What to do when you want to write but you’re not writing: 6 steps to get back on track

Note: For all the naysayers who scoff when people have trouble writing — these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. You can go about your business. Move along, move along.

When you want to write, but you’re not doing it — whether not at all or not as much as you’d like — there are some simple tricks that can help get you going.

Here are some examples of times where you might see your not-writing pattern show up:

  • You’ve been wanting to write but you aren’t sure what to write about.
  • You know what you want to write about but you can’t find the time to write.
  • You have time to write but you can’t seem to get yourself to do it — and you feel guilty and ashamed about it.
  • You were writing regularly, but you just got back from a trip and you’re having trouble getting started again.
  • You’re stuck on a particular part of your project and you don’t know what to do about it.
  • Just looking at a blank page is overwhelming.
  • Thinking of the final product (the book, the screenplay) is overwhelming and you can’t imagine how you’ll ever get there.
  • You’ve had a success with your writing and you’re feeling intimidated about topping it (second novel syndrome is an example of this).
  • You’re bored of the project you’re working on and you can’t think of anything else to work on that sounds remotely interesting.

First things first.

ALL of these scenarios have one thing in common: Resistance.

Resistance is that little devil we affectionately know by many names — perfectionism, procrastination, fear, doubt, apathy, etc.

Resistance is telling yourself you don’t have enough time: You do. Really. You only need a few minutes every day to get back on the horse. And it’s way less hard than you think it is. I promise.

Resistance is telling yourself you don’t care, don’t have ideas, or don’t want to write. Bull. I know you’re a writer and I know you want to write.

Let me help you.

6 steps to get back on track with your writing

Step #1: Don’t fall for the resistance.

Resistance LIES to you. It is the enemy. Resistance is not your friend. It is not the truth. It is like an energetic force you press up against when you start moving closer to your project, like you’re wading through chest-high sludge. It pushes you back. IT resists YOU.

DO NOT fall for it. Do not believe it, do not entertain it, do not listen to it.

Step #2: Start with super small baby steps.

The smallest you can muster.

Decide on the very smallest increment of writing that feels totally, completely, 100% attainable.

My recommendation? Somewhere between 5 to 15 minutes per day.

Step #3: Use a timer.

Get out your paper, your file, whatever you want to work on. Set your timer for the time you agreed upon with yourself. Write for that entire length of time. Don’t stop until the timer dings.

If you’re fresh out of ideas, do morning pages, use writing prompts, or answer questions from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way or The Vein of Gold. Or brainstorm concepts for your next novel or script. I don’t care what you’re doing, as long as you’re putting words on the page.

Do work on these with an eye on getting clear what your bigger project is about if you aren’t already.

Step #4: Celebrate!

Seriously. I’m not kidding. You just overcame the massive forces of resistance. That is no small feat. It’s like destroying the Death Star every single day.

Give yourself a treat — surf on YouTube for a couple of minutes, stretch in the sunshine. No big deal, just a little acknowledgement of what you just accomplished.

Step #5: Mark time on your calendar for tomorrow and plan what you’re going to write.

Get out your calendar and schedule the time for your next writing session.

While you’re at it, decide what you’ll work on during your session.

Step #6: Continue every day.

Keep writing, incrementally, for at least 5 to 7 days out of every week. You’ll be surprised to notice that it’s much easier to get started again when you’re staying current with your project. Experiment with how much time it’s “safe” to take off.

I found pretty quickly that anything less than 5 days off is almost unbearable for me. Seven days a week on the other day, feels exhausting. I do like to have a day off.

Next time: 10 tips to make writing regularly easier — Stay tuned!

The next session of my Writer’s Circle starts on Monday, June 11th, and the last day to register is Thursday, June 7th by Midnight Eastern Time. If you are a serious writer who isn’t writing — or a writer who wants to get more serious about your work — my Writer’s Circle system will help you finish your projects. Come join me!

Find out more at www.JustDoTheWriting.com

“I tamed the book beast in 3 sessions, 15 minutes at a time.”

“I’ve had this book brewing in me for 15 years. I never thought I could finish it…it seemed too big. After joining the Writer’s Circle, I tamed the book beast in 3 sessions, 15 minutes at a time. The Writer’s Circle system is so effective, that I have used the basic principles in other areas of my life to great success. It is so satisfying to finally turn my dream into reality.”

~ Terri Fedonczak, Certified Martha Beck Life Coach, www.aLifeInBalance.com

Finished the first draft of her parenting book after starting it 10 years ago.



  1. Kathryn says:

    Jenna, what is the best way to start a blog and which blog site is the best to use?
    Thank you

    • Kathryn, that’s a great question! Personally I love WordPress and I have been self-hosting my own WordPress site for a while now. You can set up a site for free at http://www.Wordpress.com (but they sometimes put ads on sites and you can’t use all the many options of WP there) or set it up with a host like http://www.BlueHost.com for a very low cost with a very easy installation of WP there. As far as getting started goes, I’d give some thought to what you’re interested in writing about and when / how you want to be writing — there are SO many variations and there’s no one right way to do it. Good luck!

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