How to fall in love again with the writing project you hate

person at writing desk image

Remember falling in love with your idea. Remember the joy you experienced when you started writing it. But now, you hate the darn thing. You just need to finish it and move on. You’ve reached a difficult bit, it’s a struggle to keep going. Then there’s that other idea calling you from over there too – oooh look, shiny new thing.

If your project feels like a millstone, we’ve compiled the best methods to use to get back on track.

1. Use people without mercy

Research conducted by psychologist Dr Gail Matthews from The Dominican University of California found that people who share their goals with a friend – are on average 33% more successful in accomplishing them.

>> Take action:

  • Take an oath: Sign up to a ‘contract’ with another writer and commit to sharing your progress with them regularly – make this a formal contract so you both stick to it
  • Join a group: Writing groups can offer great support and feedback but crucially, joining one also means that you’re forced to share your progress with the group in each session.
Our pocket writing coach has helped thousands of people to get into the writing habit. It can help you too.

2. Approach it in super-small steps

Thinking about the project as a whole is a daunting prospect and means that you’ll always be drawn to the new shiny thing you’d rather spend your time with. Dividing your large goal into a series of small steps makes the whole process far more approachable and achievable.

>> Take action:

If you’re finding your project hard going, try not to think of the project as a whole, just ask yourself ‘what’s the next small thing I can do to move my writing forwards?’ Once you’ve achieved that step, then set another.

3. Top ‘trying’ to write it and start scheduling it

Psychologist Dr Robert Boice studied writers for decades and found that the most productive writers are the most efficient schedulers. He discovered that writers become less likely to procrastinate when they find a regular slot in their diary – and commit to writing without fail in that slot.  Giving yourself a specific writing time sends a signal to yourself and others that this is ‘your time’ – you’ll be interrupted less and you’ll achieve way more.

>> Take action:

Go through your diary and use our traffic light system of scheduling to find the times in your week that you can, can’t and might be able to write – write in the times you identify and stop feeling guilty about the below-par times.

4. Challenge yourself (you might even have some fun)

One way to inject a little fun into a flagging writing project is to turn it into more of a game or a challenge. Adding an element of competition also means that you’re more likely to stick with it.

>> Take action:

5. Set yourself a ‘bright line’

Sometimes you expel so much energy finding the time to write that when it comes to actually writing – you never start. One method is to use what psychologists call ‘bright lines’ – clear transparent rules – that make it easy for you and others to know whether they’ve been broken or not. Bright lines work because they take away the burden of having to make decisions and help you take action on autopilot.

>> Take action:

Set yourself a clear and unambiguous writing rule. Start by identifying your writing goals and what you want to achieve, and also your key distractions or procrastination activities  then turn them into rules, for example:

  • I promise to always write on a Thursday after work.
  • I promise to never check social media until I’ve written 250 words on a weeknight. 
  • I promise to reserve every Sunday morning for writing.

When you team up a ‘bright line’ with an ‘if/when-then’ plan then you start to form a powerful accountability plan. Read more here.

6. Spoil yourself with rewards

When you have to do something (rather than want to do it) engineering a reward structure around you is a highly effective method to keep you motivated. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a series of small treats for each day you’ve written or a bigger celebration for every section you complete.

>> Take action

Think of a small treat you can give yourself at the end of your writing session to keep you motivated. The key is to use small incentives to help you keep going the next day – and the next. Crucially, never beat yourself up for missing a day’s writing – that’s a sure-fire way to kill your motivation – but instead, return to your goals and tweak them if you’ve been over ambitious.

7. Write your way out of it

Psychologists have found that one of the best unblocking techniques if you’re in a writing rut is freewriting – a method that involves getting words onto the page without editing and without looking back. Just the process of starting to write and exercising your creative muscle is a proven way to take the blocks out of the way and get the ideas flowing.

>> Take action:

The next time you’re feeling blocked just start writing anything that comes into your head. This often works best in the morning as you’re less likely to question and more likely to go with the flow. But crucially, don’t look back and don’t judge your words.

8. Change your environment

If your regular writing spot isn’t working for you – you feel distracted, blocked or just plain bored – then maybe a change is what you need.

>> Take action:

Change your location or alter your working environment to inject a bit of excitement into your writing routine.Try buying some snazzy stationary, having your favourite snack when you write, writing standing up, lying down or somewhere completely new – make your writing session less of a chore and more of a pleasure.

Chris Smith About the author: Co-founder and writer in residence at Prolifiko | Ex-philosophy lecturer | maker of unpopular short comedy films.