We've all been there – however well-intentioned we are with our writing routines, real life has an irritating habit of intruding on our writerly schemes. Whatever the cause, work, family, invasion of rabid zombie hamster-chihuahua hybrids, writing-free days run into weeks, and before you can say, ‘Pass me that bag of sunflower seeds and load the pump action shotgun' your pages have remained blank for a month.
It feels bad. It feels as though someone has waited until you were halfway up a tree and then taken away the ladder. And if you're not careful, it can feel like you've reached the end of the road – it's just too hard to start again.
But don't let it be that way.
I've just been through a long summer in which I should have had loads of time, and I should have completed the first draft of my work in progress – The Darkeningstone Book III.
Notice I said ‘should'. In fact, my freelance webdesign business at Handbuiltweb unexpectedly placed a lot of demands on my time and I had no choice but to devote my attention to my clients. It was a massive break in my writing routine and a blow to my self-confidence as a writer. But the good news is that I got through it. Here are some of the things that helped me – I hope that they might be useful to you too.
Ask for help
Go to your peer group. This can be face to face, or via your favourite social media channels. Writers are a great bunch and I'd be surprised if you didn't get some useful responses. I had a couple of nice tweets from Garret Robinson (@GarrettAuthor), and it was great just to know that someone out there took the time to respond. But even if you don't get a lot of useful responses, you are at least admitting to yourself that you're having a problem getting going again, and that could be the first step to solving it.
Try to Recreate a Successful Writing Environment
What were the factors that worked for you before? Did a long hot bath get you writing? perhaps you listened to a certain piece of music (thanks to Garrett Robinson for that tip). Was there anything in the place that you wrote that helped e.g. the lighting, the desk layout?
Try to get the environment right and, whilst you're doing that, try and recall the mindset that you had whilst you were writing. Try and fool your brain into thinking you haven't even had a break.
Don't Expect Too Much
Your rate of output will probably have decreased. I know that mine has dropped considerably. But I know that it's OK. I will build that writing speed back up again. Don't beat yourself up for failing to hit old targets. Just keep going and you'll get there.
Control the Length of Writing Times
Perhaps, before the layoff, you could write all day. But now, that would be unrealistic and an inefficient use of time. You run the risk of spending the whole day staring into space. Start with much smaller blocks – 40 minutes to an hour. At the end of that time, treat yourself to a short break, pat yourself on the back and then do it again, secure in the knowledge that you can do it.
And this is the most important one – celebrate every single word that you write. Even if you only write one word, then you've brought that one word into being – an incredible achievement. Enjoy every sentence and you'll have every reason to look forward to your next writing session.
And once you're back in the saddle, don't stop.
Keep scribbling, keep tapping on those keys, keep writing and keep smiling.
If you have a tip that helps you to get going, please leave a comment.
I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.
Join me on a Journey into Books
With my readers' group, The Awkward Squad