Blessed quiet fills the house, broken only by the soft whisper of flames in the gas fireplace and the hiss of the tea kettle in the kitchen. I pull out my laptop, ready for the smooth feel and steady clicking of the keys beneath my fingers. It’s 9 PM at my house, and my kids are either asleep or happily reading by themselves. That means I finally get to write. How many words can I pull out of my brain tonight?
Wait–I think the water’s hot. Better go pour that cup of tea. Yikes, why didn’t anybody put these dishes away? Come to think of it, I’ve got laundry to fold. And I should probably catch up on e-mail. Maybe a couple of minutes on Twitter, too. After all, platform-building is important. If I run out of time to write, no biggie. There’s always tomorrow.
Reality check. Sometimes, if we’re being honest with ourselves, deep down we’re looking for an excuse not to write. Or maybe we’ve reached the point where we don’t even pretend to be excited about it anymore. Maybe we dread the idea of sitting down to write.
My passion for writing is usually a strong and steadfast flame that pulls me to my laptop as often as possible to dive into creating. Sometimes, though, that flame gets doused, and for a day or a week or a season I’ve got nothing. No beautiful words to write, and often not even the desire to come up with them. Moments like these, even thinking about trying to create fills me with stress or fear.
I’m not alone. My guess is, all creatives have times like these, where inexplicably the well has run dry. The passion’s gone.
Why do we lose our passion? And more importantly, what can we do about it?
I’ve come up with five different reasons why we might lose our desire to create, along with some ways to try to overcome these obstacles. For the record, if you reach a point where you hate writing so much you want to quit, it’s okay to walk away. We’re not all equally suited for every type of work or every hobby. If, on the other hand, you’re one of those people who would, perhaps, love to quit but instead keeps torturing yourself with the persistent need to write, this post is for you.
Ultimately, I think the key is to regard your loss of passion for writing as a symptom. It’s a warning sign, telling you something is wrong. Sure, you can ignore it and force yourself to keep writing anyway, until you feel like smashing your laptop with a hammer and burning all your manuscripts. Or, you can listen to what your creative heart is trying to tell you. Figure out the problem and deal with it. Because if you can identify and deal with the root cause, the joy of creating will return.
Today we’re going to tackle the first two of my five reasons for losing our love of writing.
Reason #1: Exhaustion
How it affects us
Almost all the writers I know have day jobs. Whether they get paid or not, they spend upwards of 40 hours a week at work or working at home. Don’t let anybody fool you into thinking stay-at-home parents have more time for writing, either! We’re all trying to cram our creative endeavors into chinks of time surrounding the big stuff. Work, sleep, eating, family, self-care, driving people places. And if any of those fall prey to writing, it’s usually sleep.
Most of us can get by with an occasional bad night of sleep or a couple of late nights, but after a while, our energy reserves run low. And if we have other things going on, like sick kids (or being sick ourselves), constant snow to shovel off our driveways, or anything else taking a toll on our physical strength, those reserves will be even shallower. When we’re struggling just to get through the day, who has the energy to create?
I ran into this problem during last November’s NaNoWriMo. I write regularly anyway, and I was thrilled with the idea of having a huge goal to chase, but there were a few nights in there where I could barely muster the enthusiasm to even open my laptop, much less write anything. Needing upwards of 1600 words a day, day after day for an entire month, proved to be more time-consuming and draining than I’d thought. And it added a nice layer of stress to my apathy. Moments like that, all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch a movie. When you’re wiped out, sleep-deprived, and brain dead, it’s pretty tough to feel excited about writing.
What to do about it
Listen to your body and your brain. If you’ve been working extra hard lately or getting less sleep than usual, odds are your lack of passion for writing is caused by exhaustion. Solve the root problem, and you’ll get that passion back.
Yes, go watch that movie on Netflix. Or read a book for fun. (Not one on writing!) Or play a video game, go for a walk, call a friend, make a scrapbook, play the piano, sleep… Whatever it is you’d do for fun if you weren’t so busy writing. Give yourself permission to not accomplish anything.
Because while you could power through, you might find yourself drifting closer to a major burnout, which will cost you a lot more in the end than taking a night or two off. During NaNoWriMo, I intentionally took a couple of days off completely. And on nights where I wasn’t supposed to take the day off, but just didn’t have it in me, I pounded out words for a set amount of time (maybe an hour), and then took the rest of the night off.
Reason #2: Real Life Issues
How it affects us
This reason overlaps a bit with the first. If you’re dealing with changes or issues in real life, it’s hard to keep your imaginary fiction life on track. Major issues obviously are going to interfere–having a baby, moving, starting a new job, health problems, going through a crisis. But even small things can add up to make writing difficult.
Maybe it’s a string of illnesses passing around the family. Or an extra-busy season at work or with kids’ activities. Maybe there are just enough extra things that need to get done, creating stress you haven’t recognized it yet. All these things take a toll on your ability to write.
Again, during NaNoWriMo, the only way for me to get 1600 words a day was to write during every spare moment. That meant shuffling aside a lot of other things I normally do. But even though I’d decided to put them off, that didn’t mean they weren’t nagging at the back of my mind. The more items that built up on my to-do list, the harder it became to concentrate on writing my story.
What to do about it
As with all these reasons, recognition is key. Take a few minutes to step back and evaluate what’s going on in your life. What are some of the things causing you stress? What does your calendar look like? Your to-do list? Do you need to prioritize some of these things above writing?
Nobody can go an entire month without paying the bills, so I had to give up some of my writing time during November to take care of household details. When I took a break from writing, and tackled some of those to-do list items, I found I could dive back into my work with renewed energy.
Depending on what’s going on for you, your break might look different. It took me a couple of writing sessions during the month to plan meals, pay bills, answer emails, and plan my homeschool week with my kids. Even though it was hard to sacrifice that time, it paid off in big dividends with renewed focus on my creative work. I cranked out words faster because I had less on my mind.
You might need more than a few writing sessions to deal with real life. Maybe you need a week or a month or even an entire season. When my little guy was born, I was too sleep-deprived to put words together into coherent sentences for at least six weeks. And when I did start to get some energy back, I eased in slowly.
Give yourself grace. Take a break to deal with pressing issues and trust that the time off will leave you renewed and refreshed.
Next time we’ll cover three more reasons we can lose our passion for writing.
If you couldn’t tell, this topic is near to my heart. After all, I write because I can’t not write. So when I hate writing, well, the whole universe feels out of whack. How about you? Have you dealt with either of these issues? What did you do about it? Feel free to share a comment!
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