All writers have been there. You sit down to write and words are flowing out on the page. You’re moving along, you seem to be getting somewhere, but when you end for the day something doesn’t feel quite right. Your wheels were spinning, sure, but they were spinning in mud. You didn’t really seem to travel anywhere. At least, not anywhere you wanted to go.
It’s a disconcerting feeling, a feeling that you’ve just wasted your time. You know what it’s like when you’re really in the flow of the writing, when it’s inspired, when the voice within is translating The Universe. And that, what you just wrote, that wasn’t it.
Some people might be tempted to call it writers block, but that’s not quite right, is it? You were, in fact, writing.
So you search for a cause, but the cause is elusive. Maybe, I need to do more research on my setting, you think. Maybe I need to do a little more world building.
You know there’s a reason for the malaise, so you grasp through the fog, trying to catch that slippery shadow, but it dances out of reach. Eventually, you conclude that the reason the writing didn’t feel inspired is that there is no one simple cause, and lacking a concrete source of your anxiety, you’re forced to try again the next day, likely with the same results.
I’ve found when the writing doesn’t feel inspired, it’s for one reason: I’m not writing for me. I’m writing for someone else. I might be too conscious of what my test readers are going to think, or my agent, or my intended audience. “What would they like?” I’m asking myself. “What would they want to happen next?”
The simple fact is you’re not really writing for any of those people. Sure, you want them to love what you’ve created, but the person you most have to please, the person you are truly writing for, is you. If not, why do it?
You shouldn’t be asking, “What do they want to read?” The question you want is, “What do I want to read?
Of course you have to keep your audience in mind, but what you really have to ask yourself when you’re writing is what will keep and hold your interest. Once you consciously acknowledge that your most important reader is you, that in order to feel the passion the story must be yours, that’s when the fire returns.
Nothing is more freeing than to give yourself permission to write what you want.
Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.