On the one hand there is the common thought among writers of, “I don’t feel like writing today.” On the other hand there is the more intense and enduring, “I’m sick and tired of writing!” (Variations of the latter sentiment will not infrequently include a salty adjective that I am hesitant to reproduce in this blog.)
Handling a temporary motivational lapse as a writer is one thing, but when the issue has escalated to an enduring case of burnout and disillusionment, you have a completely different kettle of psychological fish.
There is no single answer to the question of how to handle this state of affairs. The problems are situation specific, and the best course of action (or inaction) depends on the facts of the case. Here are some thoughts about looking into such issues.
One reason for developing a repugnance toward writing is that you are not doing the kind of writing you want to do. Either the topic or the manner in which you are writing is at odds with how and what you really want to write. Remember trying to get yourself to write papers in school on topics you had absolutely no interest in?
Here the solution often lies in developing strategies to better align your work with your values, aesthetic sense and interests.
If your process of writing involves a lot of self-criticism and nit-picking every step along the way, you may generate a disdain for writing because the process is so psychically stressful. If writing brings with it an unending tirade of judgements from your harsh, perfectionistic inner editor, you will get sick and tired of it.
Solutions to such problems can be found by developing skills that mitigate the negative impact of excessively critical thought patterns, and that facilitate more experiences of the pleasures one can feel during the creative process of writing. Cognitive therapy, free writing, the work of Peter Elbow, Naomi Goldberg and Julia Cameron provide helpful tools for dealing with this issue.
A third possible cause of the “sick and tired” phenomenon is that you have been uni-focused on one project (dissertation, book) for such a long period of time that you are literally bored out of your mind. The subject has lost that numinous spark that once enthralled you. You might still want to complete the project, but you have been working so hard and long on it that you’ve lost connection with your passion for the topic.
In this case, maybe you need to give it a rest. This could mean a taking vacation from writing to go fishing or something. Or it might mean that you should develop some other projects to alternate with “The Big One.” It is generally a good thing to be dedicated and disciplined when you write, but let’s not get carried away. Maintaining an appropriate sense of balance is always wise.
Finally, you might be sick and tired of writing because you are done with it. You’ve either completed what you really want to complete as a writer, or you recognize that it is not the way you want to spend your time on the planet. No shame with this – writing is not, and shouldn’t be, everyone’s cup of tea.
Or kettle of fish.