Back in the Saddle

Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Sometimes you step away from a writing project—or even your writing life—for awhile. Summer break, family obligations, or plain old procrastination can take you out of your groove. At some point though, you're ready to come back to the page.

The problem is that it can be hard to recapture your inspiration and drive after some time away. However, with even the smallest desire, you can get going again. Here's how to get back in the saddle and ride:

1. Forgive, forget and move on. For whatever reasons, you took time off from your writing goals. So be it. Now you're back, and making things happen!

2. Make a plan. Figure out what you want to do, now that you're working again. For example, how many pages of your novel do you want to write per evening? Which markets will you query this month? Determine your writing objectives, and you'll have a track to follow as you get going again.

3. Take a step. To decide on a writing project, go through your notes or your journal and see what feels interesting to you right now. Then outline some ideas and start getting excited about your chosen assignment. Or, if you want to get back into a project that you've abandoned, drag it out and find one place that you can start playing with. Make a small movement to get things rolling.

4. When a plan is not enough. Maybe you know what you need to do, but you still keep doing other things instead. Until you make writing a priority, the hours will vanish. For this week, pick the days and times you're going to write, and keep those appointments. As bestselling author Jodi Picoult says, "When it's a writing day, I'm writing. Period."

5. Conjure up a cut-off date. Having a deadline will prod you to complete your writing goals where you otherwise might put things off. You can use online calendars, with periodic reminders, to prompt you toward completion. If you need a "real" time limit, then find a writing contest or an anthology call, or sign up for National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a NaNoWriMo).

6. Reading that lights you up. Reading certain material can make you want to write so badly you can taste it. The other day, I started reading essays at a favorite web site, and found myself with a powerful urge to start writing. Find something to read that sparks your creativity, then go write, right away… before the feeling fades.

7. Keep your writing sessions brief. Pick some short amount of time to write, and allow yourself to be done for the day. For example, write for only a half hour at a time. "That's how you can stoke the fires again," Jenna Glatzer says in Outwitting Writer's Block. "That's how your passion can reignite and your drive can build up."

8. The flow will return. As you begin to give writing your time again, the inspiration and the words will come. "When I'm writing, I feel like a magnet," a friend of author Jane Staw says to her in Unstuck. "As soon as I pick up my pen, ideas, people, possibilities come my way." So writers, just get started!

Marcia Peterson is the editor of WOW! Women on Writing's blog, The Muffin. To contribute to the blog, check out our Friday Speak Out program here.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great tips, Marcia! I really like #1: Forgive, forget and move on. I didn't really think about it before you wrote that, but sometimes I dwell on how much I haven’t written. That's definitely counterproductive. I like #6 too, and feel the writing fire after I've read something that really speaks to me.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

What an encouraging post. Sometimes I have to set aside "my" writing to finish a contracted job. Oh, the guilt. Your tips are a refreshing way to look at stepping back into a beloved story.

Sheila Good said...

Good advice! I find in the last few years, more and more things (life) is interrupting the flow of writing. Thanks for this encouraging post.
@sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

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