Are you writing a book but you find that you’re not actually writing it? Like you have the idea, you’ve started it, but every time you come to the screen or the notepad, the words just won’t come? If so, I might know why…
Nothing going on
When the book is all you have to do, the pressure is too much or you can become bored with it. I’ve felt this way recently.
When you have no other work to do or places to go, the book becomes sort of like a responsibility. It’s less fun, less creative, and more “I have to do this” because there’s no excuse not to.
I believe that creativity can’t be, and perhaps shouldn’t be, forced. That you can’t sit down at the computer and be like “okay creativity, let’s go!” It doesn’t work that way.
Instead, writing a book takes discipline. It means bringing yourself to the page even when creativity isn’t there; even when the excitement isn’t there. It’ll come and go, and that’s okay; the first draft just needs to come and flow when it can or be pushed and prodded in the other times.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
My advice for people who have nothing else to do but write the book is: do something else! You, the creativity, the book just can’t hack the pressure. Try to mix other things into your day so that you’ll actually want to write again when the time comes.
Maybe you’re doing too many other things and it’s last of your priorities. Opposite to the first point is the times in life when you’re actually too busy. Your to-do list is long and time and again, your book is at the bottom of your priorities.
This happens. Life happens. However, if you really want this book to be written and get out there, then you need to rethink your priorities. What are you doing that is taking time away from the book? Is it the right thing to be doing? Can you find time somewhere else? Lunch breaks, commuting, instead of watching Netflix?
At the end of the day, if you really want to write this book then you will make time. It may be easy for me to say as someone with little other responsibilities. But there are authors who had full-time jobs and children but still wrote their book. There are authors who used to work multiple jobs and care for their families while writing their book.
It may take longer, and it may drain you, but if you want this, you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get it done. If not, maybe it’s time to set the book aside.
A key piece of advice that I would give is to set boundaries in your life, or to set timeslots that are for writing which are non-negotiable. Tell your family when they are bugging you to back off for an hour and bug your partner or play amongst themselves for that time. It doesn’t make you a bad mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son (etc.) to do this!
Ask for help and support from loved ones so that you are less busy with menial tasks. Learn to say no, and put the book first (or second, or third, but definitely not last).
*DO NOT PUSH YOURSELF TO THE POINT OF ILLNESS. IF YOU NEED A BREAK, TAKE IT. I’M JUST SAYING, DON’T CHOOSE TO DO THE DISHES WHEN SOMEONE ELSE CAN DO THEM FOR YOU WHILE YOU DO SOME WRITING INSTEAD!*
Another reason could be that you don’t actually have any emotional ties to the narrative or the characters. Some people get ideas and just start working with them without actually caring about the idea on a personal level.
I’ve found that ideas that I’ve forced aren’t the ones that get completed. Ones where I don’t feel a connection to what the character is going through or the narrative itself means I don’t care to even write it at the end of the day.
In the early stages, I may be excited because it’s a cool concept, but without any emotional ties, it makes it hard to stick to the project.
So ask yourself, why are you even trying to write this book? Do you care about it? Do you feel anything from the narrative or the character’s journey? If not, maybe it’s not the book you should actually be writing.
Another thing to consider is if the book even excites you at all. If it doesn’t excite you, it won’t excite a reader. If it doesn’t excite you, you’re not going to sit down to write it when you’re tired. You won’t have the discipline to stick with it.
Sometimes it’s because it’s the second book you’ve ever written and we all know that the second book is harder than the first. If you published the first, then the pressure is even worse.
This is because the pressure is turned up to the max. People read your first book and perhaps they loved it, so now you feel pressured to make the second book just as good.
Even if you didn’t publish the first book, the pressure can still be there in your mind. You want it to stack up to or be better than the first. Maybe it’s a sequel and so everything you set up in the first needs to be built on in the second. You don’t want to miss any detail or let anyone down. And so the pressure is so bad that you’re paralysed and it doesn’t get written.
The only advice I can give here is to breathe. To try to reignite your love for this story. To focus solely on the narrative and the characters and try to put the idea of publishing and audience and structure aside. Just get the first draft (the messy first draft) written and then worry about the rest afterwards.
A big pitfall for first-time novelists is trying to achieve perfection. The short of it is: perfection doesn’t exist. Your book will never be perfect, and the first draft 100% will not be. If you ever want to write this book, you have to allow it (and yourself) to be imperfect. You need to tell yourself that perfection is just the lie you tell yourself in order to procrastinate or self-sabotage.
Perfection (along with procrastination and self-sabotage) comes from a place of fear. And it’s OK to be afraid of what the book may mean for you. It’s exciting and scary stuff, writing a book! You’re allowed to be afraid, but you have to do it anyway.
So, stop telling yourself that the chapter isn’t good enough, and so you “must keep rewriting it or editing it.” Move on. Let the first draft be rough. It’s going to be nothing compared to the end result. A team of expert editors will work on it when you’re on the publishing road, so just do your part by getting it written first.
Structure and story
Lastly, maybe you don’t know what writing a book involves. You can totally write it however you like, but there’s one thing you need for sure: a beginning, middle, end. You need to know, at least vaguely, where the book is going.
If you don’t know what book you’re writing, then it is going to be difficult to write it. Being blind to genre, audience, plot, character development, messages and morals and themes, and more means your book isn’t a book…it’s just an idea.
Having an idea is, of course, the starting point of a story which then becomes a book; but don’t expect it to get written if all you have is “it’s about a girl who moves to Africa.”
Okay, great, so what? What happens? Why does she go? What’s her motivation? What does she need to learn on the way to help her grow as a person? What is the actual story here?
When you can answer these questions, it gives you a real story to tell. It’ll probably give you emotional ties too, which, as I mentioned before, helps you to write it. And then it will also give you an idea about structure.
This isn’t a Plotting versus Winging-It conversation. I think you can do whatever works for you. However, you do need to know the story you want to tell. Why you’re telling it. And who it’s actually about. And then you can fill in the detail around that as you go or plot it out however you like.
There you have it. These are some reasons why you might not be writing that book that you want to write. If you’re feeling stuck, don’t give up. Don’t beat yourself up; we all get stuck. Follow my advice or start to ask yourself some big questions, and it will help you to get back on track.