How to Fall In Love With Writing Again

by Joe Bunting | 56 comments

Do you ever feel burned out, not just on writing but on life? That's how I felt earlier this week.

How do you fall in love with writing again, especially when, as it is for me, writing is your job?

I love my typewriter

Photo by mpclemens

Earlier this week, after checking my email for the 452nd time that day, I tried again to write the article I had been putting off. I couldn't write another word. I stared into space for six minutes, and while I stared, I made a realization.

I realized I had a whole lot of things I had to write—far too many things—but I was putting off the things I wanted to write.

Finding the Balance Between HAVE TO and WANT TO

There are things I have to do to make a living as a writer that I don't want to do. The same is true for you. There are probably things you have to do if you want to get published that you don't want to do.

I didn't get into writing to ghostwrite books for other people or edit novels (as fun as that sounds) or write emails. Don't get me wrong, I feel tremendously grateful to be able to able to earn a living doing those things, but when I pictured myself becoming a writer junior year of high school, these jobs were not in the fantasy.

Here's a hard truth I wish I had learned earlier: sometimes you want to write things you will never get to write. Desire is a tricky thing. “The heart wants what it wants,” but sometimes it wants things that aren't good for it (like french fries) or that it can never achieve (like becoming a major league baseball player).

And yet, when your desire is aligned with things that are both good for you and within your skill set, it's amazing how productive you can be. That's why I always try to want what's are best for me.

Even when I don't want to edit someone's novel or ghostwrite the next chapter of a book or write the next sentence in my work in progress, I want to want it.

If you can learn to want the things you have to do, you have discovered the secret to content work.

But Also Create Space to Play With Words

Because yes, sometimes you have to write what you don't want to write, but you also need to stop to play once in a while. Otherwise, your creativity will shrivel up and die.

There's a difference between play and games. Games have rules and objectives. Play only has one objective, to have fun.

Play might have rules, but they are fluid rules that frequently change. For example, you might make a rule to write only in rhyme (dime, climb, crime), or to use as many onomatopoeia words as you can (pop! ping! pow!), or to begin every paragraph with a lyric from a song.

How do you play with words?

You let yourself run off on tangents.

You don't follow grammar rules.

You write fast and unexpectedly.

You don't count words or pages or minutes.

Instead, you play play play.

You let loose your soul upon the world. Run amuck. Spout cliches. Who cares? You're not going to publish this anyway. Take that editor in your skull and drown him with confetti and birthday balloons. (Why birthday balloons? Who the heck knows?!)

Listen, your imagination needs this. It's not about making you a better writer. This is about whether you can bear to write at all.

An Hour of Play Per Week

Earlier this week, while in the throes of writing burnout, I left my computer at home, grabbed a pen, a notebook, and my eight-week old baby and went to my favorite coffee shop. While the baby slept, I wrote in my little notebook.

I didn't write what I intended to write. I went off on strange tangents. I ranted a bit (and discovered I was a little angry). I played with my words for an hour, and afterward felt clean and relieved.

Once again, I was in love.

Do you like to play with words? What do you do when you're burned out on writing?

PRACTICE

Play with words.

Write as long as you want. Make as many grammatical errors as you please. Write something silly or angry or sad.

When you're finished, you can post your playful exercise in the comments section or just keep it to yourself.

The only requirement is to have fun.

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

56 Comments

  1. http://storytips.wordpress.com

    Drowning your inner editor with birthday balloons 🙂 Haha love it. The only way I can get through a first draft is by shutting up that editor and just going, not caring what comes out. Having to fix a crappy sentence later is MUCH better than staring at the blank page for hours.

    Reply
    • Katie Axelson

      That was totally my favorite line too.

  2. Beck Gambill

    LOVE this post! I so resonate with what you’re saying sometimes needing to fall in love with writing again is needing to fall in love with life again. I’m on my iPhone, I’ll have to come back and play later!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yep! Sometimes it’s less writing and more life that’s the problem.

    • eva rose

      Falling in love with life is a key to great writing.

  3. Bryan Hutchinson

    Great post, Joe. And you saved me from finding the post I told you about on the phone, because this is “that” voice. Keep rocking it!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You inspired it. Thanks Bryan!

