Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 6:

“I’m not in the right mood to write.”

Many people believe you have to be emotionally ready to write.

If you are not in the right mood, they argue, don’t even try getting started because it’s not going to work. Yet, many can testify that it is possible to get in the writing mood.

Indeed, behavior modification theory shows us that emotion follows action, not the other way around. If you don’t feel like doing something, then start doing it and usually your feelings will follow.

That is, individuals who procrastinate frequently confuse motivation and action. Since they don’t feel like doing something, they put it off. But it is an error to believe that motivation comes first, and then leads to activation and success. 

Action must come first, and the motivation comes later on (Burns 2012, 125). 

What are some actions you can take to get your feelings to catch up with your goals?

Pre-Writing Site

Some academics have a site that they use to get themselves in a positive writing mood before moving to their writing spot. One student with roommates would enter the bathroom, close the door, and sit on the floor while wearing a particular hat. In that odd sanctuary, she thought through her writing plan for the day and initiated her writing mindset.


Another student with a long commute would talk aloud to herself in the car. Speaking the words helped her to gain focus and to argue with potential critics. Another talked aloud when he first say down to write, to focus himself on the questions he wanted to answer.


One faculty member would ritually light a candle at the beginning of her writing sessions. She trained her brain to recognize that it was now the time to write.

Another did five minutes of breathing exercises to center herself, and move on from the rest of the day. Use ritual to overcome feeling unready.


Another faculty member would spend five minutes reading articles written by two authors in his field who wrote beautifully.


One scholar would play what she called “The Spotify Deep Focus Playlist,” which she only listened to when editing or writing: “I’ve trained myself like one of Pavlov’s dogs: the minute I hear the first few notes, I immediately shift my focus to writing” (Munro 2016).


Some scholars run or walk before writing.

Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 6, one of the emotional obstacles listed on page 31 of Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (University of Chicago Press, 2019).

Works Cited

Burns, D.D. 2012. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Rev. ed. New York: HarperCollins.