How to Survive a Bad Writing Day

Life is suffering.

This was my earliest lesson in Buddhism when I first learned about it as a teenager. I remember thinking, “Gee, thanks guys.” Life is suffering, so you might as well accept it.

Hardly an uplifting message.

What I didn’t understand then and didn’t learn until much, much later was that yes, life is suffering. But acceptance of that idea (rather than fight it or resist it) brings a lot of freedom with it.

I learned that despite any suffering I actually possessed quite a bit of power.

I had power over my reaction to that suffering, how I embraced or resisted it. I had control over my own mind and whether I met that suffering with fear, anger, or grace.

This idea has slowly trickled into my life, but it didn’t become a part of my writing until recently. I was working on my book, which I’ve been doing pretty much daily for a month. I’ve had mostly good days, except for that day.

For some reason it just wasn’t clicking. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but for some reason the only thing flowing out of my pen was as appealing as poo. It was crap, and I knew it.

And as always happens when I have one of those days, the Inner Critic waltzed in and started sassing me about how I didn’t know what I was doing, and I had no business being a writer, and people are really going to hate this.

But this day was different than most days. On this day I accepted that this day wasn’t as good as others, and yes I was frustrated and a little disappointed. And while those feelings would have gotten to me at one time, on this day it occurred to me that I could meet the bad writing day with grace.

Here’s how:

  1. Bad days are normal. They happen. They happen to everybody. But that’s no excuse to stop writing.
  2. Resistance is futile. If you put up an internal resistance to the bad day, it’s only going to get worse. All that will happen is you’ll set an expectation of how good your work should be, so when it doesn’t live up to your expectations, you’ll be disappointed and feel like a failure and think, “I should have listened to my mother and become an accountant” and blah blah whine whine blah blah. Don’t resist the crap. Embrace it. And edit the crap later.
  3. Impermanence is your friend. Part of that whole “life is suffering” teaching is that we suffer, because we become attached to comfortable conditions that are impermanent. Good days don’t last forever. So when they pass, you’re miserable. But bad days don’t last forever, either. Just keep writing, and this too will pass.

I wish someone had taught me about bad days, but it was one of the many things I had to learn the hard way. I spent so many days filled with self-loathing. I spent so many days letting the Inner Critic convince me that I was a no-good-hack, when in reality these bad writing days are all part of the natural order.

Do not waste another day allowing this same disappointment and discouragement to drag you down. You are stronger and more capable than you realize, and you are never alone in this. Take it from a writer who’s been there.

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2 thoughts on “How to Survive a Bad Writing Day

  1. I like the phrase “Pain is unavoidable, suffering is unnecessary”. I’m likely misquoting something I read in Buddhism. But I think what you’ve described is where suffering comes from – we fight whatever is happening at the moment instead of observing and moving on or settling in for a less-than-perfect moment. I actually laughed when I read your title, because I think I’ve got the bad writing days down pat!

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