If there’s one emotion or feeling that I’ll often hear writers talk about, it’s love.
Ask a writer why they chose their profession (of, you know, writing for a living), and they’ll most likely tell you it’s because they love writing, from composing long-form articles to crafting personal creative pieces.
They love the feeling of capturing a certain emotion using the perfect combination of words. They love putting their ideas out into the world in hopes that they may connect with someone else, so that their words can inspire others. Each time a writer publishes their story, or wraps up the conclusion in a way that makes them feel warm fuzzies on the inside, it almost feels like falling in love over and over again.
Sure, I might be romanticizing writing just a little bit, but can you blame me? I’m a writer.
But just because a writer loves to write doesn’t mean that the feeling is always strong … When you’re in love, it’s easy to view the world through rose-tinted glasses.
Until reality hits you like a ton of bricks, shattering those pretty pink glasses. (Not the glasses!)
And the reality is this: If writing is your “one true love,” but also your full-time job, you’re going to sometimes feel a little exhausted from writing all day, every day. You might start to feel uninspired. Or just plain burnt out.
Maybe your heart used to flutter at the sight of a blank notebook page. Maybe, back when it was “love at first write,” you would write incessantly, late into the evening, feeling a sense of euphoria from being ~in the flow~.
“It’s only a lover’s spat,” you think to yourself as you look forlornly at your notebook and pen, sitting untouched on your desk. It’s been a week (or maybe three?), and you haven’t had the motivation to write a damn thing, with deadlines flying before your eyes. And you’re not sure when or if you’ll find that motivation again.
Professional writers and creative writers alike go through periods of inspiration and periods of writer’s block. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows when you’ve set your sights on being a full-time writer (even if that’s what the rest of the world imagines).
It’s easy to feel like there’s something wrong if you’re not in love with writing anymore. But trust me when I say — it’s not you, it’s the act of writing.
There are ways to return to these positive feelings about writing, though. It might take trying a few different strategies, but it all really comes down to this: Find a way to have fun with writing again and remember what made you fall in love with it in the first place.
Professional writers are concerned with publishing, and publishing often. Deadlines drive us to push through those uninspired writing sessions, but it doesn’t always produce writing we’re proud of.
While deadlines might encourage productivity, this doesn’t always mean you’re being creative. When you have a deadline looming and you need to finish a piece, you might end up settling for the first idea that comes to mind, without really feeling convinced or inspired by that idea.
Some people advocate for going with your “minimum viable product” — aka your first draft — when you’re writing constantly and have to get things done. And this plan may be successful in the short term, but in the long run, it isn’t a great way to nurture your relationship with writing.
Instead of seeing writing as a mode of expressing what you truly want to say, you’re seeing it as a means to an end — “just get my ideas out into the world so I can get traffic to my site!” — which can, unfortunately, turn into producing thoughtless content.
Next time you sit down to write an article for your blog, or a guest post for another blog, don’t put a due date on it. Don’t even have your calendar open to tempt you with planning what day you want the article to launch. Just sit with your thoughts, embrace the blank page, and return to the basics: Brainstorm a few ideas, freewrite about your favorite one, and revise from there.
And if you’re really feeling the writer’s block, take a walk. Do something that isn’t writing for a moment, and have a change of scenery. Then try sitting back down with your thoughts and your pen and paper. Just remember, though, ignore the deadline.
You may just find that spark again.
Being deep in the trenches of professional writing probably means you’re reading a lot of books in your particular niche. If you run an ecommerce business, you’re most likely reading books on successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, or skimming through articles on your phone about the next major trend in marketing your ecommerce business.
This type of reading is so important for staying agile in your field, and sometimes it can give you ideas for what to write about for your own marketing strategy.
But let’s just call it like it is: You’re reading for work, not for fun. There’s always a bigger reason why you’re reading that business book, and it’s probably because you run your own business.
It may sound strange to try reading in order to fall back in love with writing, but if you’re a writer, you probably also love to read just for the pure joy of reading. Sometimes, the genre of what you read and what you write coincide, but not always necessarily.
Even if you don’t write fiction, reading a piece of fiction could’ve easily been your first exposure to how much fun reading can be, so why not return to it?
Sure, you say, I’d love to read for fun, but I’m literally exhausted from reading and staring at screens all day long. Well, besides creativity, there have even been studies to show that reading fiction, and getting engrossed in a novel, enhances and improves brain function — you’re flexing the same muscles as you would be if you did a visualization exercise to prepare for an interview or for playing a sport.
