While busy, modern-day lives mean there will always be occasions when you can’t write when you want to, there is also a time in a writer’s life when you want to write, but you just can’t.
Not because you couldn’t sit down at your desk. Not because you didn’t have the whole house to yourself. Not because you didn’t have any ideas. You. Just. Can’t. Do. It.
If that sounds likes present-you, past-you, or likely future-you, these reasons might be why…
4 Reasons Why You Can’t Write And What To Do About It
1) You’re Overwhelmed By The Advice
Learning how to write is an important part of growing as a writer, but sometimes that learning can get too overwhelming. You might sit at your keyboard, tapping out a sentence and then analyze it to death. Is this sentence all telling? Does this need an internal character thought? Have I made the POV deep enough? Is it too revealing/boring/long?
That writing advice, those lessons for what to do to make your writing great, has crippled you. You can’t string together one sentence, and if you can’t do that, your work in progress will remain an unfinished WIP.
What To Do About It: Keep writing. Don’t stop to analyze the sentence. Write it, make a note about what you want it to be, and move to the next sentence. When you’ve finished the draft, look at the sentence and the notes you’ve made, and then analyze things. Applying the advice can happen in later drafts. Get it written first.
2) You’re Frozen By Your Feedback
Getting feedback for your writing is a great thing—it’s also super scary. Suddenly it’s not just you who has an opinion on your words, and that can be both helpful and a hindrance.
What To Do About It: If you’ve been given feedback, even if it’s good, and it’s stopping you from writing, you need a plan of attack. This is the time to analyze things and take a good look at the feedback you were given.
Is it valid? Should it be applied? Can you learn from it? Should it be ignored? Work out what kind of feedback it is, if you will implement it, what you will dismiss, and give yourself some time to process it—especially if it was bad feedback that made you want to give up. Once you know what to do with the feedback, it’s much easier to deal with it and get back to writing.
3) You’re Not Organized
Even someone who prides themselves on being organized can find that not being organized enough will stop them from writing. Saying “I will write today” doesn’t make it happen if you haven’t allocated time in your schedule and physically sat in your chair to write. You need to organize your day so it will happen.
The same theory applies to being organized when it comes to your work. For example, I’ve been squirreling away a list of blog post ideas for years, totally overwhelmed by the thought of having to write any of them when I look at the list. One day last year, I organized this huge idea list into categories, and it totally unblocked me!
Organizing it made the list more manageable, and now when I sit down to blog, I don’t look at my ideas with dread, I get straight into picking something from a category and writing the blog post.
What To Do About It: Even if you suck at organizing, try to add a little to your day and what you’re working on. Being organized about what you’re going to write, sorting it into manageable chunks, and allocating the time to write could make all the difference to you achieving your goals and actually writing.
4) You Don’t Have A Specific Goal
This also falls into the vague, “I’ll do this!” category. Recently I was all set to work on an MS I finished writing in 2017. I had the words, I had twenty-seven chapters to go through, I’d reread the story and was happy with it, I even knew what I needed to do to improve it. All that was left was to start my rewrite/new draft at chapter one. Easy, right?
Nope. I spent a week doing everything but sitting down to write. Suddenly I needed to make marketing graphics. I needed to procrasta-write some blogs. I needed to keep up with social media. I kept telling myself I knew what to do with the MS, so I could get to it later. The truth was, I was overwhelmed by it. The task at hand was stopping me from writing.
What To Do About It: Instead of the vague goal of “rewriting this whole MS,” I broke it down into one simple specific goal: “Rewrite one chapter a day”. That’s all I had to do. Just one chapter per day, and then I was free to work on anything else, to procrastinate doing anything else, just as long as I had that one goal of a chapter done.
Being specific and setting that goal got me out of my funk. I can happily report I have since worked on one chapter a day, and it’s reminded me why I love writing, that I can write (very important), and the progress has given me the confidence to keep going. All from setting a specific goal, instead of the broader goal that was stopping me from writing.
How about you? Has something given you a reason not to write and did you find a solution? Share it in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it!
— K.M. Allan