Here’s a secret I am kind of ashamed to admit. Even though I write at least 100 blog posts every month, I never feel like writing. I’d much rather scroll the day away on social media. But I don’t. How do I do it? How do I write two articles before everyone in my neighborhood wakes up? I have a system.
Here’s what I do when I don’t feel like writing a blog post.
1. I Look Until I Find Something I Want to Write
As of right now, I have 102 drafts on Medium, 53 drafts on my main blog, and 57 on The Art of Blogging. I also have 34 drafts on Google Docs. Never mind the logic in this. Some of them are just a headline, some of them are a headline and a quote, some of them contain 2,000 words I have no idea in which order to put them.
The idea is that I go through this list, one item at a time, opening and closing tabs like crazy until I find something I feel inspired to write. I don’t sit around, waiting for inspiration, I go after it like a dog chasing a car. I go through this list of ideas and drafts and quotes until I feel inspired to write about a certain topic.
Odds are you too have a similar list of ideas and topics. Go through them, one by one, and spend at least five minutes thinking about each of them. Just think. Sometimes it helps if you can walk around the house, which is what I do, quite a lot, since the sign that I’ve written ten thousand words or more is the fact that my feet hurt.
99 times out of 100, you will find an idea that you feel inspired to write about, no matter your mood.
2. I Read a Bunch of Blog Posts
Not only do I read and highlight other blog posts, but I also comment on those articles. What I am looking for is a “yeah, but…” I am not interested in the articles that I agree with wholeheartedly, but only those that I can actually add to the conversation if I were to write my take on that topic or idea.
“Yeah, but…” are two of the most powerful words when it comes to creating content that matters in this information-saturated world. When I stumble upon a blog post I kind of agree and disagree with at the same time, I often feel inspired to write a lengthy response.
I don’t. I write an article instead.
3. I Ask Myself, “What’s Your Job?”
My job is to punch the keys. I do this because I love words, because I love to inspire others. I do so because writing is my way to have a positive impact on the world. I am not laying a gold egg, I am just producing a piece of content. One of many millions of articles that will go live today. There’s no reason to treat it as if it were something special, because it’s not.
This is what I’ve been doing for over eight and a half years, and this is what I must do now.
4. I Remind Myself That I’ve Never Felt Bad After Writing
Sometimes it’s still one hour after turning on my computer, and I still haven’t written a thing. The muse is stubborn like that sometimes. So I do the next thing, which is to remind myself that writing is just like working out. You never feel bad after the fact, even though you don’t want to do it.
No one ever has a bad workout, and no one ever has a bad writing experience. The trick is to show up. I tell myself that I just have to show, write whatever for fifteen minutes or so, and that’s it. My job is done. Then I can sit on the couch and let Netflix liquefy my brain.
Sometimes you don’t want to write because you feel that whatever it is that you are working on won’t be liked by readers. This is something that you can’t know for sure. Never, ever, ever. The truth is that we can’t control how many people like our blog posts, how many people comment on them, or whether or not they agree with our ideas.
Our job is to show up and do the work. That’s it. Quite simple. If I remind myself that I never regretted showing up for work, but I always regretted not writing, then I’ll feel motivated to punch the damn keys.
We also misunderstand motivation. We wait to feel motivated in order to take action. Well, it works both ways. If we force ourselves to act, we’ll begin to feel motivated. The same way as forcing yourself to smile will elevate your mood, forcing yourself to just write, even if you don’t feel like it, will soon motivate you to write more and more.
You slowly build momentum, you get into a flow state, and then you become unstoppable.
5. I Read and Edit an Old Post
Going through older posts allows me to do the following:
- Notice what posts people enjoy reading the most.
- Notice what parts of those posts they highlighted, and I can come up with ideas for other blog posts.
Inevitably, there are multiple ideas that you share in a post. It might be a one-liner that inspires people, it might be your inspirational ending, whatever it is, you can draw inspiration from one of your old posts.
