Should you force yourself to write? A discussion.

Happy Sunday, folks, or Monday already depending on where and when you’re reading this. I know a lot of us in this community are also writers, so I thought I’d share a quote that resonated with me this week:

“We may think that the book we will write will be bad. Even worse will be the one we put off writing. At least the book that has been written exists.”

-Fernando Pessoa

Yikes. I can definitely relate to that, almost too much.

Anyone else?

I always seem to put off writing until I’m in the right mindset, until I have an evening with no plans, no distractions, until I have an idea that’s good enough. But good ideas don’t have to start as good ideas. Good writing doesn’t have to start with good writing, it’s just important that you start.

Besides being a member of this amazing team on Pointless Overthinking, I also write poetry and excerpts of a book series I want to publish in the future. One of the positive sides of quarantine has been that I’ve had more time to write without distractions. Over time, I’ve learned a lot about good and bad writing habits that I have.

One of those bad habits is procrastination.

I never force myself to write, it’s a passion that I’ve always had ever since I was a little girl. But I realized I had been using procrastination as an excuse to not write, which isn’t the same thing.

Block out 5 minutes of your day to free write, if it takes you somewhere go with it, if not, at least you started to build a good habit and gave your mind a break.

Sometimes I write 5 adjectives that come to mind, sometimes I write 5-10 word poems of random words, sometimes I describe all the unique colors I can see… Whatever works for you. Check your perfectionism at the door and start.

To answer my own question, no, I don’t think you should ‘force’ yourself to write. The most important thing is to have a healthy relationship with writing. But I do believe blocking out time every day to free write is a healthy exercise for your mind and many ideas can stem from there.

What I write, knowing that it’s bad, might also offer a few moments of distraction from worse things to another sad or wounded soul. That is enough, or rather, it isn’t but it nonetheless helps in some way, and that’s how it is with life.

-Fernando Pessoa

What do you write about? Do you also struggle with procrastination at times? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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You can read my poetry blog at http://www.poemsandprose.travel.blog

76 thoughts on “Should you force yourself to write? A discussion.

Add yours

  1. Writing is a way to express myself. But I never set aside time to free write. That is a good idea to do. I don’t force myself to write other than when I am doing the blog. I need to write and I want to write, but never do. I don’t have enough quiet time to do it. I better create it! Thank you for your post! Inspired me to start writing more often.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Start with small steps and you might find yourself writing more and more. I think the most important part is that you keep that want and that passion you have to write. Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 5 people

  2. I can definitely relate. Sometimes when I think everything I write will be awful and get writing paralysis I try a thing Dan Harmon advised. He recommends trying to prove yourself right and write the worst thing you can. When I do it I notice it frees me up and lets me move past the inner critic. There’s no overthinking and things flow more naturally. You may end up with something terrible but congrats that was the goal. You can always work it into something better if you want.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Wow, I haven’t ever heard of this technique and I absolutely love it. Thank you for sharing it. My inner critic is probably the biggest road block I have for writing. It’s the cause of my procrastination and quest for perfection. But I really love that idea of trying to prove yourself right. I used to have a habit of finishing an article and never hitting publish because I always thought I could come back the next day and make it ‘perfect.’ When I finally would come back, there was nothing I needed to change. Thanks for this inspiration!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. To me though, it seems that I’m forced to write more often than not, especially when I’m writing a novel. If I were to wait for positive feelings before writing, I’d never get anything done. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Yes, I can imagine if you have a page count you have to hit it may seem you have to make yourself write those pages. As long as that’s not the majority of your writing and it doesn’t take away from your passion for writing, sometimes you have to accept that’s how it’s going to be. Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t even know why I stopped writing video game reviews. In 2016 I write up my review for Xenoblade Chronicles X easily one of my longest and most expansive reviews. I felt really good about it once I finished.

    The next review on my list was Fast Racing Neo, a far simpler game by comparison. A futuristic racing game, any other day I could have banged out that review in under an hour. I sat there for 30 minutes looking at the blank word document unable to type anything. It’s not a case of not knowing what to say, I just….couldn’t.

