How to Write When You Don't Feel Like Writing

Three Methods:Writing Through the BlockBoosting MotivationEstablishing Good Writing Habits

You're sitting at the computer. Your word processor shows a blank white page and a blinking vertical line where your beautiful words are supposed to be flowing and forming. So why can't you write? HOW can you write even though you don't feel up to it? Being able to create the motivation you need to write that paper for school or finish the novel you want to get published is as important as the ability to create quality writing.

Method 1
Writing Through the Block

  1. Image titled Write When You Don't Feel Like Writing Step 1
    Outline your writing. If you’re having trouble getting yourself to buckle down and write, devote some time to outlining what you intend to put down once you begin. A good outline can make writing significantly easier and may help get you excited about the writing itself.
    • Jot down the important things you want to address in your writing. This will ensure you cover each of them once you begin while also giving you a chance to regain your enthusiasm for the subject.[1]
    • The outline will make the writing process faster once you begin and help you make sure the elements of your piece are organized appropriately and in an order that supports the flow and tone of your piece.[2]
  2. Image titled Write When You Don't Feel Like Writing Step 2
    Do some bad writing. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard can get your creative juices flowing, even if what you’re putting down isn’t your best writing. Give yourself an opportunity to get your ideas on paper, then revise your work until it’s strong writing. Don’t be critical of yourself as your write your first draft. Remove the anxiety that may be ruining your motivation.[3]
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    Start where your passion is. If you already know how you’d like to conclude the piece, start there. Maybe there’s a portion of the story you know will be fun to write but you haven’t reached it yet; begin writing there. The enthusiasm you feel for that portion of the piece will help your motivation return and allow you to begin writing the other portions once you’re going again.
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    Reward yourself for being productive. Decide on something that would be a good reward for your hard work if you can get through the piece or portion you need to get done today, and don’t allow yourself to take that reward unless you achieve that goal.
    • Make sure the reward is personal and something you will really enjoy. It needs to be something that will motivate you to push through your lack of motivation.
    • The reward must be something you can enjoy immediately after you complete your writing. This will help you build a subconscious connection between your efforts and the reward. It’s like tricking your mind into wanting to work.
    • The reward must be something you wouldn’t normally give yourself otherwise. If you choose a reward you indulge in regularly it won’t serve as a strong motivator. Once you choose a reward, don’t allow yourself to do whatever it is unless as a reward for your writing.[4]
  5. Image titled Write When You Don't Feel Like Writing Step 5
    Do some freewriting. Give yourself a few minutes to write about anything you want. Allow it to be totally random and don’t focus on being productive. The point isn’t to create something you can use in your piece, but rather to get your creative juices flowing so you’ll get your motivation to write back.[5] Try using one of these writing prompts to get you started:
    • Write a letter to your past or future self.
    • Jot down what you see right outside your window, and go wherever that takes you.
    • Write a short story about your favorite characters from books, TV or movies.
    • Take a trip down memory lane and write about the earliest thing you can remember.
    • Write a short story about where you wish you were right now.[6]

