Skip to main content

Not in the Writing Mood?

Falling out of a writing mood can happen to the best of us, and getting back in can be tougher than talking your way into a secret, after-hours, invite-only nightclub. But if we don’t try to break through, then we’re not writing, and if we’re not writing…well, then we can’t call ourselves writers, can we?

One of my favorite methods for getting in the mood is to read a little from a favorite author in the genre I’m writing. For example, if I’m working on a noir piece, Alan Furst or Raymond Chandler always get me in the mood. If something edgier, maybe Hunter S. Thompson or Charles Bukowski (although one must be careful to borrow the spirit and not the voice of the author). Another technique I use if I’m not in the mood to pick up where I left off in a novel is to try working on a short story, essay, or poem instead. Sometimes switching up the genres and forms can jump-start my inspiration.

Jack Smith, author of the recently released Write and Revise for Publication, is a pro when it comes to taking a step back and figuring out how to fix the kinks of a novel or story, and getting in the mood to write is a problem he has tackled for himself and for the many students and readers he has helped over the years. Here is what he has to say on the matter:

u1397_500px_72dpi

As a writer you’ve got to be constantly at it. You need to generate a lot of words, revise, and fine-tune in order to feel as if you’ve finally finished your book. But what if you’re just not in the mood for it?

Why not try my “dribble method”?

Sit down and force yourself to write 100 words. That’s all. Probably what will happen is you will get in the mood and write a little more. That small spark of productivity might be all it takes, and keeping the bar low will trick your mind into thinking that you’re just dipping your toe in the pool rather than preparing to dive in head first. The trick often works, but let’s say you don't feel inspired to write more…one hundred words is better than nothing, right?

Why not 200 or 300? Do you realize that 300 words a day is 2,000 in a week? And how long does it take you to write 300 words? Probably about 5 minutes if you really pound those keys. But keeping that bar low, as I said, can make it far easier to get the ball rolling. And once you start, you’ll hit 200, 300, and beyond in no time.

And don’t worry about how those first hundred or so words turn out. It might be pretty awful, but you’ve got a start. It might be pretty good, too. You might really find your voice. You might look up an hour later and realize you finished a whole chapter.

If you really don’t feel like cranking out new stuff, how about this? Take something you’ve written and do surface-level editing. Don’t demand anything major of yourself. Just go through a story or a section of a novel and improve the wording, or simply read it to yourself for clarity. Enjoy the story for what it is rather than edit at all (but you will, won’t you?) and you’ll be surprised by how you feel. Once you get into it, you’ll probably end up doing more, either in that story or in another.

Sometimes we simply don’t like to write. We don’t feel inspired. But if you don’t set out to accomplish a lot, and instead just “dribble it out” in small efforts, you may still find yourself being productive despite your mood.

For more writing advice from Jack Smith, look for his new book, Write and Revise for Publication, at the Writer’s Digest Shop!

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave clues for people to find them.

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Author Sharon Maas discusses the 20-year process of writing and publishing her new historical fiction novel, The Girl from Jonestown.

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

While the writing process may be an independent venture, the literary community at large is full of writers who need and want your support as much as you need and want theirs. Here, author Aileen Weintraub shares 6 steps in becoming a good literary citizen.

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Journalist and author Daniel Paisner discusses the process of writing his new literary fiction novel, Balloon Dog.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 614

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a summer poem.

Give Your Characters a Psych Eval

Give Your Fictional Characters a Psych Eval

TV writer, producer, and novelist Joshua Senter explains why characters can do absolutely anything, but it's important to give them a psych eval to understand what can lead them there.

Writer's Digest Presents podcast image

Writer's Digest Presents: Vacation Reads (Podcast, Episode 6)

In the sixth episode of the Writer's Digest Presents podcast, we talk about what makes for a good vacation read, plus a conversation with authors Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser and our first ever WD Book Club selection from debut author Grace D. Li.