    I don’t know why, I don’t know-how, and Xenoblade was the last review I ever wrote. I must have been at least ok at it considering all the views and likes on my old reviews I transferred to my WordPress blog.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I know that exact feeling. You have an idea of what you want to write, but you just can’t start. Or even worse, you start and it’s not at all what you wanted it to be. That’s my biggest fear as a writer. To not live up to my expectations for myself. Sending some positive writing vibes to you this week. About a year ago a random blogger commented on one of my posts that inspired me to start writing poetry again, and I’ve taken to it like wildfire since then. Hopefully I can be that person to you.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you for the suggestions.
    I particularly like, “Block out 5 minutes of your day to free write.” and “Sometimes I write 5 adjectives that come to mind, sometimes I write 5-10 word poems of random words, sometimes I describe all the unique colors I can see… Whatever works for you.”
    I write when I feel strongly about something. And, then the words just pour out of my heart either in prose or poetry. I am unable to stop until all my thoughts are on the computer screen or paper.
    I just can’t sit and write as a rule every day. But am definitely going to try the above suggestions.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Writing when I’ve felt strongly about something has been my style of writing ever since I was younger. It’s only been since recently that I’ve tried to reveal my own potential to myself by trying to make good writing habits and write almost every day. Sometimes I’m too busy wearing my other hats in life, as a professional writer, as a friend, as a hiker, so I don’t have time but I’m consciously trying to do at least one writing exercise in my head every day. Sometimes that means thinking of 5 words in my head and writing them down in my phone. Or not writing them down. Again, it’s whatever works for you, don’t change it if there’s no problem 🙂 Thank you for reading and for your comment that got me thinking!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m new to the ‘blogging’ scene. I’ve always loved writing, and my dream is to write a book one day, but for now, it’s something I just love to do. In a way, it’s like a therapy. I’ve been trying to produce one blog post a week. I’m the queen of procrastination though, and there are times that I’ve found it really hard to start writing. But I’ve found that even when I’m reluctant to write, for whatever reason, once I begin putting words on paper (or on the screen), I get lost in them and the ideas just flow. Before I know it, a blog post is born. That’s an amazing feeling. Very addictive.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I feel like we’re on a similar journey, I’ve always been a writer but I’m also new to the blogging scene, and I also plan on publishing a book one day. I also have been historically bad with procrastination and make excuses like ‘I’m too tired,’ or ‘I’m too busy’ to write. Then I’d go weeks without writing. I’m just trying to make it a daily habit now and prioritizing it. May I ask what you plan on writing your book about? 🙂

      Like

      1. I’d love to bring my blog posts about my journey with my son together into a book. His diagnosis, becoming a homeschooler, dealing with the challenges of our life, etc. I also have a couple ideas for a fictional stories based on events that happened to me. And I have a number of children’s stories kicking around that I’d love to develop. But blogging is a great teaching tool I’m discovering. How to be more disciplined as a writer in particular. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I liked the last quote from Fernando Passoa. Sometimes I wonder why I’m writing my blog. Ive published two books through established publisers but am hesitant about the third…found your post helpful. Thanks.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I think a lot of us read as a healthy distraction to get lost in a topic we love, or learn something new, or learn about another’s experience. Whatever you write has that power to alter someone’s day. It doesn’t always have to change their life, give them a brilliant new idea, etc. sometimes being a good distraction is enough… Thank you for reading and for your comment. 🙂

      Like

  8. I hail from a very small country in the South Pacific. Writing a blog is one of the most unheard professions or even leisure activity out here. Over the years, I wrote a lot of about my life, my small experiences and just short narratives of how I see the world, but didn’t get the courage to actually publish anything until recently. There was no calling, no significant development in life that led to this. I feel like there was a build of deep and immense emotions, some happy, some sad. It felt like my heart was overwhelmed and I needed to pour out onto something. So I wrote. I shared. And with every new post I publish, I feel some calamity. Some peace.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. That’s a beautiful story and I’m glad that you’ve shared your story with others along the way. That is a medicine and somehow in itself enough, publishing it is just a cherry on top. Congrats on the achievement and I look forward to checking out your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pessoa was the literary equivalent of Van Gogh. Just as the famous painter, he got almost nothing published during his life time, struggled with alcoholism that caused his early demise and his manuscripts were collecting dust in a trunk on an attic. Luckily they were discovered by someone who recognized their literary value or they would have ended up in the recycle bin.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Pessoa is my literary hero, and honestly, his book of collected poems “A little larger than the entire universe” changed my outlook on life and brought me a lot of peace. I am glad to hear someone else appreciates his work with me, and I’m glad someone found his writings in that attic! Thank you for reading and for your comment, <3E

