How to Write When You Don’t Feel Up to It

IMG_1513Sometimes, especially lately, it’s hard to do the creative work you want to do. I’ve used a bunch of tricks to get around the blocks. I offer them here, in hopes they’ll inspire you.

If you have tricks of your own, please add them in the comments below.

  1. Make a list. Whether it’s topics you want to explore or scenes that need to be written, it’s easier to begin writing when you have a prompt.
  2. Set a timer. There’s something about the tiniest amount of time pressure that tricks your brain into thinking it’s on a deadline. Start with a block of 15 minutes. You might find yourself pounding out the words to beat the bell. If the words are really flowing, you can always add a second 15-minute sprint.
  3. Make a date with a friend. Whether you sit down together in a cafe (someday!) or meet online for a video chat, it really helps to know that someone else is working alongside you.
  4. Put your headphones on. Many writers make a playlist that they only listen to when they work on a particular story or book. Listening to the same music every time you write can train your brain to provide inspiration on command.
  5. Write somewhere else. If you normally write at a desk, try moving to the sofa or the kitchen table or sitting in bed. The simple act of shifting to new surroundings can shake loose the words.
  6. Try a different writing tool. Do you usually write on a laptop? Try writing by hand in a notebook or attach a keyboard to your phone. Some writers swear by word processing keyboards like AlphaSmart or FreeWrite, which only allow you to see a small amount of the text you’re working on.
  7. Write first thing in the morning. It’s tempting to start the day by checking email or scrolling social media, but what would you come up with if you listened to your own thoughts first thing in the morning?
  8. Write last thing at night. Take a notebook to bed and draft one more scene before you go to sleep. Do the words feel different as you’re settling in for the night?  Maybe your subconscious will solve a writing problem for you in your dreams.
  9. Experiment with dictation. The simple act of telling yourself your story can inspire you.
  10. Step away from writing. Sometimes the best ideas come when you can’t write them down. Go for a walk, wash the dishes, or take a shower. Let your mind play without the pressure of a blank page staring at you. As soon as you finish your break, sit down to record the thoughts that occurred in the interim.
  11. Set an alarm. Promise yourself that you will sit down to write as soon as the alarm goes off. Giving yourself the anticipation of writing time can be inspirational.
  12. Remind yourself why you write. Do you have a story you’re burning to tell? Do you have a lesson you want to teach? Are you curious how your story will turn out? Clarifying why you want to do this can show you the path how to do it.
  13. Ask “And then what happens?” Sometimes the next scene isn’t clear. You can get wound up trying to figure out what needs to happen. Instead of insisting on what the story needs, narrow your focus until you only need to come up with the next step. Then write that next step…and the next one after that.
  14. Perfect is the enemy of done. Don’t waste time choosing the right word. Put down the almost-right word, enclose it in parentheses, and keep going. You can always fix it later. This works for names, descriptions, and anything you might need to research. Aim for momentum over poetry in your first draft.
  15. Chart your progress. Whether you put a check on the calendar, color in a box on a habit-tracking chart, or simply make note of your word count, record the days you write. If you only write 500 words a day for 100 days, you’ll have a 50,000-word book before long. It’s addictive to see your progress.

What tricks have worked for you?

About Loren Rhoads

I'm the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, as well as a space opera trilogy. I'm also co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. In addition to blogging at, I blog about my morbid life at
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7 Responses to How to Write When You Don’t Feel Up to It

  1. Martha j allard says:

    I love the alphasmart, or as we call it here, the clickty-clack. But my notebook will always be the best first place to start. I’m going to do the timer thing tho. See if that will help.

  2. I’ve been using one of those Internet blocking apps. I can’t browse the web or watch a YT video or anything, so I might as well write.:-)

  3. At last I have found this list again! It is very good. The only thing I can add is a variant of #11 – the old stand-by of telling myself I *cannot* write – at least, not the thing I want too – until something else is complete. Focuses the mind wonderfully!

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