  4. Lee J Tyler

    I really needed to hear that someone else is feeling as oppressed by their love as I am. Oh, that inner editor is a beast. He is the de-muse to my writing. (I know it’s not a word. I’m laughing in the face of the beast right now.) I’d also like to write a blog post in 28pt. type that says; “I’m sick of writing what you need to know about writing. I want to work on my wip. I’ve been compiling documents in my drive all for you and I’m through. Go write something. And use my affiliate links. They are there for a very good reason.” I did let the nasty editor clean up the foul language. He is good for some things, but man, he gets in the way of my Muse! Thanks for letting my blow off steam.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Hahaha… good rant, Lee. 🙂

    • Winnie

      My inner editor is also my greatest de-motivator. Fortunately today’s writing workshops put more emphasis on actual writing itself than they do on the theory of writing eg. showing instead of telling, less is more, perspective, etc.

  5. eva rose

    Oh, I identify with that oppressive, numb feeling, searching for the heartbeat of words. (I believe if I had an eight week old, I would find myself trying to define his appearance, the perfection of his skin, the light in his eyes, the way he has transformed my life entirely! Since I don’t, here is my search for another heartbeat.)
    I stand at the summit of the trail surrounded by towering peaks, each splashed with a patch of snow. The air is warm and sunny while a cool breeze lifts my hair. In a few hours pure mountain air will descend to sharp chill. For now deep stillness overwhelms me and passing clouds trail shadows across the mountains. The mundane world slips away. My creator’s hand reaches out to lead the way. I am not alone.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Nice. Thanks Eva!

    • Aaliyah Jenkins

      Hi, Eva! I love this.

    • oddznns

      Eva… we’re never alone.

    • eva rose

      Thanks! This was written on a very down day. The comments helped a lot.

    • Giulia Esposito

      Lovely descriptions.

    • Lee J Tyler

      Eva, this took me from a present emotion to a completely different one in a matter of seconds. The power of words. This is beautiful.

    • Winnie

      Isn’t it amazing how a place like that takes you out of yourself?

  6. Niemand

    You never think the way you live your life is odd until you look at it from a different perspective. Or if someone points it out. “Would you stop calling me Romano?! What does that even mean, ‘Okay, Romano’!” Then, when it finally dawns on you that you don’t even know what goes on in the real world because you’re so stuck in the clouds, there’s an awkward moment of absolute blankness. Followed by self-disappointment and mild self-hatred. Although it explains why you want to punch the girls giggling next to you in math class. All they talk about are other people. “Yeah, I think she’s mad at me…” “Oh my gawd, so I was texting him last night…” “Ugh! I hate drama!” Why on Earth would they talk about things like that? Where was the appeal? Why talk about real people who likely are no-talent jerks who think they’re everything to everyone just because they have a pretty face? Why won’t you talk about things like Harry Potter? How come you won’t discuss anime? Gee, let’s think; selfish bastards, or epic people who can inspire you despite the fact that they don’t even exist. Which is the more appealing choice? People waste their lives talking about other people. Where will that get you? Why on Earth would trash-talking people behind their backs benefit anyone’s life in any way, shape, form, or universe? I could understand if people think that discussing fictional characters is a waste of time. I don’t mind if they think that; their loss. But I truly don’t understand it. I try not to be hypocritical; I certainly b**** about the things other people do, but at the end of the day, it’s your life; it doesn’t affect me at all so if you want a meaningless existence, continue talking about things 24/7 that piss you off and won’t matter 5 years from now, hell, that won’t matter tomorrow, go ahead. I’ll continue talking about things that mean everything to me, have meant everything to me, and will mean everything to me forever. 5 years. Let’s see what happens.

    Reply
    • oddznns

      Great rant about other people! Is it meant to be ironic?

    • Giulia Esposito

      This reminds me of my commute in university days. I hated listening to other people on the bus. Used to bring my disc an (before the widespread advent of iPods) so I could have some peace and quiet.

    • Hannah

      But how do you know that the crap that they talk about doesn’t mean everything to them? Everyone’s different. I talk about Unicorns and mushrooms and running naked through the forest quite often, and most people think that’s either adorable, weird, or insane. But I don’t care. Outcasts like us do what we do, believe what we believe, and write what we write because we have been dismissed from the norm. Meaning is derived from how deeply you look. I can go on an hour long rant about the historical proof of the Unicorn or the idea of doublethink in “1984”, just as you can probably go on endless rambles about the rules of Quidditch or the relation between anime and the Shinto religion. Its all about the leagues of your search, how far are you willing to go, how much are you willing to lose in your quest for purpose. :).

  7. Giulia Esposito

    There’s a niggling in me. It scratches at my mind when I should be doing other things. The problem is all those other things take up so much time I can never pay attention to the niggling.