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I took part in a writing challenge a few months ago which forced me to write something every day for 20 days. Because I had an actual deadline, I really committed myself, and any excuse I previously had for not writing had to be released. Forcing myself to write for 20 days to complete this challenge brought me back to daily writing. Now I do not have to force myself anymore like I used to. So in short, I forced myself –> turned into a habit –> no longer forcing myself. That’s my little story 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I love that! I feel like I’m in a similar boat, committing to write every day and not using my normal excuses of being too busy, mentally drained, or physically exhausted to miss a day. When I was on vacation last month I made it a habit to write every day, whether that be jotting 5 things I saw around me down, writing down a string of words that caught my attention, writing down a muse for another time, just getting into that habit even when I wasn’t in “writing mode” really helped me capture some ideas I’ve been able to build from now that I’m home. I’ve been using that strategy in my day to day life and I really love it. Thanks for sharing! <3E

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I can relate to the same level with it. The biggest obstacle in my writing process is not about lacking of idea, but procrastination and perfectionism. I develop my writing habit by having “idea bank”. So, I’ll write everything (sentence, phrase even just one word) that comes to my mind in my notebook or notes in my smartphone. Later, when I have enough time, I’ll execute one idea from my idea bank into article or poetry. Great post 👍

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I’m exactly the same. Lots of ideas. I have notebooks with so many scribbled ideas and I use my phone if I’m out and about and one pops into my head. It’s the procrastination, and as you said, perfectionism, that I battle with. Focusing on just one idea at a time definitely works for me.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I am the same way too! Right now I have 11 pages of my poetry “idea bank” in a word doc and even more notes on my phone notepad. That’s what I use when I think of something throughout the day that I want to play with later on. Some of these lines (even just 1-2 words) have been sitting there for months, but they’re there for when they match with another idea I have and then I’ll put together the finished piece. Thanks for sharing <3E

      Liked by 2 people

  12. When I don’t feel that I’m in the right mindset or right setting to write about what I want to, I honestly just write what I am felling and kind of get it out of my system. And I like an unadulterated piece of writing every now and then.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I also do this! Writing your feelings on paper is a psychology trick because it helps your mind let go of them. It’s a great method I’ve used to help calm nerves and relieve anxiety. And sometimes, ideas for blog topics or poetry blossoms from there! Thank you for sharing

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve started to do Julia Cameron’s “morning pages” where you force yourself to do three handwritten pages before breakfast. These can be about anything, and work to unblock you rather than being on your projects.

    I’ve also done NaNoWriMo multiple times and find the forcing yourself to do 50000 words in one month can be really cathartic… it does feel better to have it written than not.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Wow those are a couple of ambitious challenges. There is something almost romantic about handwritten pages though. Depending on what I’m writing I either grab my notebook or my lap top. Also my boyfriend got me one of those ink pens they used hundreds of years ago and I feel like a real poet using that to write with.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the paper notebook is definitely a different feel of writing. And everyone has a favourite pen – mine’s the standard Staedtler stick (blue-medium) ballpoint.

        Like

  14. Sometimes I force myself to write and good things/ideas come out. Sometimes I think I’m just exhausted as nothing would come as inspiration.

    Then there are times that out of the blue an idea comes. I think we just need to pace ourselves as ideas will surely come. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Same for me! Sometimes I start writing having no idea what I want to write about or if I have anything to say and an idea comes out of the blue as soon as I put my pen on paper (or start typing). It’s amazing how that works sometimes isn’t it?! 🙂 And I agree, pacing ourselves and patience with ourselves is the key. <3E

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I find that my struggles to write always come from me wanting the final product to come out a certain way or my idea not being “good enough”. I’ve been fighting that feeling more often now because at the end of the day, all that matters is getting it down on paper and that’s good enough for me. Great post ☺️

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I struggle with the same thing! Before I’ve even started writing my idea down I’m thinking about the final product and if it will be good enough. But like the second quote says, sometimes it being a distraction for the reader from their life is good enough. Good luck to you on your writing journey and thank you for reading and sharing 🙂 <3E

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Oh my this is absolutely me!!!!! I remember back in 7th grade, the first 10minutes was to write in a journal. The teacher didn’t care about what, but she said just grab a pen and it will come. I tend to procrastinate alot. I have so many ideas and then write it down, but then think no one wants to read that. I think your advice is great, I’m going to try 5minutes a day no matter what. Great post and thoughtful insight 💞

