“How can I force myself to write?”Disgruntled writer
“How do I force myself to write when I don’t feel like it?”
“How do you write when you really don’t want to?”
You’ve been working on a blog post or story for days. You know you should write more but can’t get yourself to do it. The following is tough to follow through.
Writing an essay
Writing a blog post for your personal blog
Writing for work
Writing a technical documentation
Writing a novel
Writing down random thoughts
Someone commented on my LinkedIn post asking how to make time for writing.
Writing is a tough job. There are so many distractions that it’s hard to get started, keep going, and even complete your work. Procrastination can make you feel like you’re not productive for days. But there are motivators to write when you don’t to. Here are tips to help you.
10+ Tips on How To Write Even When You Don’t Want To
Procrastination is a good thing because your mind wanders on what to write. Does that sound counterproductive? Not really. Downtime is where you get lightbulb moments. Now it’s time to use your procrastination differently to motivate you to write when you don’t want to.
There’s a lot of motivational articles and books on how to write more. Moreso there are countless productivity hacks. In any case, here are my learnings and worked for me. I’ve also included references and books for you to continue your creative spark.
Break the writing down into smaller chunks
What I do is break the writing into small chunks. Instead of thinking “write a 1,000-word blog post”, think “write one paragraph every day”. Or “write one sentence every hour” to make it even smaller. Then do the work. Break down the task into super small activities that it’s impossible not to do them.
Atomic Habits author James Clear said that there are four laws to create a good habit. These are: a) make it obvious, b) make it attractive, c) make it easy, and d) make it satisfying. I gravitate toward making a habit easy and rewarding.
Do the least amount of effort. It may be small but you’re better off than before. It reaps compounded rewards in the end.
“This is a continuous process. There is no finish line. There is no permanent solution. Whenever you’re looking to improve, you can rotate through the Four Laws of Behavior Change until you find the next bottleneck. Make it obvious. Make it attractive. Make it easy. Make it satisfying. Round and round. Always looking for the next way to get 1 percent better.”James Clear
Find topics you’re good at
You start writing when you know a topic very well. The words come to you instantly when you have experience with what you’re writing. If you’re not good at something do the research or take notes as your experiences come in.
It’s tough if a topic is technical for you. Watch “crash course” videos. Or read “for dummies” books. Or consume “ultimate guide” articles. Getting one piece of information is better than nothing. You’re better off than you are yesterday when accumulating small information.
Do search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing when writing content for work.
Do keyword research and build on it. sometimes the data-driven way is a good way to get inspiration for you to start writing. Use online tools to do keyword research. Do content research on websites. In social media, check what’s trending and build on it. In creative writing, add your personal spin on your story.
Speaking of tools…
Use tools to overcome procrastination
What a time to be alive. There are now tools to help you write.
Tools like jasper.ai or headlime.com can write long-form content. Getting tired of getting inspiration? These tools can give word suggestions with a few clicks. They are powered by artificial intelligence writing that makes it easier for the writer to transcribe ideas.
Also, use tools like SERanking or Keywords Everywhere for keyword research. Use tools like Frase to build content briefs and document drafts. It doesn’t have to be only for content marketing purposes. Use tools like Grammarly to speed up your editing. Learn more tools that are used in the digital marketing industry.
But these are only tools. The systems and processes still come from you. Tools are not substitutes for good habits. Heck, use your messaging apps to document if ideas come to your head.
This leads to the next tip…
Document, don’t create
Gary Vee said, “Document, don’t create”. I’m not a super follower of his content but this is a good tip.
When doing meetings, take notes. Those notes would become a blog post about something. When you get a spark of creativity or insight or opinion, write it down on your mobile phone. It becomes a story in the end.
This is not only about writing but also about learning new things. I recently learned to code and I journal and take notes on what I’ve learned. Looking at it serves as an entry point or an inclination that this could be a series of blog posts in the future.
I have a journal to write on when ideas emerge. To me, any creative pursuit will benefit when there’s something to document. Jotting down notes helps you have an arsenal of things to write about. This works in creative writing or content writing.
I wouldn’t have written my articles if it weren’t for documenting. These are random thoughts about my work. There are rewards in the end with this system.
Level up your environment
Make it easy to get you inspired. Do small things in your environment to encourage you to write more when you don’t want to. This is a way to force inspiration into your daily routine.
Declutter your desk and get the creative juice flowing. Add boards beside your desktop monitors. Heck, add stickers on the side of your screens. Anything that can spice up your desk or workspace. It’s spontaneous but at the same time organized.
Believe it or not, I work around my workspace and the hallway every time I write 3-4 sentences. It’s crazy but it works for me. It might be bizarre but it helps me be immobilized to finish work. You have no idea how many times I walked at this point of this article.
If you go to a coffee shop and spent on something, you’re now forced to write something. Think about it, you don’t want to waste what you spent. You don’t want to have an empty reward of getting into a coffee shop and not doing actual work.
Deep Work author Cal Newport says one of the best ways to avoid friction and do deep work is to ritualize.
