How do you get yourself out of a funk so you can write?

By Milli Thornton

AS OFTEN AS possible, I try to set aside Wednesdays for my own writing. I don’t make appointments, I don’t visit other people’s blogs and I don’t tweet. I don’t work on my To-Do list or run errands. Usually, Brian will cook dinner that day so I can roll with whatever momentum I build during the day.

Last week I was really looking forward to my Wednesday of delicious writing. I had been working on my second screenplay and had plans to make more progress.

But then the funk hit.

It actually hit on Tuesday night. A few small things happened that triggered some old wounds and I was sunk. Sleep didn’t help: I woke up in it on Wednesday morning. And then a few more small things happened and I was plunged further into the yuck.

There was no way I felt like writing (the screenplay is a comedy and I felt my ability to be funny had been obliterated). But I didn’t want to waste my precious day either. So, after moping around for a while, I just started trying any tricks I could think of.

First, I vented in writing about the things that had plunged me into that place. Didn’t feel any better but at least it was out of my head. Then I started writing about my own writing dreams. Started to feel a little lighter. Then I went for a walk in the fresh air and sunshine. Getting better.

Still not all the way out of it but I felt better enough that I decided to force myself to get started on the writing. I gingerly opened the script and soon I was immersed in what I was doing. Two hours later, with 14 new pages added to the script, I emerged from my writing session having forgotten all about being in such a black place.

Two days after that, I wrote for six hours and finished my script! That was about nine days ahead of the schedule I had mapped out for myself. I got on such a roll with it, I could see the end in sight—so I just kept writing.

The funny thing was, by the time Friday rolled around, I did not even remember being in that bad place. I only retraced my steps because a writer friend was in a depressed place and she asked me to share what I’d done to get out of mine.

Those simple actions completely turned my week around and now I’m a happy writer with another first draft accomplished. I was so glad I forced myself to go through with it—because I didn’t feel like doing the therapeutic steps either.

It doesn’t always take that many phases. There have been times when I’ve broken through on the first step (i.e., venting in writing). I wrote a post about it here:

Writer’s Block? Use the Whiplash of Your Inner Critic to Make It Across the Drawbridge

I’ve also, at times, used a warm bath with 10 drops of lavender essential oil to clear my gunk away. That one has never failed to work. (And right now I’m out of lavender . . . must stock up!)

What do you do when a funk takes you down? Do you have any secrets for climbing back out so you can get on with your writing?

Milli Thornton



Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching.

27 Responses to How do you get yourself out of a funk so you can write?
  1. Estrella Azul
    October 7, 2011 | 5:34 AM

    Your post couldn’t have come at a better time, Milli. Just as much as I like reading about how other writer’s minds work and what their writing habits are, I like reading about when they’re in a funk and what works for them.

    After a few weeks of not really writing, I decided this week I’ll force myself to just sit down and write.
    It helped that I had a blog post ready and only had to edit + hit publish.
    I also had a guest post that I only had to format which went up today, so it was easy enough to fill in my posting schedule for this week.
    But while doing these two simple things, I got the urge to write a new blog post which will go up on Monday, I wrote down a couple of ideas for future posts and will finish/edit/format a recipe of the month post for this Sunday in a little bit after having some breakfast (if you can call it that at 12:32 pm).
    I still don’t feel 100% myself, and that won’t happen for a while anyway, but I am feeling much more motivated; especially after reading your post today 🙂

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 8, 2011 | 5:36 PM

      Estrella, so glad my post could be good timing for you. I almost didn’t realize it was calling for a blog post. Not sure what made me realize.

      I know what you mean about how some simple steps can help put you more in the mood. Glad you felt like writing a new post after working on some existing ones. (And I loved the guest blog post by Kenneth :))

      Your situation will take time to heal – but meanwhile I can recommend the lavender essential oil if you can get that where you live. Every time I’ve used them in a warm bath, it has really helped clear the emotions of any painful stuff I was dealing with at the time.

  2. Lisa
    October 7, 2011 | 6:23 AM

    I find if you don’t think about it so much and live your life, so many things happen that they become the posts for your writing. Just relax more and have fun with it. Also if you are writing lengthy work on pieces at a time.

  3. Patti Stafford
    Twitter: pattistafford
    October 7, 2011 | 8:30 AM

    Are you talking to me?

    That’s a line from some movie, I don’t remember, but I can hear how the guy is saying it.

    I’ve been in a huge funk lately. However, since I’m not awake yet, I’ll hold off on “spilling my guts” until I’ve had some coffee.

    Great topic! I think the “funk” is attacking people world wide.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 8, 2011 | 5:45 PM

      Hi Patti,

      You had me curious about who uttered that quote so I Googled it. Turns out it’s #9 on the Top Ten Movie Quotes. Robert DeNiro from Taxi Driver:

      “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Well, who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well, I’m the only one here. Who the [bleep] do you think you’re talkin’ to?”