    I got 99 problems and one of them is that nibbling. And if I could play with the niggle (who is rather child like and seeks attention) I would be the happiest woman ever, or very close to, if not the happiest. Time, time, it all boils off like water left on a hot plate and so quite beside my desire, the niggle is made to wait.

    And tomorrow stretches into yesterday whi,e I run around casing the niggle whi,e the hands of time while away at work, in the grocery store, fulfilling obligations and of that jazz. That while lights me him but isn’t the same as the niggling feeling I have. And when I do have a day to sit and okay with the niggle, I avoid it. The nibble is out of patience with me and it’s hard to okay nice with something so neglected.

    I think I have a hundred problems and finding balance is one of them.

    Reply
    • oddznns

      Giulia
      Did you notice that while playing, you already created a few gems.
      Take the last line of the 2nd paragraph – “Time, time, it all boils off like water left on a hot plate”. I’d save that for a starting paragraph of a short story when you’re ready. It’s just wonderful.
      And by the 3rd paragraph, you’ve made a poem. If you didn’t see it, here’s what I saw …
      And tomorrow
      Stretches into yesterday
      While
      I run around casing the niggle
      While
      The hands of time
      While
      Away
      At work
      In the grocery store
      Fulfilling obligations and all that …
      Hmmm… guess, I’ve take my break.
      I had fun playing with lovely your words Giulia. Thank you!

    • Giulia Esposito

      Thank YOU! Did not notice any of that. I wrote it late at night, on my iPad. I notice several typos I have to fix however, that I just have to fix. I used to do a fair amount of poetry writing so maybe that bled out into this practice.

  8. Birgitte Rasine

    I snuck away for a nanosecond from a piece I’m working on to read this, because I’m one of those people who is forever and madly head over heels in love with expression. In my case the expression takes the form of words, but music and photography are a close companion too. Sometimes I think not in words but in images and abstract thoughts. Or sounds. Or emotions.

    So here is a riddle for you. The following paragraph describes something we all have in our lives. What is it?

    “The poet of memories the keeper of dreams godchild of motion weaver of the fabric of consciousness of vibrant living tapestries of the interplay of species this salesman of used lives that can never be fixed repaired or started anew lives dipped in regret wrapped up in the pages of tabloids and auctioned off for the lowest dose of self-esteem this prophet of promise potential and possibility this author of all our dialogue and denouements our plotlines and our back stories this wine that intoxicates poets and engineers artists and scientists writers and businessmen musicians and economists this chisel that sculpts our existence in our own image and chips away the truth no one wants to see…”

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I want to say a journal, but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong. Good riddle!

    • Hannah

      Is it the Muse, that voice whispering in our ear, inspiring us to write, to sing, to become. Those words on paper all wrapped up inside the beating testimonies of these creature’s inspiration. :). Sorry, I’m a little loopy tonight. Or is it the Past, the past holds our secrets, our memories, our present. Hmm… Or is it the Trance, or is it Madness? I really love this riddle, it’s beautiful, captivating, thoughtful, alluring. Oh, I could guess forever. 🙂

    • Birgitte Rasine

      Hannah I don’t think you’re “loopy” at all. You are very close when you say “the past”… but that is only a wave in the ocean. What is that ocean that carries us all irrespective of wealth, status or power, of gender, religion or culture, and whether we want to be carried or not?

    • hazel may

      Time? 🙂 please tell if i’m right

    • Birgitte Rasine

      Hazel, please email me and i’ll tell you if you’re right, and if you’ve won a copy of my book. Can’t tell you here publicly b/c of the contest going on now. This excerpt is actually from my upcoming novella, which I’ve since finished, and am now running a little contest to see who can guess what the two forces it explores are. Check out http://www.facebook.com/mayancalendarportal

      Email me at info (at) birgitterasine (dot) com.

  9. oddznns

    Drowning him with birthday balloons… Immediately I see this image of those kids ball-pools they never let adults into and I’ve never played in. Great image!
    I’ve been stuck all week, playing with poetry, including Giulia’s one down there. It’s been fun. I guess I’ll have to go back to work Monday.
    Until then, I’m gonna drown in a ball-pool. Have a great weekend Joe.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Audrey! I hope you have a great weekend, too. 🙂

  10. Erika

    Wow, this is a post I will keep handy!

    Reply
  11. Beck Gambill

    Sometimes I get to the end of the day and feel like the years line up weary before me, stretching off into the distance, full of work and kid raising and worry. Time isn’t helping, it’s just siphoning energy and beauty, and memory. Oh, how I miss my memory.

