30. Brain Hacks for When You Don’t Want to Write

One of the biggest causes of frustration for you writers is when you’ve scheduled to write, and when that time comes, you don’t want to write. So either you don’t write at all at that time–you do something else instead–or, you struggle to write a sentence or two.


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All that’s happening here is that your brain is resisting spending energy. This is normal, this is something our brains are programmed to do.


Our brains are programmed to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and conserve energy.

This means that the majority of the time, when you schedule time to do something that requires energy, or carries a risk of negative emotion, or is not particularly pleasurable, your brain is going to tell you that it doesn’t want to do the thing.


It happens almost every single time. Whether it’s writing, going out to meet friends, exercising, studying, for me it’s cooking, it can be anything.


Our brains always tell us that we don’t want to do it, and for some reason, at that moment, we take our brains very seriously.


If instead of having the thought come up “I don’t want to,” if I was to tell you that before every writing session you would sneeze three times, you wouldn’t think anything of it. You’d be like “oh there is the sneezing, two more to go,” and then you would write.


You wouldn’t have a story about it - that it’s somehow a problem that you are going to sneeze. You wouldn’t make it mean anything about you, your ability to write, or your ability to motivate yourself. It would be a brief, uncomfortable moment of sneezing. You know it’s going to happen, and you just let it happen and write anyway.


That’s the first hack. It sounds kind of funny. But I want you to think of your brains protesting as sneezing and see how that works. You are going to sneeze at least three times before you write.

I also want you to watch for that thought “I don’t want to.” It may not be so obvious at that. That thought can come in variations like “I’ve had a long day,” “I’m tired,” “I’ve worked hard this week,” “I deserve to relax,” all those thoughts are just a different way of saying “I don’t want to.” Be on the lookout for them.


The second brain hack is to remind yourself that you actually do want to write.

So when that thought comes up, “I don’t want you,” you remind yourself that your brain is mistaken and you really do want to write.


I've talked about having a compelling reason before (Ep. 22 - How to Commit to Writing) and this is certainly a place where you can remind yourself of your compelling reason. But you can also keep it really simple and remind yourself that you put this on your calendar for a reason, you don’t want to have to reschedule, and it will feel really good when you get it done.


That’s it honestly. It’s having the mental awareness to notice your brain’s resistance as optional thoughts, not as something to be taken really seriously. Then telling yourself that you actually do want to write because you want a published book, or whatever you want to tell yourself.


Your brain is not being truthful when it says it doesn’t want to write. You actually do want to write, it’s why you’re reading this blog.

Try this out in other aspects of your life as well. When you go to exercise and your brain says it "doesn't want to," remind yourself why you put it on your calendar in the first place – I actually do want to exercise for my health.


Do this exercise as often as you can so you get really good at it–because your brain is really good at coming up with reasons why it doesn't want to do something and you have to be ready.


This is the key to being really good at scheduling. Anyone can put items on their calendar but not everyone can actually get it done.


The reason why most people can't get it done is that they listen to their brain when it says it doesn't want to do it.

But the thought "I don't want to" isn't even true. You put it on our calendar because you wanted it done.


When your brain is protesting, remind yourself why you wanted to do it in the first place.


Don't overthink these brain hacks–just try them out. The next time your brain tells you it doesn’t want to write, either look at it like a sneeze (this is just something that happens and it’s not a problem, it’s mild discomfort and then it’s over) and/or remind yourself that you actually do want to write.


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