When You Don’t Want To Write

We’d like to welcome our newest contributor, Ilima Todd!

I’ve written a number of stories in the short time I’ve been a writer, and though I’ve grown into a process I’m comfortable with, every book is different. Sometimes a first draft takes three weeks, other times it takes three years, not to mention the varied amounts of drafts and revisions that come after that. But that’s okay. As long as I’m writing what I enjoy and what feels right, I’m happy. After all, I write because I love it. Stories move me, teach me, change me—whether as a reader or a writer.

But what if writing isn’t always that way?

After turning in Resist (Remake #2) to my editors, they sat me down and told me the book was great, but it wasn’t the right story. So we’re going to need you to shelve this and start again. From scratch. And it needs to include this this and this. And oh, by the way—we need it by a quick and impossible deadline.


That was my first experience writing something I did NOT want to write. Not one bit. The muse had left the building. Inspiration had gone up in flames. I loathed this and abhorred that and how the heck was I supposed to incorporate those things—I hate it I hate it I hate it. Writing that book did not make me happy. I did not enjoy it. I had to push myself to the extreme, force something out of me that was painful. I dreaded every minute. It was torture. And the worst thing was that I couldn’t get away from it or take a break to recoup because DEADLINE.

And so I felt embarrassed—because this is not what art is. It should be satisfying, inspired. There should be a flow to it, a natural ebb that takes you on a journey of discovery, not a ten-foot-thick lead wall that you try to chisel through with nothing but a toothpick. I am a hack. I am not a writer. Because this can’t be what being a writer means.

But then something began to emerge from that torturous chiseling, despite my resistance. The story took shape, the characters grew, the words came together in such a way that I thought—this might actually be worth something after all. And when the first feedback from my editors was Wow! Wow! Wow! I knew I had made something good, even if the way I made it wasn’t the “correct” way.

Not only that, but I realized I was capable of doing something I never thought possible. I dug and stretched and tore myself in pieces to discover a part of me that I swore was never there, and I became a better writer for it. And miracle of miracles, I think this book is even better than the first one that came so naturally for me. I’m proud of it. I even, surprisingly, love it.

I learned there is no right way to be a writer. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it shines, but either way—you’re still a writer. So if you’re not finding the right words, when you dread writing, when inspiration is not your friend, you can step away until you find the motivation to keep going. Or you can write anyway. You might be surprised by what you create—something that had been hiding inside you the whole time.

Ilima Todd was born and raised on the north shore of Oahu and currently resides in the Rocky Mountains. She never wanted to be a writer even though she loves books and reading. She earned a degree in physics instead. But the characters in her head refused to be ignored, and now she spends her time writing science fiction for teens. Ilima is the author of the REMAKE series (Simon Pulse/Shadow Mountain) and is represented by Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary. When she is not writing, Ilima loves to spend time with her husband and four children.

11 thoughts on “When You Don’t Want To Write

  1. You and Katie have both had to do this–it makes me extremely nervous to turn in book 2 to my editor! But I'm glad to know it's possible to get through it. 🙂 I remember hearing Mary Robinette Kowal say on Writing Excuses that sometimes when writing was hard she just had to rely on her knowledge of craft.


  2. Katie and I have had many conversations about this very thing. Don't be nervous. Because like you said, it will all work out in the end. Good luck!


  3. Excellent! So proud of you! And my daughter can't wait to read book 2. Life has been seriously getting in the way with my writing but I made myself start the next book today and wrote 1,180 words. Go me! 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration.


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