    Is there an antidote to that realization? The knowing that when I lay my bones down weary in bed to sleep that another day waits when I rise, holding more of the same. I think, in between the golden laughter, at the edge of the day, it’s inevitable on occasion to recognize the monotonous ache of life. We’re only human, and we should be aware.

    And while there is no stopping age, or the living of this life, I remember the holy echo of home. The place where it’s all finished. Where endless tomorrows of toil will lay down in the glorious forever of enough and be swallowed up.

    Reply
    • eva rose

      That is incredibly well expressed, a treasure! Trying to focus on the “golden laughter”.

    • Beck Gambill

      Thanks Eva Rose. I am too.

    • Giulia Esposito

      What a beautiful practice Beck! Been feeling same way lately. Thank you for expressing it so eloquently.

    • Beck Gambill

      Thanks Giulia. I imagine at some point that weary ache marks us all.

    • Lee J Tyler

      “I remember the holy echo of home. The place where it’s all finished. Where endless tomorrows of toil will lay down in the glorious forever of enough and be swallowed up.”

      Beck, I want to read this over and over to remind me that all of tomorrow’s to-do’s will not matter in time. It is what meaning we create today that will last past the final gasp.

      Thank you for this!

    • Beck Gambill

      Lee, I’m glad my words resonated with you. It’s easy to focus on the messy, crazy now and lose perspective on what’s meaningful in life, isn’t it.

    • Lee J Tyler

      Hi Beck! This is coming “quite a bit” later than your comment. That just shows the amount of impact your writing had on me. I’m making fun of myself, but I’m quite serious about your writing. Talk to you sooner than later! 😉

    • Winnie

      Great piece. It’s always the ‘afterwards’ that counts.

    • Otah

      this is very good.

  12. CaymanWritersCircle.blogspot.c

    Thanks. You have great ideas for writing.

    Reply
  13. Winnie

    Why should I write? Why shouldn’t I write? Why shouldn’t I not write?

    The last time I wrote I ended up feeling much better than I did before I got around to stringing words together.

    My muse has me well trained. Unless I write something she’s satisfied
    with, I’m listless, irritable and out of sorts for the rest of the day. Only my
    best is good enough for my demanding mistress.

    Here’s another conundrum: Sometimes I can’t wait to write, right then when the story is forming in my head. But when I do I end up with a load of crud on the page. It’s more than just allowing my fingers to transfer the story between my mind and the blank page. The story must take shape as I’m writing away. Otherwise it’s just a typing exercise, with no creativity involved.

    My best writing time is when I’ve shied away from the challenge of a blank screen. That’s when my fingers take over and tease something out of my mind.

    Reply
  14. Friv 4

    An Hour of Play Per Week is the suitable time to practice writing it is not too long so we can concentrate on writing

    Reply
  15. Laura Hebbeln

    Joe,
    I like your idea that we should have dreams, as long as they are dreams within our reach. I would like to play Paganini Caprice 24 on my violin, but it isn’t going to happen in this lifetime. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of wonderful things that I can do with my violin, my writing, and my other life interests. Thanks for telling me what I needed to hear today.
    diaryoflaura20.blogspot.com

    Reply
  16. Friv

    The only way I can get through a first draft is by shutting up that editor and just going, not caring what comes out.

    Reply
  17. Hannah

    What spirit has found me here, on this desert storm of
    paradise. What has drawn me to this place, this place beneath the floating
    footland of mankind’s footprints, the prints he made upon his world and crushed
    it, crushed it straight to Hades, to the growling belly of the Earth. Mother
    Earth couldn’t bear it, you know? Being stepped on all the time. That’s why I
    think she erupted, killing everything… even her precious trees. The trees
    just tumbled down, falling like dominoes in that strange effect, and then as if
    the tumbling wasn’t enough, their roots caved in and the earth swallowed them.
    It was as if they had never existed. It was as if there had never been trees to
    begin with. Annihilation, that’s what followed me, that is what found me here.
    The last remaining survivor I was, a porcupine who’s quills could protect him
    no longer. I am alone and I will soon be gone. For if a tree falls in the forest
    and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? No, it doesn’t. It
    never had and it never would. – Hannah E. Reed

