Books, Writing

Writing Apathy — Recognizing the Signs



Writing Apathy is a real and serious write-threatening condition. It can swoop down on the unsuspecting with its massive productivity-stealing claws at the first indication of a compromised work ethic. You may have been on a writing schedule consisting of 4,000+ words-a-day, only to suddenly find yourself staring at a blank screen while drool collects at the left corner of your mouth.

For days.

And you don’t care.

Don’t delay — recognizing the signs of writing apathy can be the first step to getting help.

Neglect of duties: This is the most obvious sign of the disease, since your writing output either drops dramatically, or completely ceases. You might skip your usual writing routine one day because you’re too busy, or just need a break. One afternoon then turns into two. A week passes. Fast forward three weeks, and you’re sitting on the couch watching re-runs of Party of Five while eating fistfuls of Berry-Bad-For-You cereal instead of pounding out words. Writing — something you used to make time for — has now taken a back seat to teen dramadies.

Lying: A writer suffering from writing apathy tends to cover up their illness. They may lie to loved ones or critique partners about their word counts (zero), hours spent on writing (zero), or with continued promises that a project is “being tweaked” (it’s not). They may also lie to themselves, believing that “thinking” about their writing equates to actual writing time. One must consider how much productive thinking can possibly take place when one’s mind is clouded with angst-filled, be-dimpled orphans. (See Party of Five reference above.)

Lawbreaking: Often, someone in the midst of writing apathy will start to take unintelligent risks, which almost always leads to getting in trouble with the laws of writing. During their now-rare writing moments, the writer may find themselves telling instead of showing, or hiding behind a forest of adverbs. In extreme moments, they may send off  a query for an unfinished manuscript “just to see.” Such deviances may result in public flogging via Query Shark, or even jail time. Worse, the writer now has a permanent record for bad writing choices.

Personality Changes: A writer may start avoiding places they used to frequent, including: Twitter lit chats, writing groups, open mike night at their old roommate’s garage, and any place where the word “symbolizes” is uttered more than ten times in an hour. They may become angry if someone mentions J.K. Rowling’s days spent writing in a coffee shop (“She was addicted to cranberry scones, people!”), and declare the success of The Hunger Games as a manufactured fluke. They may also appear well-rested.

Tolerance: After awhile, a person experiencing writing apathy will find that their tolerance for not-writing goes up. They may no longer feel guilty twinges or subtle enthusiasm regarding their works-in-progress. They’ll stop counting the days since they last wrote. They may decide to take up curling.

~Demonstrating any or all of these signs is a good indication that you have writing apathy. However, don’t despair. There IS help available for those who seek it.


On Tap for Get Inspired Monday Curing Your Writing Apathy

*Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

48 thoughts on “Writing Apathy — Recognizing the Signs”

  1. Just last night I thought maybe a little junk TV might do me some good. I opted for a bowl of cereal instead (what does it mean if you eat it in the dark?). But, in my defense, I did get a little writing done before I dug into the Cheerios.

    I love this warning sign: They may also appear well-rested. I guess as long as I have dark circles under my eyes and the need for several cups o’coffee in the morning, I’m still in the game.

    Fun post!


    1. If you eat in the dark, the calories don’t stick. Proven fact. And, no, you’re not hiding anything.

      Thanks, Christi — I don’t think you have to worry too much about this disease.


  2. adverbs are fine as long as it’s the rough draft! *Stuffs internal editor back into the closet* and so is telling *nails a few boards over the door*

    I’ll have to ask you to watch your wording around that guy…he loves picking at my work while I write. >.<


  3. Not long ago, a friend sent me a box of writing prompts. I can’t help but think the person who put this tool together knows not a thing about real writing, because when I flip through those cards, I get angry rather than inspired.

    If you wrote this post because you’re in the trows of writing apathy, hang in there, friend. Maybe you need the break.


    1. 🙂 I’m laughing at that vision of you flipping through those cards! (Note to self: do not include box o’ prompts in Mondays post).

      Actually, I’m in perfect writing health — the better to point out past writing ailments.


  4. Sounds terrifying! I’m looking forward to learning how to cure it, until then I’m going to fight all urges to head to the curling rink.


  5. How about when I find myself knee-deep in my sons’ toy closet yelling at the loads of crap we’ve somehow collected in under 10 years?

    That might actually be more “writing avoidance?” Or hormones?

    Thanks for the laugh!! And the mirror 🙂


  6. This made me LOL: “During their now-rare writing moments, the writer may find themselves telling instead of showing, or hiding behind a forest of adverbs.”

    I will now spend the next 2-3 weeks trying to come up with a blog post that is half as clever. Which is totally as productive as adding words to my WIP, right?

    Oh, wait…


  7. Finally a name for my condition! My self treatment since the beginning of February has included: required butt in chair time, daily blogging, 1000+ words/day, and seeking professional help from as many other writers as possible! It’s getting easier but I always fear a relapse…


  8. I’ve been writing for about three years now without experiencing a devastating bout of apathy. Now I know why: I spent my first 53 years thinking about it, and apparently that’s what it took.


  9. I once suffered from writing apathy. I can definitely relate to the mistakes we make (Lawbreaking). In a rush the product definitely suffers. I hate having a deadline and not having a cushion to at least get one night’s sleep in between finishing an article and submitting.


  10. I think this should be entered into a pysch textbook somewhere. Though, re: the TV, Cherry Cheva told me watching TV was definitely research because TV shows were still about stories, right? Breaking the laws, though, not so good…but maybe the inspiration for a new CSI series.

    Anyway, the only cure is butt-in-chair. Or so one of my harder-working friends tells me.


  11. Great piece. I found you through Julia’s piece. And oh how true this: a writer “will notice that their tolerance for not writing goes up.” Danger, danger, warning, warning!


  12. Hmm, let’s see…
    I may be only subject to Neglect of Duties, and Tolerance in my now-ending (speaking in hope here) writing apathy bout. But of course, we are not the best judges of ourselves, are we…
    I’ve found you and Jenny’s 1kwordchallenge to be VERY useful!!! Did it last night and did over 2,000 words. Would like to make it a daily habit!!! (Good idea!)


  13. I don’t mean to be a hypochondriac…but I think I’ve had this. I may still have it, but I’m feeling better now. (Or perhaps it’s getting worse …and maybe it’s terminal???)

    Great post – it made me laugh 🙂



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