Interruptions in our writing life are challenging and inevitable. Nathan Bransford calls breaks “kryptonite Achilles heal termite ridden ankle breaking weakening things.” Writing stoppages mess with our momentum. Sometimes we choose to take a break, but often they are often forced upon us. It’s part of life, and we work with those circumstances as best we can.
In this post, I’ve shared some of what I’ve learned about getting back in the writing saddle. Whether you’ve been away from writing altogether or you’ve had to shift from an exciting project to one that is less so, these tips can support you to get you writing again.
Know yourself. While researching this piece, I found a wide range of advice, much of which was contradictory. How do you know what advice to follow and which to ignore? Get to know yourself. When I’ve had a break from a project, I like to start with writing practice without a topic, just to get my fingers moving. David Morrell’s regular practice is to start writing about his project conversationally, as if his computer were a person hearing his words. You may need to dive right into the meat of a challenging scene. If you don’t know what works best for you, experiment. Try something and keep track of how it went. Find what works best for you.
Create a plan and stick to it as much as humanly possible. Keep your goals reasonable: don’t aim to write for two hours a day if you’ve only written twice a week for the last month. Making your goals doable will help you keep going. Alter them and change course if need be, but try to stick with them before you do. Reach out to an accountability partner or group to help you stay on task. String together your successes and reward yourself.
Temper your expectations. The first day or week back can be wildly successful or really disappointing. In Write Every Day, Cathy Yardley noted that, even though she had written several novels while holding down a day job, she wasn’t able to write as much in a day when she returned to writing after her child was born. She needed to rebuild her writing practice and see what was doable. Understand that it may take time to get back to your former word counts.
Know that resistance often arises when you return to a project. Fears and doubts creep in. For me it gets worse the longer I’ve been away from a project. Bring all your best tricks to the table. Read our post resistance here for tips to get around it. Above all, ignore the voice encouraging you to walk away; keep writing.
Review your work only to get re-acquainted with your project. It is not the time to craft the perfect sentence on page two. Editing and revising take time, and you want to get those words down. Unless it is your primary objective, leave editing for another day.
Incorporate self-care. Set yourself up for success by eating, drinking plenty of water, sleeping, and taking breaks for movement. You will get back in writing form more quickly if you care for your physical self.
Above all, enjoy the act of writing! You are a writer, and you are doing what you love. Revel in the process. Build the muscles and habit of writing again by filling those pages.
How do you re-enter writing after a break? How do you get back into the swing of things? We invite you to share your experience and tips in the comments below.