    Gosh, that felt so good to get out. Thank you so much, this
    really helped. It was brilliant, and I mean I’ve used the Writer’s Trance for
    years, but I guess entering my senior year of High school (after the black hole
    of madness and despair and forbidden love that swallowed me last year) I am a
    little stunted and confused and so tirelessly conflicted with self doubt. I
    mean, I’m not complaining, sometimes its great inspiration (and a great excuse
    for my amazingly understanding AP English teacher, “Yeah, I didn’t do the work,
    the life of a tortured artist isn’t all it cracked up to be.”) But anyways, I was wondering if you had some
    tips or advice or anything that you can give me: a seventeen year old girl with
    a past that still haunts her poetry, and now keeps her from her prose; a vision
    that can see for miles in otherworldly directions, but when it comes to her
    future, it fogs, vanishing almost completely; and a growing inability to
    function in reality, losing herself in her mind, her imagination, her world so
    easily, finding it painful to come back. And please, I already have a
    therapist, so don’t go suggesting any psychological solutions. I just want to
    escape into that fantasy world once again, to start writing my book again, but
    the thing is the first book is finished, well at least the first draft is, but
    I just haven’t had time to edit it and I’m afraid that it won’t be as wonderful
    as I thought it was… But I want to finish it completely, to hold that final
    manuscript in my arms and hug it and kiss it and whisper my protagonists name
    in between kisses. And then to set it aside, maybe try to contact some agents,
    but most of all, to begin the next book in the fantasy trilogy, to pick up
    where I left off, or perhaps a day after the first one ended, so it can begin,
    oh I have the vision, I can feel myself writing it right now in my head, its
    just, to put it on the Page makes it real and I want it to remain fantasy.
    Dammit, excuse my language, its just everything feels like a dream. I know not
    what to do. Oh, dear, please help.

    Reply
  18. Irene Enriquez

    Whoa! Thank you for this! 🙂 Need this right now. Off to play with words.

    Reply
  19. Scrivatrice

    Fun? What the heck is that? I used to ‘love’ writing, but
    never wrote anything remotely publishable. How can I earn a living, or even get
    published in the first place by having ‘fun’? I decided long ago that if I
    wanted to be a writer I must henceforth take writing seriously. No longer mess
    around with half-formed ideas and random characters. Pick a story and stick to
    it till the bitter end. Be professional. So here I am, (ahem)years later, with
    the biggest, fattest novel manuscript known to man and the flattest, most
    depressed spirit ditto. I will do literally anthing to avoid editing that
    manuscript – I can’t bear going anywhere near it. If I do sit down to ‘work on
    it’ I start yawning and can’t stop. I feel as if I’ve been shot full of horse
    tranquiliser. I realise that I have made writing into just another chore, and
    my life is already full of chores. But I am so far behind in my life and my
    hoped-for career that I can’t possibly justify ‘having fun’. I can’t bear not
    writing and can’t face it either. I feel as if the love of my life now has all
    the appeal of a dead-end job. Sweeping floors would be more enticing. Where did
    the love go? The fun? The passion?

    Reply
  20. Patricia Salem

    Late to the party here, as Constant Content just shared this post today via email, so I’m seeing it for the first time. I make a living writing web content, and it’s sucking the living soul out of my fiction writing with regard to both time and creative energy. I used to wake up early, dying to work on my novel, and now it’s just another writing obligation in a long line of to-dos. Sometimes I think becoming a full-time professional writer was the worst thing that ever happened to my fiction writing aspirations–who knew?

    So, it’s time to sit down and figure out how to make time for both types of content, because I’m not going to sacrifice what I believe is my true gift, my calling to financial stability, as if the two are mutually exclusive.

    Freelancing is tough because you always fear the work won’t be there next week or next month (especially if you’ve actually experienced this before), so you hate to turn down jobs. Or you get going in a steady groove, and a client goes belly up or cuts pay or has half the work they used to… One of the keys for me is to start refusing to settle for less pay than I’m worth for work content. If I can command more per project, I can both work fewer hours (thereby having more time and energy for fiction) and save some money to help weather those inevitable slow periods.

    I also need to make time to publish some ebooks and short nonfiction, so I can get some residual income flowing in–another way to handle the issues raised above.

    I’m not a morning person, but I think I may have to get up earlier in the morning for a while to either get work done sooner in the day or carve out fiction writing time. I keep writing this in my journal, on my schedule, etc., but it’s not happening. It’s like I’m waiting for a prod or a deus ex machina… I think what I really want is to win the lottery and not have to write about retractable screen doors, decorative concrete, and custom swimming pools any longer LOL.

    IDK. I hate feeling stuck like this, so come hell or high water, I’m going to figure this out. Maybe having something completely non-writing related might get me out of bed earlier? I’m thinking about a photography project. Open to suggestions.

    Reply

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