Method 2
Boosting Motivation

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    Let yourself take a break. Do you just feel burned out? Then give yourself a break. Your brain can grow fatigued like any other muscle, and occasionally you need to give it some time to recover.[7]
    • Allow yourself a few minutes to watch your favorite TV show or to listen to your favorite song. Just make sure you give yourself a deadline to return to your work and stick to it. When you return you’ll feel refreshed and ready to devote your energy to your work.[8]
    • Don't use your break to check e-mail, update social media or read text messages. Research suggests that doing these things during a break can serve to increase stress, the opposite of what you're looking for.[9]
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    Do some snacking. Eating something you enjoy will release endorphins in your brain and improve your overall mood. Being hungry can make it very difficult to concentrate or to form coherent arguments. Take a few minutes to eat a snack, but don’t go overboard or you may find yourself napping instead of writing.[10]
    • Being hungry can affect your decision-making skills and alter your mood. You may not be able to do your best writing on an empty stomach.[11]
    • It can be hard to focus on what you're writing about when a part of your brain is more concerned with having something to eat. In fact, when you're hungry you are more likely to identify food related words than you are any other. Unless your essay is about cooking, this might not come in handy.[12]
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    Take a nap. Being sleep deprived can reduce your coordination and reasoning ability in a way that's comparable to drinking alcohol. If you're too tired to keep your eyes open, take a power nap.[13]
    • Limit your nap to under thirty minutes. Studies show that it's the optimal length for a nap during your day to increase productivity.[14]
    • A short nap can provide a 34% increase in performance and 100% increase in alertness.[15]
    • A ten-minute nap may be the best to improve how you feel. Naps lasting over thirty minutes can result in "sleep inertia" or a feeling of grogginess.[16]
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    Get moving. Move away from the computer or notebook for a few minutes and get your blood pumping. Getting a little exercise will improve your mood, increase your alertness, and make you feel good about yourself. It also provides your brain a break from the stress of writing. Go for a walk, dance around the room, or hit the gym. Just make sure you return to your work when you’re done.[17]
    • Getting some exercise can reverse the affects stress has on your brain. The serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine released through physical activity releases tension and makes you feel better.[18]
    • Exercising can release the key chemicals in your brain responsible for your memory, concentration and mental acuity, and the benefit compounds through frequent bouts of physical activity.[19]
  5. Image titled Write When You Don't Feel Like Writing Step 10
    Get help from your friends. Give a friend a call and ask if you can bounce some ideas off of them. Sometimes just talking about the subject you’re writing about is enough to create ideas that you won’t be able to wait to get down on paper. Your friend may have some great insights that send you in new directions you had never thought of before; two heads really can be better than one![20]

Method 3
Establishing Good Writing Habits

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    Make an appointment with yourself. It’s easy to feel too busy to write. You have social, academic and professional obligations that are always jockeying for your time, so you may be tempted to push your writing back in order to address things that seem more pressing at the time.
    • Set aside times that you are going to write and stick to your commitments.
    • Treat the appointment with yourself as though it’s an important meeting and don’t allow other obligations to interfere with it.[21]
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    Establish a routine. Set aside some space in your house, dorm or office that you use specifically for getting work done and sit in it during the times you set aside for your writing. If you make writing a priority regularly, you will begin to accept it as one and not feel anxious about setting aside time for it. Make it a part of your morning or evening ritual and be consistent with your choices. Using Pavlovian Conditioning, you’ll come to feel like it’s time to get to work when you sit down at your desk.[22]
    • Many of the most successful creators and scientists aided their creative methods with routines. It helps you establish good habits and focus on your work.[23]
    • Incorporate other important elements into your routine, like eating healthy meals and getting exercise.
    • Some common elements of a successful routine include keeping a clean and organized work space, going for walks, establishing a way to hold yourself accountable for your progress.[24]
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    Develop your writing skills. Producing good quality writing requires a great deal of focus and effort. Develop your brain-muscle by training it like an athlete would train their body.[25]
    • Practice free writing regularly to give your mind and body an opportunity to get used to the writing process as well as to get your ideas down on paper.
    • Become a natural observer. Focus on the things going on around you and how they relate to the larger world. Becoming conscious of the things that seem trivial in your daily life can help you better appreciate and write detail.[26]
    • Say yes to new experiences. Developing a mental library of experiences to pull from can help make you a stronger writer, and provide you with insights into subjects you may not otherwise have had. That doesn't mean you have to travel the globe; try to train yourself to be a student of the world (and its experiences) around you.[27]


  • Find a quiet but not too quiet place. Some writers need absolute silence (hermit cabins, potato cellars and the like suffice for them) while others need some background noise (a living room with a TV on low volume, the radio in the background or even a noisy park will work for these types).
  • Tell someone you are going to do some writing today. Social pressure can be an effective way of pressuring yourself into getting your work done.

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Categories: Studying Literature