6. I Remind Myself That I’ve Still Got a Few Haters to Prove Wrong
Negative emotions can act as fuel as well. I decided to become a writer because the first piece I ever published online was unanimously hated by everyone who read it. I argued, begged, and threatened, but the consensus was that I was a lousy writer and that I should do something else with my time. That was 16 years ago, but it still gives me a lot of drive. Whenever I don’t feel like writing, I remember that a lot of people thought I couldn’t do it.
I never wanted other people’s opinions to become my reality, to drown my own inner voice, and this inspires me to punch those damn keys.
7. I Use Anger to My Advantage
When in doubt, I write about the things that anger me. I write a wake-up call, a pep-talk. I write about the frustration, the pain, the failures. I write about the fact that writing requires a lot of courage, and that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
Taking a stand for something you feel strongly about is one of the best ways to write a blog post. After all, you don’t have to think, you just have to feel. Strong emotions will make the process of writing a blog post effortless.
8. I Change How and Where I Write
The environment we write in influences the work that we do. It can be as simple as writing in a different room, or out on the balcony, or go to a coffee shop somewhere. It doesn’t matter.
I usually write on my laptop, but sometimes I write short posts on my phone, on a piece of paper, on a napkin, it doesn’t matter. Changing how and where I write always tends to wake up my brain.
9. I Use the Pillow Technique
Seriously, it’s an actual technique. If you don’t feel like writing, or you’re not feeling inspired, just place your head on a pillow. Preferably not while standing up. This is rather extreme, but whenever I place my head on my pillow, ideas start to pop up out of nowhere. It just happens.
I guess it has something to do with my mind relaxing a bit. I let go of the need to write and focus on something else. It’s kind of frustrating because I never get to fall asleep, but it does the trick.
10. I Do Something Else
Whether it’s doing the dishes, going for a walk, or watching TV, I allow myself to do something else. My mind is hardwired to think about ideas all the time regardless, but by not putting pressure on me to produce something, it can more easily come up with topics and ideas. The mood to write often hits me after about an hour or so, and that’s when I can sit at my desk and write.
The trick is not to get too involved in whatever you’re doing. If you decide to do something that’s also creative or mentally strenuous, odds are you won’t come up with the motivation to write, but rather immerse yourself in this new activity.
Like I said, I either clean the house, do the dishes, go for a walk, go to the grocery store, it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s not a particularly mentally intensive activity, it usually does the trick of inspiring me to write.
11. I Give Myself One of Two Options
I can either:
- Stare at an empty wall.
I mean it. No internet, no phone, no books, nothing. As I said, the wall is empty. I can’t even stare at a painting or a drawing. I give myself one hour to do that.
This works because you are using boredom to your advantage. It’s tough to just stare at a wall and daydream. Odds are, you’d much rather write something, anything. Besides, daydreaming often inspires you. It’s still thinking, visualizing, imagining stuff.
I never managed to stare at that wall for more than a few minutes. Indeed, I’m quite hyperactive, but I’d much rather write anything at all than have to stare at a wall.
If All Else Fails, I Take the Day Off
This is the most extreme measure, and I do trick myself a bit. Yes, I tell myself that I am going to take the day off. This is my off day. This is also the third post I write today.
Why? Because by telling myself that I don’t have to write, I let go of the need to write something. And I think it took me about six minutes in order to realize that I’d much rather write than do anything else.
Tell yourself: I’m taking today off. Then you sit for yourself for a while. You do other stuff. You go out. Engage other human beings in this activity called talking. Odds are you’ll feel like writing.
Knowing that you don’t have to write eases the pressure of having to write.
The key to writing is to do whatever it takes to write. Whether you need inspiration or desperation or a couple of mind tricks, it doesn’t matter.
Try combining different strategies, or switching it up from day-to-day. Some days it will be easy to sit at your desk and write, while other days you’ll have to use more than one strategy.
The trick is to never, ever, ever, ever give up.