    Liked by 4 people

    1. What an inspiration that teacher had on you! I also was given the same task in elementary school and it was such a blessing. It really helped me develop my creative mind and writing skills. I think we can still benefit from that “assignment” today. Best of luck with your 5 minutes a day challenge! Mine is going well so far 🙂 <3E

      Like

  17. I think like with almost everything in life, things become easy to do if you’re having fun with it.
    Since I enjoy writing and spilling my thoughts sometimes, I don’t find procrastination a problem with writing specifically, though that certainly can’t be said with other things🤦🏻‍♂️

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Thinking over and over again in my mind is overwhelming. I too think that it should not be compulsion to write. For me I start to work on my post one week prior and post it on Sunday or Monday whenever it’s convenient. When I write it out I feel good, and better after sharing it other people. That’s why I have started this blog and yes it feels calming.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I’ve had this problem of procrastination for a long time now. And setting aside the time to write is a great idea. This is the same advice Anne Lamott gives to budding writers in her masterpiece ‘Bird by Bird’. I’ve been trying to implement this in my writing life ever since I read the book. Thanks for the post.

    I write about all sorts of things on my blog : thelaymanchronicles.com. Do visit 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Hello 🙂
    I´d like to comment on two things and give unsolicited advice:

    “I always seem to put off writing until I’m in the right mindset, until I have an evening with no plans, no distractions, until I have an idea that’s good enough. But good ideas don’t have to start as good ideas. Good writing doesn’t have to start with good writing, it’s just important that you start.”

    No, force will never produce the right long term result (if that is what you are up to). I admit that I have spoken to writers/ bloggers before, and everyone was complaining about the “inspiration” being gone, i.e. no topics…but you seem to write here about writing as an obligation, a task to perform, an action to postpone. Yet you also gave the answer to this: you need to start! that´s all. It will never be good enough, so you might just start, right now with whatever you have right now. (Contact me if you want to know more on writing topics and/ or procrastination.)

    “….I want to publish in the future…”
    It may sound harsh, do forgive me. I am saying this with the only intention to get you where you want to go:
    There is no such thing as “want something in the future”. The “wanting” happens in the present (i.e. your desire is in this moment), realization/ materialization of what you want is not in this moment. In other words: “good ideas do not have to start as good ideas, good writing does not have to start as good” it only needs to start – AND ideas need completion in the form of action. Start (the process of) publishing right now. This will immediately change the experience of life for you. “Wanting” will be transformed into a process and procrastination will be gone to begin with.

    I hope this was helpful.
    Have a great day

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t think you should force yourself to write, that’s completely the wrong mindset. It’s a privilege not a chore and the most important thing is to have a healthy relationship with writing. Forcing yourself is not the way. Instead of, “I have to write today,” change it to, “I get to write today.” If that helps to ease the pressure then go for it, otherwise wait until you get the inspiration.

      As far as “wanting to write in the future” I think those are just semantics. You can want to do something in the future and currently be working on it now, which I am. Thanks for the comment and for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Over the years I’ve come to realize quantity can be better than quality in many cases. The more you do something, the better you get at it. It’s a great place to be for a beginner

    Liked by 3 people

  22. My biggest fear about writing was, people not liking what I wrote. I often come across beautifully written pieces and oh my! the bar was too high for me.
    I later learnt that near perfection in writing is achieved over time, and that’s when I decided to start writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Writing is one of those activities that feels very natural to me. I always look forward to writing. Sometimes I think what I want to write about. It’s about self-expression. Writing is like breathing to me.

    Like

  24. This, i can totally relate with! I drown with procrastination and i have yet a dozen of drafts coz i feel like “im not feeling it yet” but really— its just a matter of starting and baby steps. Thank you for this!🤍

    Like

  25. Idk about forcing one’s self to write, but I blog the same time on the same days, it’s just habit like you said. But before I blog I already brainstormed ideas to expand on so I’m not twiddling my thumbs. But even before I started blogging I had written a fiction book, it’s unpublished bc I still need to edit it, but I would set aside the same time, same days to write, so I guess my mind and imagination was already trained in a way. Sometimes I would get writer’s block, so I’d skip to another part I’d already thought about and so could write about.

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  26. Yes I love writing but part of me wants to run and find other things to give attention to when its time. The only way I was able to complete my last book was to wake up an hour before I had to and write while everyone was in bed and was too early for distraction. I agree that free writing or any discipline to write will spark the desire and the writer in us takes over

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