The Practice of Creativity

Tips for When that ‘I Don’t Feel Like Writing’ Mood Hits

Posted on: September 15, 2014

It’s been a busy week. I launched a new research project, got a new computer and had all my data migrated from my old computer to the new, taught my classes, attended a colleague’s book reading, and mentored students. And, those are just the things I can remember in the moment! Although I kept up both my daily academic and creative writing counts during the week, by the time Friday arrived, I really did not feel like writing. You might have a day like that from time to time, too.


The part of me that would rather not do my daily writing said things like: “It’s Friday. You deserve a day off. You’re tired. You have to clean your office.” You know, the usual.
It also went into existential territory, including “What does it matter anyway?”

I have a list of things to try (or remember) when a strong and persistent feeling hits that makes it difficult to write. I went to it on Friday. Maybe you have such a list, too. Here’s mine:


1. Stay put and write. Even writing one sentence can be the momentum that pulls you forward.
2. Remember the quote by author Barbara Sher, “Moods are very short, projects are very long.” The ‘not feeling in the writing mood’ will dissipate pretty quickly by actually writing.
3. Remember writing is not what I ‘have to do’ but what I ‘get to do’.
4. Small amounts of daily writing moves work forward. There are people who have finished books and got them published by writing as little as 100 to 250 words a day.
5. Remember that when I get my writing done, I stop having to pay the “worry tax”. The “worry tax,” is the mental tax you’re paying when you keep thinking about writing but don’t make any concrete plans to write. The worry tax is a joy killer.
6. Order a book about the craft of writing that I’ve been wanting for some time. Then start writing.
7. Take a few minutes to read interviews with writers. The site has wonderful interviews with writers including Connie Willis, Robert Olen Butler and Susie Bright.
8. Exercise and then come back to writing.
9. Switch gears and genres. I like to have multiple writing projects that I can move between when I get stuck on a particular one. Usually playing around a few minutes on whatever I deem the most fun project in my life, at the moment, can coax me into a good writing mood.
10. Take a break from the computer and write for a few minutes in my journal: “What I really want to say about X is…”

What’s your favorite way to coax yourself back into writing when you’re in one of those ‘not wanting to write’ moods?


7 Responses to "Tips for When that ‘I Don’t Feel Like Writing’ Mood Hits"

I don’t try to force myself to write, but I go and sit in my favourite chair and pull out a book. Generally relaxing my mind in that way gets me out of that mood and back into the creative vibe.


Hi Kate,
Thanks for stopping by. Yes, sometimes, i can get into the right mood, just by reading an author I love.


Hi Michele, I become a detective. I type an admired paragraph or poem, paying attention to how the writer solved problems, advanced ideas, made the writing zhizz. I might even write my own imitation as an exercise. 🙂


Love it, Mary! And, it works, as you are clearly one of the most productive poets I know!


Great tips. Sometimes when I’m not in the mood to write, I edit, which can spark some ideas as well.


Thanks Karen,
Editing is a great way to keep the forward motion going without having to generate new material.


“It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.”
― Robert Hass

Normally I don’t agree with Robert Hass on this but on the days when I do it’s comforting knowing he felt that way too.

Sometimes I let myself do “research” instead. Involves searching google streetview for locations, writing bits of backstory, making up names for bit parts. I even let myself use pinterest to create character boards as a way of nailing down my ideas of a character. Too much research is procrastination for me but generally I prefer writing after a while so always revert back to it.


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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