When it comes to writing after time away, it’s never too late to be on time. Take it from someone who took a fifteen year hiatus from writing: getting started again is like coming home and finding your bed made with your favorite linens, freshly washed. It’s been there all along, patiently waiting for you to notice. It doesn’t take a long hiatus for you to lose steam, though.
Routines are important. Did you carve out a specific time for writing? Maybe it’s early mornings or late nights, when the world is quiet and you can hear your muse think. Your lunch hour at the dayjob or time at the coffeehouse each day? Crises of all sizes come up at times, ones which can knock you off your game.
Perhaps you’re so busy with life / work / family, your routine consists of random spare moments when no one is tugging on your sleeve and demanding attention. Writing in that case requires a special sort of commitment. There are naturally going to be days which provide zero spare moments. By the same token, you may need the few available so you can be quiet and sew together the shredded edges of your sanity.
Even if you’ve just been away a few days or a few weeks, getting back into the swing of things can be difficult. I tend to place too high a standard on my return, one I can’t possibly accomplish. I end up walking away, shaking my head in disgust, putting off getting back into my routine even longer. Many of us have ways of sabotaging ourselves. I finally came to recognize this stumbling block and try to go around it. Sometimes it even works.
How do you turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones? I can only tell you what works for me. I start small. Hanging out with other writers on Twitter, that lovely timesuck, puts me in the right mind for writing. Keeping an open doc on my computer so I can track ideas, phrases or bits of dialogue is helpful. They often grow into a blog post (like this one), a flash or – if I’m lucky – a part of the novel I’m writing or revising. Other writers turn to pen and paper or notecards at times like this, finding motivation in seeing the inked lines accumulate.
If necessary, start small with the amount of time you devote, too. Grab what time you can in whatever fashion gives you joy. Small amounts add up. They get the writing body into motion. A body in motion is more likely to stay in motion and all that. Momentum is everything when it comes to writing. Get your motor purring and become the Little Engine That Could, having faith in yourself: I think I can, I think I can. Chugga chugga chug.
Still can’t get started? Remember, writing isn’t just about art. Writing is also a job. That means sometimes you just have to make yourself show up. “Butt in chair,” as they say. Grab a little time, sigh elaborately, roll your eyes. Make your fingers cooperate on the keyboard or pen by writing whatever comes to mind, even if it’s just how useless it is because you can’t think of anything to write. Free write, get it all out there, let it be what starts the ball rolling. Momentum!
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Do something goofy and fun, try something ultra structured instead or just go clear off the reservation and try fingerpainting a scene from your story. Anything which kicks you in the creative butt and gets you going.
Stick to it! You’ll ride your momentum back into a writing routine.
“Never give up! Never surrender!” – Galaxy Quest
This post originally appeared on the #amwriting site.