prepared for unexpected things that might occur.

      • I have yet to figure out how to fool myself into feeling a sense of pressure when writing stories but I keep reading other people’s blogs hoping someone out there will have an answer! As for planning though, it’s not that I don’t have my stuff together or that I will fail to accomplish things on time although it seems that way to everyone outside of my brain. It is more that I have a confidence in my abilities, built up over the years of successes, I know what I can and cannot do – that is how I know at what point I must stop goofing off and actually get busy to get done what needs doing. I suppose it is a reverse of what many people do – many rush to finish a project so that they can relax afterwards once it is finished. I relax first all the way up until the moment I absolutely must get the project done.

        • One way to induce a sense of pressure is maybe to promise yourself a reward for meeting a self-imposed deadline. If you have the guts to deny yourself the reward if you miss, or maybe involve a friend or family member to be your disciplinarian, it could work. Maybe? It’s something that just came from the top of my mind. You’ve probably thought of that before, but it’s where my mind went reading your comment.

        • good suggestions – my husband might be up for such a job

  4. I really appreciate that you acknowledge that these things can all happen to us as writers. I was reading a post earlier today that said if you haven’t got time to write, look at other commitments you can get rid of… which was fine, until one of his examples of this was going out with your friends. If I have to sacrifice my friendships for my writing, I think I’m doing something wrong! (It’s highly possible he just meant every now and then, but it didn’t read that way to me).

    I’ve just started a Master’s degree which is going to take me the best part of four years to complete. Combine that with a full time job and I’m going to be scrimping for writing time! (Though I am thinking of trying to get up half an hour earlier each day and squeezing something in there – we’ll see how it goes!)

    • Good luck! We are all dealing with different situations. You should definitely not feel guilty if it’s hard to find time to write…. You have a lot going on. Which is awesome…. lots of wonderful things. Writing will find its place. 🙂

  5. I have always been a great procrastinator, there–I admitted it! I have found myself wondering at times if I really had writer’s block, or if I was just procrastinating again. I do love to write, but I have had problems with plotting and characterization, so I sometimes feel overwhelmed and get feeling doubtful that I can do this. I was happy to see that you addressed health issues as well. That is also an issue with me. Especially if I have to take pain medication. I don’t take it unless it is so bad that I have to, and if it does get to that point, the effects of the pain meds make me fuzzy, and sometimes sick to my stomach. Of course, when that happens, it is almost impossible to focus and that is frustrating as well. I had that issue today as a matter of fact. I have arthritis in my knee and found out by x-ray results yesterday that I may need a partial or complete knee replacement in the very near future. There are a few alternatives that I plan to try first however. The point in even bringing that up is that by choosing not to have surgery, I will have to deal with the pain and try to work and write through it. So, this is a great post for me today, and I thank you. As always, Victoria, you inspire me. Thank you! 🙂

    • Best of luck to you, Rebecca!!! I know multiple people who have had knee replacements and it wasn’t fun for them, but they are so mobile now it is incredible. They’ve said that the physical therapy afterward was important, if unpleasant. I have seen people rebound and be able to live fuller lives as a result…. Don’t know if that’s any comfort, but in case you do end up deciding to have or needing the surgery, it’s what immediately sprang to my mind reading your comment. Take care of yourself. We can all only do the best we can with what we have.

  6. Thanks for pointing out some of the not-so-obvious causes for not writing. Pain is a major issue for many people. I have arthritis in every joint of my body as well as scoliosis and sciatica. Often, it’s difficult to sit for an extended length of time or to type a lot. I force myself to work anyway, and then I get frustrated and cranky. For that reason, I identify with Rebecca on so many levels. I take pain meds and go to physical therapy throughout the year–anything to help me function better. There are times, however, I just have to lie on the heating pad and watch TV!

    • We all have struggles and they take all kind of different forms. Physical ones like yours are tough. Like I just mentioned commenting on Rebecca’s post, we can only do the best we can with what we have to work with. Thanks so much for sharing…. it’s a true inspiration to hear about what others go through to write. I have found a new admiration and respect for you and Rebecca!

