How Do You Write When the Thrill is Gone?

I’ve been staring at this blank screen for three days waiting for a reason to put anything here.

What can I write that someone would care about?

What can I write that I would care about?

Is this writer’s block?

No. Can’t be. With nothing started, what’s to block?

I don’t know why I’m in this mood now, but when it comes to writing…the thrill is gone.

Then again, maybe I’m not supposed to write until I have a reason to do it, until ideas spontaneously stream through my mind, which generally happens in the shower when grabbing toilet paper for notes just doesn’t cut it.

And I’m thinking, okay… Again I’m posting about not wanting to write, about waiting for enthusiasm to prod my fingers back to a keyboard. How many times can I re-purpose this subject? And yet, it’s still important to address this because we all have resistance issues and every writer has to find a way of sparking the writing process.

That said, how do we make ourselves type words when we don’t want to?

What are the motivations that gets us to a desk?

  • Many times it’s a mounting anxiety about the deadline from a publisher or a blog post, like homework due tomorrow.
  • And a lot of times it’s just doing it, starting with writing anything, like I’m doing now.
  • And on a good day, it’s rereading what we’ve written and exclaiming, “Hey, this is interesting! Maybe someone else would think so too.”

Okay. We’ve started writing…at least something. But what about enthusiasm? What about the tingle that shoots real emotions into our words and connects them with souls on the receiving end? When does that kick in? ‘Cause we all know, we need it and passion can’t be faked.

But then we think, with enough skill and structure we can hide the vacancy.

Can we? Really?

HELLO! If you’re not passionate about your work, who else would be?

Somehow, someway, we have to recapture the thrill of writing. Where do we start?

Like anything else, we start with faith. We have to ASSUME our writing matters, at least to ourselves and hopefully to others. We have to trust that we know enough about people to recreate them on the page and that they will be real enough to make us care about them.

But to do that, we, the authors, must care about them first!

We must embrace our creations.

We must desire to meet our characters on the page and allow them to describe their scenes and speak their dialogue. And we need to enjoy these literary encounters. If we don’t, if the thrill is gone from our writing experience, the story lays flat and soulless.

Now there are ways of getting around the emotional vacancies and still turn out some pretty good reading. It’s done all the time by skilled authors of genres.

Genres…with their predetermined elements, structure and reader expectations there are places for the author to hide. Vampires, actions scenes or erotica deliver a prescribed certainty that many readers want with nothing more. It’s comforting and fun to read a brain puzzle mystery without getting too intense about the characters. Sure, it’s a bonus if the characters are deeply developed and expert novelists do that. But there is plenty of pulp fiction out there with a lot of readers sponging it up.

Genres are escapes and wonderful entertainment, not heavy psychology lessons. Okay, some are, and the angst in young adult novels definitely plays a larger role in motivating the players. But once the story drifts into fantasy and magic, the plots can shift from character driven to plot driven. And that’s okay too as long as the characters stay real.

Plot driven stories feel like they’re easier to write because unique (or nearly unique) situations are easier to imagine than unraveling the soul-searching workings of the human psyche. Plot driven stories however, carry a fatal trap.

And that trap is: writers tend to shape a character’s motivation and behavior in order to connect exciting scenes, when in fact the nature of most people (as well as the readers) would lead us away from those “exciting scenes” instead of toward them.

So what do we get with cheated, unmotivated behavior?

We get protagonists who are not human. We get cartoon scenarios which we read as a detached observer and not as an emotionally connected participant inside the drama.

Fantasies must conform to the same rule: We must believe the characters. The universe can be completely reversed as long as the people within those alternate settings react with emotions we all share and make logical decisions.

We’ve all seen this classic movie stretch: With a gun aimed at our hero’s head, the killer takes three minutes to explain why he’s about to pull the trigger, allowing just enough time for our hero to escape…to the next “exciting scene.”

And then there’s the car chase or chariot race or hover craft race where our hero always escapes or wins. Just once I’d like to see a genre movie where the hero loses or get’s caught.

Actually, I have seen a movie like that. It was The Departed in 2006, directed by Martin Scorsese. It was a cops and robbers flick that broke all the rules. Without giving too much away, there’s a foot chase far into the story. One of the good guys bursts through a door – BANG! He’s shot dead by the bad guy.

That moment was totally unexpected. Yet that’s what bad guys do in “Real Life” and so I totally bought it.

There was humanity in that moment and all through the movie. You could tell the writers (there were three) put in many hours of writing and rewriting to breathe realistic life into the story, and it translated into a rich experience.

But alas, feigned tension and unmotivated behavior is still inserted into movies and novels… when the thrill is gone from writing.

And maybe that’s okay.

It’s up to every writer and every reader to seek the level of commitment they want in a story. But if you’re like me, you know there’s no shortcut around understanding human nature and being true to it. And that takes sitting down before a empty page and thinking deeply about who’s story you’re telling and even why you’re writing it.

And then you begin.

Thrill or no thrill, YOU WRITE. Good stuff or bad stuff, you keep writing. And as you do the work, and it’s hard work, you wait for the magic to happen. You search for the Zone with your soul waiting for you inside it.

And ya know what? If you don’t quit, the light will come. And your words WILL matter.

But you knew that.

Still, isn’t it consoling to be reminded?


Originally posted on Curiosityquills.com.

Photo courtesy of Care & Feeding of Happiness



  1. Jerry's Cousin says:

    No matter what you write, there is someone out there that will read it. Writing to the average person is a mystery just waiting to be read. Some may love it, others may not. I wish I could write. I get great (I think) ideas, but don’t know how to put them on paper. I believe to a writer, the world is your oyster. They can write about anything that suits their fancy. Writing is a gift – enjoy it!

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      What beautiful words, JC. You ARE a writer! And a kind one at that.


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