“To work deeply is a big deal and should not be an activity undertaken lightly. Surrounding such efforts with a complicated (and perhaps, to the outside world, quite strange) ritual accepts this reality—providing your mind with the structure and commitment it needs to slip into the state of focus where you can begin to create things that matter.”Cal Newport
This leads me to the next bit…
This is like giving yourself a deadline. Planning on a calendar adds to making habits easier. It forces you to stick to it. Setting accountability is easier if your job depends on it. If you’re a professional writer then you have no choice but to write when you don’t want to. Taking accountability is adding weight to your shoulders to motivate you.
Also, have someone help you commit and it can be for any kind of habit. Yannis from Martech with Me is my accountability for learning Python. Every other week we set a meeting and we speak about Python and writing.
That gave me the idea to have accountability to learn Python so I can contribute. It forces me to learn Python little by little which would help me build something.
Deep Work author Cal Newport says to not work alone. It encourages spontaneous creativity and collaboration. But it still helps achieve deep work.
“Consider the use of collaboration when appropriate, as it can push your results to a new level. At the same time, don’t lionize this quest for interaction and positive randomness to the point where it crowds out the unbroken concentration ultimately required to wring something useful out of the swirl of ideas all around us.”Cal Newport
The next tip is useful if you don’t have someone that serves as your accountability partner for writing…
Set a section goal
This is the same as setting word count as your goal. But I don’t want to have a rigid understanding of word count. But rather a more contextualized version of a word count. This is related to breaking down a task into small chunks.
Now to me setting a word count is not so much as sticking it at the number of characters to write about. I see it as “section count”. Don’t think about writing more characters on a page. But think of finishing a section of the article.
Trust me it’s much easier and less demoralizing. There’s a complete thought this way. Rather than writing x amount of characters, write to complete sections.
I use this tactic when reading as well. I don’t read based on the number of pages. But I read based on chapters regardless of how long or short the chapters are.
If you’re writing as a side project, this system is better than setting accountability. The accountability part is in yourself rather than from other people.
How do you stay creative in writing? When creativity well runs dry, reading is the best way to combat that. What better way to start writing again than to read books? Here’s a list of books on creativity to help you.
Creativity is an important element in any industry or occupation. The way you think can affect your writing and how well you perform on the job. Reading gives all sorts of creative ideas that translate into your writing.
How To Read A Book author Mortimer J. Adler points out that reading grows our minds and rewards us. So, go ahead and pick up a book.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”Stephen King
“Reading well, which means reading actively, is thus not only a good in itself, nor is it merely a means to advancement in our work or career. It also serves to keep our minds alive and growing.”Mortimer J. Adler
First drafts always suck
You have heard countless times that your first draft won’t be good. It can’t further from the truth. Don’t be a perfectionist. Ann Handley said to “Embrace The Ugly First Draft”. Write should accept The Ugly First Draft (or TUFD for short). Don’t aim to write a great post in minutes.
The way I interpret this is you iterate your first draft and improve upon it.
In coding, it’s 10% writing code and 90% debugging. In entrepreneurship, it’s 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Then In writing, it’s 10% writing and 90% editing. These are different contexts but the idea is the same. Doing is more powerful than having a long fear that your output should be perfect.
“Much of writing paralysis is the result of expecting too much of ourselves the first time out. Sowing letters onto the blank page and expecting something strong and powerful and fully formed to emerge is unrealistic. Unless you some kind of deity, that’s not going to happen.”Ann Handley
Do hobbies outside of writing
Doing other hobbies is a nice change of pace. Having other hobbies gives you an outside perspective on things. And this is important in writing. Giving your mind fresh new ideas. Having other hobbies gives the ability for empathy. And empathy is super important to writing.
Do volunteer work or do crafts. It’s beneficial to increase empathy and being attuned to the world. Interact with endearing people and socialize. Know their stories and learn their experiences. Do something new in your day.
Try exercising! The mind and body are like rebooted software afterward. Be creatively active elsewhere and come back to your story later.
“Empathy is neither a deviation from intelligence. nor the single route to it. Sometimes we need detachment; many other times we need attunement. And the people who will thrive will be those who can toggle between the two.”Daniel Pink
Coming back to your body of work on a later date leads to the last tip…
Sit on it — incubate
This is the creative incubation phase. Once you have a burst of energy, just write it down. Then leave it alone and put it on the back burner. Let your ideas get warm and give yourself time. Great ideas are created when the person is not in the “active” phase of the project. The eureka moments happen in this phase.
Once you come back, you have fresh ideas on what right next. It’s much like exercise. Exercising is great but resting your body side is equally important.
Conclusion: Just Write Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
I admire professional writers who are constantly pushing their mental capacity to write. I’m no expert and I struggle still with writing things on my blog but I try. Write small. You become better than you are yesterday.
Don’t think, just do. Implement these tips and continue upon on whatever works for you. I’d like to end this article from Lisa Cron in her book creative writing book Wired For Story:
“What emerges is your vision, seen through the eyes of your readers, experienced by your readers. So what are you waiting for? Write! Although they may not know it yet, your public is eager to find out what happens next.”Lisa Cron
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Deep Work by Cal Newport
A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink
Everybody Writes by Ann Hadley
How To Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler
Wired for Story by Lisa Cron