Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I Don't Want to Write Today

by Rachael Phillips

Writers love their work 24/7. Intriguing plots flow from them like chocolate from a wedding reception fountain. Passionate wordsmiths, writers read the Chicago Manual of Style at the beach.

They would not prefer dusting ceiling fans to writing proposals. Or watching five hours of Gilligan’s Island in Spanish rather than writing chapters. They would never, ever choose exercise over sitting at their beloved computers, expanding word counts and derrieres.

Because writing is a magical, spontaneous, inspirational experience.

It’s like marriage that way.

But suppose—just suppose—a writer experiences a day that wanes from ecstasy to ennui. What then?

First, he can take a mini-vacation to recharge his creative batteries: brew a mug of his favorite coffee, read a funny blog, or call a friend. He might take a refreshing walk . . . to Chile.

Eventually, though, his editor’s lawyer will track him to Chile and strongly suggest the writer fulfill his contract.

At this point, pleasant self-prompts can signal it’s time to write. Classical music often serves as mine. On gloomy days, I light a fragrant candle. Some writers don a special writing outfit or hat, รก la Little Women’s Jo March. Leg irons can also be helpful.     

Should leg irons fail to inspire, grit your teeth and write two sentences, taking care to leave the second unfinished. 

Then dust ceiling fans. Banish alien fuzzes from your refrigerator. Dig out eaves. Scrub smelly trash cans. Even [shudder] balance your checkbook. Slave at household projects that have distracted you for days. Your mind eventually will wander to the sentence you left incomplete. (Writers dislike unfinished sentences the way musicians abhor unresolved chords.) Play with that half-sentence until it gels. Then mull over the chapter that hit the wall. Does it need a different point of view?

Stick with household slavery until writing seems like a wonderful idea. Pleading a cranky back, return to your computer and finish that sentence. That paragraph. That chapter. Switch the POV from the smiling brush salesman’s to the serial killer librarian’s.

Yesss! You just fractured your writing block’s cement-like hardness. Even if the results are immeasurably bad, terrible writing—unlike zero writing—can be edited into something that makes you want to write tomorrow, too.

How about you? Are you still hiding in Chile? Or have you, too, developed a cure for I-don’t-want-to-write days?


  1. On days I don't want to write, I do blog posts. They get me away from what's ailing me for a break, but keep me from getting behind on other things.

    1. That works, Liz! Switching projects or genres can sometimes prime the creative pump. And you've figured out a way to use it to keep on schedule? What a woman :-)