When Writing Sucks and You Want to Quit


You’re in a deep funk and can’t get out of it. Writing is HARD and it’s getting the best of you. Publishing is even HARDER and it makes you want to cry. The words aren’t flowing, life is a big ball of stress and distraction, and you just don’t know if you have it in you. What do you do?

DO SOMETHING ELSE THAT SUCKS LESS, like scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush or scraping gum off the car seats, or go for a ten mile hike in the snow. (Okay, that’s where I draw the line.)

FIND INSPIRATION IN UNLIKELY PLACES  Go for a cruise in the ghetto. Visit your friendly neighborhood brothel. Attend a polo match. Do something weird and out of character. There’s bound to be something there that gets your synapses firing, and the storyteller in you will bang around in your head and beg to be freed.

QUIT WRITING  No seriously, just quit. Try that on for awhile. See how it feels. Do you feel relieved? Guilty? Is everyone around you annoying because you feel not quite right? Do the words bubble up inside of you? Or are you just plain glad you gave it up? Your time away will speak volumes.

BE LIKE BUDDHA  This is such a tough business of ups and downs (and plenty of sideways!). I’ve learned a few things from Buddha in my own process, allowing all of the rejections and heartaches to flow over and around me, not through me. There are no hooks, you see, so those nasties that come my way don’t stick. Getting a handle on the nasties is about faith, trusting the universe, trusting yourself. Much of it is about letting go of the illusion of control. It’s important to come back to this: this journey is about you and the page, your love for a character, for the escape into the world you create. It will be there for you, whether the heartaches come or not. Besides, they can be channeled into your writing to make it stronger. Be like Buddha. Don’t give the rejections power.

Then there’s this other way of doing things. It’s the way my military upbringing taught me to be. It’s called: QUIT-YOUR-CRYING-AND-JUST-DO-IT-OR-BE-STOMPED-ON mentality. Sometimes I get stomped on, but not usually for long. Put your battle gear on! If you’re not a warrior, you really will quit.


What do you do when writing sucks?


Author: Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around RomanceUniversity.org as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

19 Replies to “When Writing Sucks and You Want to Quit”

  1. Great post! I actually had to stop writing for most of November simply because I could not do it. Nothing felt right and every time I tried to write I was lucky to get 100 words written. So I stopped. I gave myself a break and did other stuff. And when I was ready again (3 weeks later) the words started flowing. Why? I’m not sure, but I think I just needed to allow that mental hiatus so my subconscious could do the work my conscious simply couldn’t at the time.

  2. “This journey is about you and the page, your love for a character, for the escape into the world you create. It will be there for you, whether the heartaches come or not.” Heather, you put that so well. And at the end of the day, that’s the important thing!

    As for me, when I can’t take it anymore, it’s my dog’s lucky day. He gets a walk through the neighborhood, a trip to the dog park, or a game of fetch. Usually this is when I relax enough to let the ideas flow through.

    1. Thank you, Laura. I’m glad you have an outlet for stress (lucky dog indeed!). It’s so important. The sad thing for me is that running used to be my outlet for stress, but I’m finding myself busier and busier and it has gone by the way side. I need to get back on the wagon!

    1. LOL! By the time we get to Thursday on the blog with the same topic, I’m forced to get creative.

      I think we spend a lot of time trying to deny how terrible we can feel about ourselves and our writing–we have plenty of people telling us why we are less than. I feel like what we really need are lessons in strength-building and faith, and coping, and just ENJOYING that we’re doing something we love, regardless of the b.s.

  3. I like to sink back into my day job for a few days when things get tough, thankful that I don’t have the added pressure of needing to sell my work so I can pay my bills and support my kids.

    I also read a ton in my genre to get my ear back in tune again.

    In my day job, I spend a lot of time teaching kids the value of failure – of picking yourself up and learning something from setbacks. If I want them to do it, I’d better be pretty good at it myself. But quitting is never an option.

    1. I love that you teach that to children, Lucy. It’s an admirable job. I used to do the same as an athletic coach. Reading in your genre is fabulous idea and a great escape, too.

  4. Nice one, Heather! You took some of the words right out of my mouth … What shall I write for tomorrow? 🙂

    The QUIT-YOUR-CRYING-AND-JUST-DO-IT-OR-BE-STOMPED-ON mentality scares me, but then I don’t come from a military family. I can see how it can work though. That “just do it” attitude. (Except isn’t it a lot of pressure going on in the back of your mind all the time?)

  5. My desk, home, clothes, and dogs are never cleaner or more organized than when I’m going through a writing funk. I love ALL these options, because they can all work, so long as eventually we get tough on ourselves and find our way back to the page.

    Great post, Heather!

  6. I can’t tell you what a breath of fresh air all these posts have been for me this week. As someone who has always made her living writing for others (should be working diligently at my desk as I type this…woops) it’s very different writing a book.

    I would like to propose, too, a week of topics that deal with quanity vs. quality. Just because we blog five times/week (I have not recently) does not really mean we are that much further along. With everything there is to do, write, see, watch… how do you define a plan that works for you?

    I’d be really interested in all this. And nice post! Andrea

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