The Days When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

Those are the days you have to write.

Even if it’s nothing, even if it’s crap, you’ve got to carve the words onto the page. Even if it’s only a hundred words, even if you only get to move the mountain by a half-an-inch, you’re still nudging the needle, still keeping that story-heart beating, still proving to yourself and to the world that this is who you are and what you do.

They say you can’t get blood from a stone but squeeze a stone hard enough, you’ll get blood.

Blood wets the gears. Blood makes the grass grow.

Effort. Work. Movement. Motion.

The days you don’t want to run, you have to run.

The days you don’t want to get out of bed are the days you must get out of bed.

The days you don’t think you can fly are the ones you gotta jump off the cliff.

Writer means writing. Even if it’s just a moment in the narrative, even if it’s just one thought orchestrated and set gently on the page. An avalanche is snowflakes. An ocean is all droplets. Our life is measured in seconds, our work measured in words, and so you have to put the words down.

The act creates momentum. Writing begets writing begets writing.

The lack of act has its own momentum, too — don’t write today, and tomorrow you wonder if this is really who you are, if this is what you’re meant to do, and so the next day you think it’s just not happening, the Muse isn’t there, the inspiration hasn’t lit a fire under your ass yet, the rats don’t feel like they’re gnawing at you and oh, hey, other writers — well, they’re all talented and driven and they’d never think of sitting down and not writing and maybe that’s who you are, not a writer but rather, Not A Writer, and so the gap in your effort cracks and pops and widens like a broken jaw, a yawning mouth, and soon all you see is the broken teeth of your efforts, broken dreams there in the dark of the mind and the back of the throat, and what you Want to do is lost beneath the illusion of what you Didn’t — or what you Can’t — do.

We fight that inertia, we fight the fear and the doubt by writing.

The words you write right now are words you can fix later.

The words you don’t write today are a curse, a hex, a black hole painted white.

You think that forcing it is counterproductive, that it means nothing, that you’ll just spit mud and blood onto the paper — and you might be right, but you might be wrong. Might be gold in them thar hills, might be a cure for what ails you in those droplets of blood. You don’t know. You can’t know. You’re you — your own worst judge, your own enemy, your greatest hater.

If you’re dying in the snow, no matter how much it hurts, you’ve gotta get up and walk.

If you’re drowning in the deep, no matter how hard it is, you’ve gotta hold the air in your lungs until your chest feels like it’s on fire and you’ve gotta swim hard for the surface.

Writing is the act of doing. Surviving. Living. Being.

From nothing into something. The word of the gods spoken aloud and made real, signal in noise, order in chaos, Let There Be Words and then there were Words.

On the days it’s hard to write are the days it’s most important to write.

That’s how you know who you really are.

That’s how you know this is what you’re meant to do.

Wake up.

Get up.

Write.

100 comments

  • What a gem of a post. So nicely written. This is also what I needed to hear. You are absolutely right. Thank you so much for motivating me. Sometimes it is hard to come up with the words everyday, but I will read this post in the future whenever I don’t feel like writing.

  • Chuck, I read your article earlier today and was struck with the importance of simply making yourself write during those slumps when you feel like nothing you make is good enough. It got me thinking about Ira Glass’s interview where he described the “gap” between the quality of work an artist creates at the beginning of their career compared to their potential, which is why so many people stop writing. Then I got along to thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule about how a person must put forth 10,000 hours to truly get good at something.

    As a writer, all you can do is write and write and write some more. I wrote a reaction piece on my blog about the importance of writing and churning out crap in regard to both Glass and Gladwell’s theories. Here’s the link if anyone’s interested: http://ryanndannelly.blogspot.com/2014/02/practice-really-does-make-perfect.html

  • Where was this text all my life? Your blogwords are like the breath or lifeblood that helps me keep going. Thank you for it Chuck.

  • This describes perfectly what crippled me for longer than I care to think about. Now I allow myself only two days off a week. It really is necessary to write every day. Thanks for this excellent post!

  • Beautiful. I’m gonna have it printed and framed above my desk. Thanks for the wonderful motivation.

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