Do you ever feel like not writing?

Photo by Theresa Barker.

There are mornings when I’ve looked forward to having time open for writing, and then the morning comes and I feel . . . . blah.  I really can’t understand why it might feel so great to look forward to a block of time without other commitments, and then when the time comes, I shy away from writing.  What’s up with that?

Feeling that way this morning, I did some journalling to try to engage that reluctant part of me, and what came up was this:

  • “I’m afraid to start writing something that might not turn out the way I want.  I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed and I’ll think it wasn’t worth it, and I might as well just save myself the time and do something else.” OR
  • “What made me think I’m a writer at all?  I should just give up before I ruin something else I’m writing.”

Where do these feelings come from?  I have written things I love and that feel beautiful and creative and wonderfully artistic.  But at a moment’s notice that nasty little critic inside my head jumps out, or simply lags back, and whispers crummy little things in my brain.  “What made you think you were a writer?”  and that awful one, “Why even try?”

This struggle has been with me a long time.  Last week I decided to try a nonverbal approach, just for a change.  I sketched the little thing in my brain that was keeping me away from writing.  And this is what I came up with:

Sketch by Theresa Barker.

What are these?
1) The first one is a cloud, or a miasma, that sticks to the back of my brain predicting failure.  It says, “Oh, don’t even start, you’ll just be disappointed, even if you think of a story that is promising, it’ll never work out that way, you know how it goes…just do something else instead.”

2)  The second one is a beast, which roars at the inside of my brain after I’ve been writing, “See?  It is a failure!  You ruined it!  No one’s going to want to read this.  Why did you even try?”

Auuhhh!  Harsh!  With these two entities inside my head, no wonder I shy away from writing!  Who in their right mind would go up against these two naysaying voices?  You’d want to save yourself from this kind of abuse, right?

But.

When I’m feeling really hesitant, I try to nudge myself to talk to the voices, usually through journalling.  I try to say something like, “I know you’re afraid we won’t be successful and creative enough.  You’re trying to protect me, and that’s okay.  But I really really want to try to make some new art, I want to try to be creative and bring something brand-new into this world.  How about if we give it a try and gently see what happens?”

Sounds strange, huh?  But if I step back and ask myself, do I want to write?  Maybe I should just quit and do something else permanently?  – I always come back to YES, I do want to write, I love the feeling of newness and spark that comes out of it, and even the “bad” stuff isn’t the end of the world.  It only seems like it before I start.

Do you find yourself hesitating before you write?  Do you wish you could just write without fear?  Or, are you always ready to write without a feeling of reluctance?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for visiting!

25 thoughts on “Do you ever feel like not writing?

  1. Recently I noticed my posting has slowed down a wee bit, two posts per month rather than the four I usually aim for…I decided to just sit with it, making sure my notebook was nearby to capture any inspiration that might come my way and finally, some movement…your post is an excellent reminder to work with our inner critics/characters rather than against them and yes, journaling is a wonderful way to break through, thank you for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kimberlee, I like your idea not to compel your writing self to post more often, to honor the energy and where it wants to be putting attention. That’s great! I also love the picture in my mind of you having your notebook nearby to catch those lovely inspirations that come along. It sounds like you are on the right track. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts!

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  2. What you are describing is not unique, Theresa. We all have occasionally these nagging doubts. One needs to muster up courage to silence the voices within us, which are trying to discourage us from writing. My recipe for overcoming these negatives is to have a focus, a theme that cries out to be completed, perhaps a story, or sequence of events that has not yet been finished. Do I make any sense?

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  3. I liked your sketches – and just a side note – I do not like the verbiage of someone being a writer or not.
    now there are times when an title can be used, like a song-writer, a book author, a paid journalist, or even a memoirist, but in my very humble opinion I think anyone that writes IS a writer. But maybe there is a an entire group of folks who will join you in this wrestling…
    I also think that we also might forget that we are human and many times our life is so full and we might place writing demands that don’t allow percolating time.
    for example, Emily Dickinson was successful in her own way. She wrote dense pieces and might have had days upon days of mulling over one word.
    and sometimes – not saying it is you – but sometimes I see authors with a quantity of pages goal – or they are exhausted and might need rest – or time to just think – writing is sometimes a thinking time and process – but it can also be output only – and pulling back and times away from writing might be what some writers need. Others might lose flow and the candle goes out. But to wrestle with “if I am a writer” feels like self-defeating thinking that just does not sit right with me – ya know?

