Writing a Story Part 3: Knowing When Not to Write

Writing can be like any other job, where it doesn’t matter how you’re feeling or what you’re going through. You show up, and you do the work. That’s it.

On the other hand, writing can and should be joyful. If you’re under deadline, you find ways to get the words flowing. Sometimes you can find the joy during those times. Sometimes you can’t. The deadline is still a thing, though, and if you want to act as a professional, you get the job finished on time. There is a stereotype around artists being flaky, and you do not need to embrace it. Focus on what the job means to you, what the money or the opportunity means to you, and get to the other side.

You’re not always going to be on deadline. When there is no pressure to turn out a story at a specific time, be gentle with yourself. You can try to push through. Sometimes that’s the right thing to do. Are you being needlessly lazy? Be honest with yourself. If you’re being lazy, or pulled into a video game, or you don’t have the interest at the moment, it’s perfectly fine to trick yourself into being productive.

On the other hand, if you’re running on very little sleep, and your day job has drained you, and your emotional state is not super great, and pushing yourself is going to lead to more harm than good… don’t push. Take the time off. Rest, relax, and do the things you need to do to recharge. The story will still be there tomorrow.

Yesterday, I said we were going to work on characters tonight. That was my plan, but then I spent several hours beating my head against a SQL server that does not want to cooperate.

I’m in a foul mood. I’m tired. There is no joy in the writing tonight, and I’m not sure that whatever work I try to attempt on this fledgling story will be useful or helpful. Tonight, I need to take a break and let it sit.

I’m not under deadline. There is no demand for this story. It’s not going anywhere, except here.

So, here is another lesson in Brian C. E. Buhl’s writing process: know when to call off. I’ll sleep tonight, thinking about the characters. Tomorrow when I sit down to work on them, I expect the process to go smoothly.