  7. This is well timed as I can’t write at the moment.
    It’s as if something has deleted the book from my mind!
    I can’t think of anything to do with it !

    • Aw, that’s the worst. Hang in there. Maybe your brain is just working to figure things out. My novel that turned into “The Crimson League,” i started it freshman year of college. It went nowhere. I put it on the back burner and ignored it for three or four years. Then, out of the blue, one night as I was going to bed, I realized what part of the story’s set up I had wrong. It just hit me out of nowhere. I started writing the novel that become “The Crimson League” the next day. It’s no masterpiece of literature, but it really helped shape me into who I am and taught me a lot about myself at a time when I really needed to be focusing on those lessons.

  8. #3 and #6 I would say. I work in a rescue centre for cats and dogs so my work can be very emotionally and physically draining. I write in the mornings – 4:30am – to avoid the lethargy that hits during the evening. Other than that it’d be the simple distractions that promise greater, immediate short-term pleasure. It feels great to HAVE written but it’ll probably take a while for that feeling to take hold. Browsing random internet sites will make me happy right NOW!

    As for the “to adult” phenomenon, I can’t say I’ve seen that one. However the internet does seem to have a predilection for using nouns as verbs lately. Most notably when people stumble over their words I’ve heard them say “I cannot words!” It’s amusing to me but I hope it doesn’t stick!

    • I hope it doesn’t stick either!!! And I totally feel you about working with animals. I worked at a vet clinic for six months last year. And I was only a receptionist, not a tech, but it was so draining emotionally!

  9. Number 6 always gets me. Damn day job!

  10. I’m sixteen years old and homeschooled, so I feel like I have a lot more time to write than most people, but I share a computer with my mom and my brother, so sometimes I don’t always have enough time to get my thoughts on to the screen. For this reason, I write at night, which is also when I am most awake, and that works well for me. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing because my stories just don’t interest me anymore. So I leave them for a couple months, then come back, reread what I have written, and start writing again.

    • I’ve done that before… leaving a story and coming back to it. It’s not the most timely process, but if it works, it works 🙂 I’ve always said there is no one way to write. Some ways are faster or less complex, but they might not work with a person’s life situation or personality. The trick is just finding what works for you. It’s cool to see we’re similar!

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  12. Reblogged this on jburns Short Stories and commented:
    You are right! there are times when you think, I’m never going to get a chance to write this story because there is always something to do before that. Just keep pushing.

  13. Reasons #2 through #6 all impact me to more degree than #1. Even though I might not be writing as much as I’d like, I think about the story a lot, and when I do find a moment to write, I generally don’t have a problem knowing what to write. Sometimes I pause to think about the right word or combination of words, but I know the essence of what I want to say. If I reach a point where I’m in doubt about a scene, then I leave off it and work on another one. Often the doubts will clear up after my subconscious dwells on them for a while, making the scene come more to life for me, which I hope will make it so for my future readers as well.

  14. Not writing is like any other form of procrastination, as far as I’m concerned and I’m as guilty as the next person. The way I deal with writing is that I think of it as my guilty pleasure, instead of something I have to do. It’s my escape. All the way to my work outside the home, I’m still in the scene I’m writing and look forward to being with my characters again. Yes, sometimes there are huge hurdles in what a person is writing, but if you love it and you love your characters, you will get through it.
    Sometimes the next scene is hard to get to, so you write a scene you can picture–even the end of the book, but every day, you sit down and either proofread or write something new. Never let too many days go by–like two–before rereading, editing and writing.
    If you love it and you love your project, you will keep going. Otherwise, maybe you’re not meant to be a writer. It’s not for everyone.

    • Love the idea of thinking of it as a guilty pleasure! That would totally work for me, if I didn’t feel too guilty to write when there is so much other stuff to be done, ha ha! 🙂

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