I was recently asked by a fellow writer about my coping strategies when I have no motivation to write. It's not writer' block; it's writer's fatigue. You get so sick and tired of seeing your characters, untangling your plot, reworking your scenes that you just want to throw up your hands and yell, "Fuck it, I'm done with writing!
If you have never felt something like that, lucky you. The rest of us mortals deal with such thoughts at different points in our craft. Some established authors feel the drop in motivation in the third revision, while others (like me) are fed up with our characters fighting against the plot and want to kill them all.
We all have different strategies for coping with writer's fatigue. These are my preferred means, so perhaps they could be helpful to you too.
1. Keep writing. Ten words a day is ten more than before.
I used to believe I have to meet a word count of 1000 per day, but the reality is that as long as I am teaching two graduating classes, I do not have the luxury nor the energy to sit down, get in the zone, and hammer out a thousand words. Some days I can manage five hundred. Some days I can only get in three sentences before I have to get back to my grading. Nonetheless, there is progress. Slow and steady. This works regardless of whether I want to write or not, because ten words is about the length of a sentence, and if that is all I need to write, then everything else is a bonus. Over time, your energy returns, your stamina builds, and there you go: back in the saddle.
(Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash)
2. Write something for fun.
This is something I think experienced writers would agree. A lot of times, when we want to write our novel or novella or poem or what-have-you, we get so obsessed with making it "professional" and "perfect" that we lose the sense of enjoyment we initially had when we first began writing. There's nothing wrong with wanting to polish our work - far from it - but I think we get too caught up with the work and forget the joy. This is one big reason why I still indulge in fanfiction or writing random pieces that aren't meant for anyone but me.
(Photo by Jade Stephens on Unsplash)
3. Be creative... elsewhere.
I doodle a lot. I do pencil sketches, I scribble messy whirls in ballpoint, I color outside the lines. It's purely creative, without a pressure to produce. And sometimes that is what your brain needs - a respite from having to build character/dialogue/world/plot etc. Try painting, perhaps. Or go outside, take photos of anything that interests you. (I take pictures of concrete.) Or grab a pencil like I do and just draw irregular shapes, shade them in, crosshatch. Knit or crotchet. Having a hobby that isn't something that requires intense thought is good for the soul.
4. Live life.
This ties in with the third strategy, I think. Sometimes we just need time away from creating. Instead, bask in what you enjoy. Turn off social media, go to a museum or a park or a zoo, and just have fun. I used to believe that only children and families with children should visit the science center or the zoo, but why should that be the case? Now I visit such places when I can. It's enjoyable and fun. I've talked to zookeepers about snapping turtles and porcupines, and to gardeners about rain trees and ginger plants. It's all fascinating. Attend concerts. Loiter around malls. Listen to new music. There's life out there to nourish our spirits if we allow our curiosity to take the wheel for a change. Who knows, you may find something that sparks you off all over again.