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    1. “in my very humble opinion I think anyone that writes IS a writer.” Nicely said, Yvette! Good reminder. I liked your observation, too, about sometimes benefiting from stepping back rather than pouring out pages for the sake of pages. I see this as a problem when writers say, “I’m going to write N words per day,” as a hard-and-fast rule. You know, when I said, “What makes you think you’re a writer,” now I realize I DO think I’m a writer, I don’t doubt it … and my thoughts were more about a mood of hyper-criticism rather than questioning my identity. Good to clarify. And good for you for championing that you ARE a writer because you are writing. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your observations!

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  4. When I look at the 2017 archive of my blog, I made 68 posts in April and 66 in January, but only 15 in January 2018. Somehow I feel fine with it. When my husband was still working, I could write all day long. Now I have different priorities such as my granddaughter, or something else occupies my mind. I’m a singer, but lately, I find myself have no patience singing for two hours during rehearsal. I think everything in my life affects our mind when we want to write.
    You may not have any distraction, Teresa. I like reading this post. When I taught writing in the classroom, the students said, I don’t know what to write. I asked a few questions, they started telling me stories. Then I said, write everything you just told me.
    I have problems lately also, regarding the right thing to write. I think I just write anything that comes to my mind, at least in my journal without thinking about posting/publishing it.

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    1. Miriam, you are so wise to have posed to students questions that could start their storytelling. It reminds me that the mind, sometimes, thinks “I can’t think of a story,” but then it can be coaxed out when you start to ask little questions.

      I like your idea to use the journal to capture thoughts, even if they are not complete stories or pieces yet. It’s very forgiving of our “muses” to jot something down when it occurs, very accepting of the creative spirit, without putting pressure on it to “perform.” Thank you! 🙂

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  5. I know exactly what you are talking about Theresa! There are even days when I have a perfectly framed story in my head but there is a deep reluctance to put it into words. I struggled and struggle to break the bonds of inertia but dont always manage. But one thing that does seem to help dissolve it is when i read something, anything maybe a blog post or two. It sort of loosens to distances myself from a self-induced pressure and then just as I relax I pounce on myself and crack the whip 😀

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    1. Thank you, Dahlia, how familiar this reads to me. I really like your idea to read something, like a kind of thread that pull you slowly out of the inertia and into the expression of the story in your mind. Thank you for seeing so clearly what I, too, was struggling with!

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  6. Love your illustration of the lion. While I never feel this at the beginning of a writing project, I do find myself hearing those voices while mired at the middle or end of one. To escape it I turn to music or artwork, which helps inspire me in a direction I hadn’t thought of before. I’m interested to find out — do the negative voices attack you when you begin your sketch work too?

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    1. Wow, thank you for the compliment on my illustration, Bespoke Traveler! I think it’s interesting that you hear these voices once you are already in the project. I really like the suggestion to turn to music or art, taking you in a different direction. I’m just starting to explore the connection to non-verbal arts and my writing. – Also, very shrewd question about whether the negative voices impact my sketching. Not at all! Time flies when I’m drawing, and I’m not sure why that is. Oh, I can be self-critical about whether the drawing is flawed, but I usually just laugh about it, if it comes out strange. I might think about what that means and whether I can adopt some of that playful attitude toward my writing more often.

      Thank you so much for sharing your observations! And my apologies for the delay in responding. Thanks for your patience – I was out of town and the travel delayed my comments. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Amy! I’m so touched that you have similar feelings about photography. It means a lot to me to hear that. I am grateful for your photography, it makes me think, I enjoy the world more through your photographs, and I value the community we have participated in together. But I can also see how it might feel a bit futile. 🙂 Really appreciate your sharing those feelings with me.

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      1. I often think when I am reading your blog, and those of others whose creative work is different than mine, how much I gain by looking at their work and reading about their process. I find it really enriches my life, and I also like the idea of community.

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      2. Oh my gosh, I love that you said that. I too get a great deal out of learning the process another creative person uses, and even more (it seems) when it’s not a verbal art they are doing. So, photography, illustration, graphic design, dance, music, etc. There’s not always an exact “dotted-line” connecting their process and mine, but it is usually inspiring in some way. an aside: I remember when my oldest talked about how when he does a painting there is always a story involved, that the painting is telling or that is behind the image in the painting. That surprised me – I figured painting was rendering, not telling a story. Just an example …! thanks again!

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  7. I go through these phases too, Theresa. I think we all do but it is what we choose to do about it that is different. I sometimes just let the feeling pass and at other times I work on it like a mule. Most often, my tonic is to step out for a run and let the fresh air sweep the cobwebs of doubt out of my mind. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Dippy-Dotty Girl, for telling me you have similar feelings. It helps me feel like I’m not alone. I also love your suggestion to get out and run. – I’m still doing my running program and I’m happy that just this week I am up to 16 minutes of running (in 2-minute bursts with a 1-minute walking interval in between). No new injuries or sidelining aches – yet. 🙂 Keep writing, I love seeing the world through your eyes and words! 🙂

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