      But, yes, I guess I was talking to you. Sorry to hear you’ve been in a huge funk. I hope the post helped a little, even if just to know you’re not alone. . . .

      Sending some hugs ~ Millikins

      • Patti Stafford
        Twitter: pattistafford
        October 10, 2011 | 11:21 AM

        Ah, yes. I’ve never watched the movie but I have seen a clip of that part. I should have known it was DeNiro. LOL

        Yes, I was in a huge funk and still not out of it completely, but getting better. I often use your “whiplash” post when I can’t write. However, I’ve still been writing, but my productivity is not where I know it can be.

        Sometimes when this funk hits I actually turn to homey stuff. I’ll clean house, do something crafty or watch NCIS marathons–which isn’t homey, per se, but I love Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

        Kevin will walk in the living room and ask, “How many times have you seen this episode?”

        “Oh, 10 or 15 at least, but it’s a good one.” LOL
        Of course, they’re all good ones.

        I even kept exercising through this last funk, until about a week ago. I was more tired than usual because I had started exercising again, but I don’t think that was the whole of the matter. However, last week I didn’t exercise. This week I started back with yoga because I feel the need to turn inward as well as work on the outside. Maybe it’s age.

        During this whole funk spell I have remained true to focusing on myself, health wise and all. So, it wasn’t all bad and I didn’t plunge way down into the darkness like I’ve been known to do.

        The funny thing is about these funk times is…I’ve never met a writer that hasn’t gone through it in some way or another. But, when it happens to you, you feel so alone, even though you KNOW that others have gone through it.

        For the remainder of October, I’m going to continue putting myself first. I will write when I feel like it and not worry if it’s not my most productive work. That will return after I take better care of me.

        Thanks for sharing this post. I think it’s something we all need to read about from time to time.

        • Fear of Writing
          Twitter: fearofwriting
          October 10, 2011 | 11:41 AM


          Thanks for your heartfelt sharing. Glad to hear you’ve been able to nurture yourself through this time. Sometimes that can be a challenge when the funk is draining the energy out of you.

          I know what you mean about feeling alone with it. I guess that’s what prompted me to make this into a post – in the hopes it might be good timing for a few other writers who might be struggling through something.

          I’ve been reading The Way of Story by Catherine Ann Jones and she has a chapter called Story Conflict. I like the way she addresses the issue of writers needing their creativity to be fed by their own internal conflict (if we remember to allow it do that for us). Here’s a quote from that chapter:

          “You must carry a chaos inside you to give birth to a dancing star.” ~ Nietzsche

          I also think that our modern-day fixation on being productive can do us a lot of harm. I’m glad you’re going to write when you feel like it and not worry about quality. I think we all need to do that as a counter-balance to our dreams and ambitions. Like day-dreaming, sometimes we need to just drift with the current.

          Love ~ Milli

          • Patti Stafford
            Twitter: pattistafford
            October 10, 2011 | 12:05 PM

            I’ve been reading The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christine Northrup. According to her, I am perfectly normal.

            I haven’t decided if that’s comforting or terrifying. LMAO!

            I’ve never been a hard core perfectionist, but I’ve learned that sometimes “good enough” is good enough. 🙂


  4. Lois
    October 7, 2011 | 12:13 PM

    Sometimes I like to write something edgy so I can take out my funk on the characters…characters I’m not completely in love with, and who I don’t really know.

    Other times, I’ll concentrate on something else for a while, like knitting. Or I’ll read for a while.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 8, 2011 | 5:48 PM

      Lois, great idea about taking out your funk on some characters! I’m writing a new online course called Characterosis that’s based on that idea. Great minds think alike, eh? 😉

      Being able to knit sounds like great therapy when you’re in a funk. I tried to learn once but didn’t have the patience to stick with it. Glad you’ve got that to relax you.

      • Lois
        October 8, 2011 | 5:59 PM

        Yeah, I love that idea, myself! 😀

        Knitting can be frustrating, but fun, too. I’m glad I’ve got it, too. I can work on something simple, like a dish cloth! LOL

        • Fear of Writing
          Twitter: fearofwriting
          October 8, 2011 | 6:04 PM

          The time I tried to learn, I made the mistake of trying to knit a baby sweater. I should have chosen something CHUNKY and then I might still be at it. 😀

          • Lois
            October 8, 2011 | 6:14 PM

            You should have seen me the first few times I tried knitting with double pointed knitting needles. I was trying to make my first handwarmer, and it seemed like I’d never get it! 😛

            Since then, I think I’ve made seven pairs! 😀

            And I’ve started my first cardigan. It’s got CABLES!!! *happy dance*

  5. Lisa Carter
    October 7, 2011 | 6:46 PM

    I love the idea of doing a free write, venting wh(ever’s on your mind as a way to just let it go!

