Recently, I found myself dreading my scheduled writing time. I was bored with my book, tired of the grind, and angry that my revision was taking so long. I had lost my writing joy. Is it time to abandon a book or project once you lose your joy? Or is there a way to recalibrate and find the fun in your project and the joy of writing again?

3 Ways to Rediscover the Joy of Writing

3 Ways to Rediscover the Joy of Writing

Sooner or later, we all hit that frustration point with a project or writing in general. I just read David’s great post on overcoming burnout, and it was a much needed call for rest as a critical component of maintaining a healthy writing life.

As I ruminated on what was killing my writing joy, I realized I needed to reframe my expectations and inject a little more fun to restore the joy of writing and avoid burnout. Maybe these tips help you when you need a little boost!

1. Identify the joy-killer

First I asked myself some hard questions about why I was dragging on certain projects, and what sapped my energy.

Revision can be an especially grueling process. I realized I had some unrealistic expectations. I mistakenly thought, “This shouldn’t take me long. I’ll fly right through this!” Then, when it took far longer than I expected, I felt like a failure.

There’s no prescribed amount of time a revision should take, so why did I put such pressure on myself?

Maybe you set a goal to write five hundred words a day, and missed some this month. Are you still beating yourself up about how you should have made up those days somewhere? That might kill your joy.

Maybe you put a book or story on hold in the back of your files to revisit later and it’s been nagging at you. If you think you should have already finished it, that might steal your joy.

The common denominator on joy-killers: they often start with “I should…”. We have to change our expectations to find our joy again. Instead of “I should write a thousand words today,” maybe I can say, “I can’t wait to see what {insert character’s name} is going to do in today’s thousand words!” Language is powerful and can change the way we view a task.

Lose the “shoulds.”

2. Find the fun again

Some tasks inspire more joy than others, but we can make choices to infuse our writing with fun.

I asked myself, “What do I love about this story?”

If it is a character’s antics, I need to find places to let them play. Love the fight scenes? Add more excitement and fun to those scenes. If I enjoy the mysterious details of a house, I need to let my imagination wander through those dark halls and discover some secret passageways.

A friend once suggested writing scenes out of order if it kept me moving the story along. “If you’re bored, the reader is too,” she said. I’ve found that sometimes I need to find the fun in explaining less and letting my character act more. 

Even a short descriptive exercise, prompt, or challenge can provide a needed dose of fun in the midst of a challenging process. Finding those sparks will help you keep going.

3. This too shall pass

If all else fails, imagine the end when the book or project is finished, printed, and in your hand. The effort, the sleepless nights, and the rewrites will one day pay off. I need to see my occasional doldrums as a small blip on the larger continuum of a writing life.

Repeat after me, “This too shall pass.” Let’s get back to work and find our joy again!

Find Joy

Writing can be a long and grueling process. It takes time and effort, blood, sweat, and tears to turn the ideas in your imagination into published stories.

But it doesn’t have to be painful. When your writing is getting you down, use these strategies to rekindle your joy and revitalize your writing.

It will be more than worth it in the end!

What do you do when you have lost your writing joy? Share in the comments.

PRACTICE

Take fifteen minutes and create a character who believes that they should ___{fill in the blank with some disappointment}___, and let it get them down. Some examples:

The intern who thinks she should have been promoted to a job in a corner cubicle.

The swimmer who thinks she should have beaten her opponent’s record by now.

The injured circus clown who believes he should get to ride the mime’s motor scooter into the ring, but he’s given the smelly miniature pony who bites instead.

How will they try to recapture their joy and get what they want? Write them in and out of trouble using a bit of fun if you can. Share your practice in the comments, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers.

Sue Weems
Sue Weems
Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveller with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.