The act of finding something to read for fun, and not for work, will surround you with words that may inspire your thoughts and potentially your own writing. Whether you enjoy reading political non-fiction books on controversial topics, or you’re a fan of high fantasy, it’s great to find something to read for fun, because it may remind you why you found words so enchanting in the first place.
No need to stop at just reading fiction — why not write some fan fiction while you’re at it?
I know what you’re thinking. Fifty Shades of Grey was a work of Twilight fan fiction. I don’t want to write something that could ever remotely be compared to Fifty Shades of Grey.
But not all fan fiction has to be in a particular genre. It can be any genre, really.
The practice of writing fan fiction can be a helpful, stress-free outlet of writing. And most of all, it’s fun. You can even create a pen name and share your writing with the world in a supportive online community. Hearing praise from others who love to write can always help bring your writing mojo back.
Back before the internet was what it is now (intentionally being vague so I don’t date myself), I wrote short stories constantly because I had this urge to write. It was more than a crush — I’d fallen in love with writing and telling stories, and really, it was the only thing I wanted to spend my time on.
And what did I write? Well, I based my stories on the characters from the novels I was reading. Or I would make up characters who fit into a world already designed by someone else.
What I didn’t know is that I was writing fan fiction, and I absolutely loved it. I didn’t think at all about writing to get published, or writing for my business. I wrote for me, and for my own entertainment, basically. I wrote because I loved stories, and I wanted to tell as many as I could.
Even though I never did anything with those stories (and they’re probably somewhere buried in my parents’ garage), I got my creative juices flowing, writing constantly and without stopping, because I loved what I was doing. Writing fan fiction can help you fall in love with writing again by helping you get back to that original love of telling stories.
So if you’re looking for this same type of passion for writing again, try this exercise: Pick a story you love. Create your own character or use one from that story. Now write a story within that universe. And voila. You wrote your first fanfic.
And I promise, you don’t have to share it with anyone.
Writing and storytelling can take many different forms. From podcasts to paperbacks, humorous to serious, poetic to academic, there’s a beauty to every style and genre and ways to get inspired by these different forms.
But sometimes, it’s the really out-of-the-box, offbeat writers and publications that can get you thinking about new ways to approach a subject matter, which can really inspire you to love writing again.
One publication that will often get me thinking — and have me in tears laughing — is McSweeney’s. Talking about how people have strong opinions on movies they haven’t seen? Boy, do I feel singled out.
Even though the articles in McSweeney’s are primarily humorous, they often critique human behavior from angles that I haven’t thought of before. It pushes me to think about how I’m approaching my own subjects for articles. Am I being original enough? Am I adding to a conversation, rather than just parroting what’s already been said?
And when I’m looking to get a new perspective or listen to an interesting take on a topic, I usually turn to the Stuff You Should Know podcast. Hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark dive into the strangest, most niche topics, but listening to others talk about something I’m personally interested in is helpful for sorting through my own thoughts on the topic.
While it’s not the genre I write in, reading offbeat or humorous writers reminds me why writing is something I love to do. There are so many different ways to talk about a subject, as long as you can find that unique angle.
Alright, so it might not happen that quickly.
There was definitely a period of time when my creativity felt pretty low, simply because I was exhausted from a fully booked schedule of school and work. (Thanks, grad school.) But once I started reading things for fun, and simply writing for fun without a deadline, I felt more invigorated whenever I put a pen to paper.
I could write again without fear that my relationship with writing was on the rocks. We started coexisting even better than ever. It was like the world was filled with silly love songs, and while I wrote, that’s all I could hear. (Okay, I’m definitely exaggerating a little here. But just a little.)
When you’re in love with a significant other, you’ve gotta keep the spark alive by going out on a date night every so often and spending time together doing something fun. With your relationship with writing, it’s the same thing. (Except, you know, writing and people are different …)
If you put time, effort, and care into nurturing the fun side of writing, you’ll rediscover your spark and turn it into a flame of passion once again.
Julia Hess graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Master of Arts degree in English. She has worked as a college writing tutor and instructor, a contractor at a major tech company, and a freelance editor and writer. An avid podcast listener, Julia provides editorial feedback, consultation, and detailed show notes for CYC’s podcast, Writers Rough Drafts.