    Sometimes when in a funk I’ll allow myself to wallow in it for a while, but set a time limit. When the time’s up I grab my notebook or sit down at the computer. Digging in to write starts slow but if I can stick with it it usually helps erase the funk

    Glad you overcame yours and finished your screenplay! Yay! What an accomplishment…

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 8, 2011 | 5:50 PM

      Lisa, great idea to allow yourself to wallow for a while but having a time limit on it too. Might try that next time. Knowing I got the tip from you will help put a positive image in my mind as well 🙂

  6. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    October 7, 2011 | 6:52 PM

    I was in a long funk and no sooner did I get out of it did I break my right hand. I’m typing with my left. Not an easy task. sad

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 8, 2011 | 6:00 PM

      Trica, so sorry to hear you broke your right hand. How on earth did that happen?! Gosh, what a blow for a writer. I would ask you to blog about it here on FoW if you weren’t being forced to type with one hand. That must be kind of agonizing.

      P.S. Do you know about Dragon dictation software? Might come in handy right now. Here’s the link so you can see the demo:

      Dragon in Action

      P.P.S. It’s $99.99 on the official website but you should be able to get it new on eBay for cheaper. That’s where I got mine and saved forty bucks. But if you do get it, be sure to buy the latest version. It’s the most accurate and won’t drive you nuts with its little Freudian slips. 😀

  7. Charlotte Rains Dixon
    Twitter: wordstrumpet
    October 10, 2011 | 12:14 AM

    Knitting works for me, too. Its the repetitive motion that is soothing. And as an added benefit, it can also be great for unblocking. Walking also always helps me. Thanks for a great post.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 10, 2011 | 11:30 AM

      Hi Charlotte,

      The repetitive motion of knitting does sound soothing – and I can see how that would be good for unblocking.

      Thanks for visiting. Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

      ~ Milli

  8. j
    October 10, 2011 | 1:37 PM

    I’m so late getting here, but I totally love this. I once read about a study in which one group of college physics students were assigned, at the beginning of the semester, to write down their values. Another was assigned to write down what they felt others expected of them. The group who wrote down their values (and revisited them periodically) did better on tests and overall grades. Especially the female students (who often suffer more contradictory messages about what is expected of them).

    Your decision to write about your dreams reminded of me that. Focusing on positive aspirations, on what we value and what we truly want is more powerful than we know.

    Thank you for sharing. I kind of needed this today. I’m off to write some demons away. 🙂

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 15, 2011 | 7:37 PM

      j ~ Glad this was good timing for you. Hope it helped you write those demons away. 🙂

  9. Hilary
    October 11, 2011 | 12:06 PM

    I’ve found that one of the best places/times I write is when I’m waiting somewhere. Like last week I was at the mechanic for several hours with only a notebook and a book to read. I ended up writing more pages than I have in a week. I just bring a notebook everywhere with me and almost seek out waiting periods (airports, public transit, waiting for friends at dinner, etc).

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 15, 2011 | 7:21 PM

      Hilary, thanks for your comment. Bringing a notebook with you everywhere so you can seek out waiting periods in which to write is a great idea. Glad that works so well for you.

      ~ Milli

  10. Maria
    October 14, 2011 | 8:41 AM

    When I’ve had a garden, I found the best thing for me was to get outside and get my hands in the dirt. The second best? Sitting for hours in the evening listening to a crackling fire outside under the stars. (yes, I’m very much an outdoor person by nature)

    This year, the weather kept us from having much of a garden or outdoor life and family health has kept me in a funk all year. Add to it the beginnings of menopause and you’ve got one messed up writer.

    One thing that’s helped has been to alternate between writing and photography, my other creative enterprise. Still, the funk is always there. I really like Lois’ idea of taking some of it out on characters. I want to give that a go and see what happens. 🙂

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      October 15, 2011 | 7:19 PM

      Maria, I enjoyed reading about you putting your hands in the dirt or sitting by a crackling fire as therapy. Sounds wonderful.

      I’m sorry to hear this year has been messed-up for you. Glad to hear you have photography as a creative outlet to help take the edge off the funk when you can. Good luck trying Lois’ idea. Hope that helps too.

      ~ Milli

  11. Zac | Turning Point Motivation
    November 16, 2011 | 11:27 PM

    When I’m in a funk I just glue my butt to the chair! Just kidding, sometimes I’ll read a good book, especially something well written, that motivates me also there is a book called ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield. I consider it a pocket bible for writers, super-motivational!

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