For whatever reason you’ve had a break from writing. Perhaps life happened, you had a holiday, you felt burnt out or were just sick of your own words. Writing breaks can be good as they can:
- Re-energise and refresh your writing enthusiasm
- Give you a new perspective
- Re-inspire you
- Allow your subconscious to solve writing challenges
- Make you miss and remember why you write
- Heal or prevent burnout
But how do you get back into it? The page seems daunting. You re-read what you wrote before and you aren’t sure if you can write that well again (It was a fluke. Not!). Or perhaps you don’t like what you wrote and it hits you that there’s more rewriting to be done.
Here are some ways to get back into it:
- Do morning pages, even if only for a few days or a week. They really are the way back into creativity versus rote writing. I’ve written about them here.
- Just do it. Take a breath, sit down (or stand if you’re like me) and begin. It may not be as bad as you think.
- Write something, anything to get your juices flowing again. A journal, a short but rich descriptive piece about your cat or big toe, a room or people you’ve watched in the street. A few paragraphs will do.
- Copy a page from one of your favourite author’s books. This is always a good way to get our writing going no matter whether you’ve had a break, need inspiration or want to take your writing up a notch. It’s a good way to learn from others you aspire to.
- Don’t forget to read good writing. That’s always motivating.
Don’t forget to have fun. You write for a reason, because you want to, you need to. Remember and honour that.
Should you write multiple books at the same time? Perhaps you have ideas and characters bursting out of you. Or you have two or more stories of equal importance.
I believe it’s possible under some circumstances to write two manuscripts at the same time, but with some clear boundaries.
That said, there are circumstances where your writing energy would be better spent getting one project to a certain finished point first. How do you know?
If you can’t stop yourself from writing more than one book at a time, here are some guidelines:
- Your manuscripts must be very different. Perhaps one could be non-fiction and one fiction. Perhaps one could be crime and the other literary fiction. This way it will be easier not to diffuse your writing energy.
- Your manuscripts must also be at different stages. For example, you could be having a break from a first draft manuscript while your beta readers are looking at it or you’ve put in the drawer to get some distance. Alternatively, one could be at the plotting or first draft stage with one and on your third rewrite with the other.
- Make sure you have the energy for each story. If not, then go back to your priority story and let the other sit for a while. Trust that it will be developing in your head as you work on your priority manuscript.
- Your stories are part of a series. In this situation, you might find it natural to work on more than one part in the series, as long as you have a clear idea where they’re going and one doesn’t constrain the other.
But if like many people working on two manuscripts means you’re diffusing your energy, there are ways you can keep your non-priority project alive.
- Keep an ideas book and jot down your ideas so you don’t lose them. Keeping them on the back burner doesn’t mean you can’t develop them. Often they are stronger for this.
- You can even develop your plot and characters so that when it’s time to write this story you have a lot of preliminary work completed.
- You could also do research while you’re working on your priority manuscript. Again, more work will be done so you hoe straight in to the next book when the time is right.
Good luck fellow writers. Remember, never never never give in. Keep on learning and improving.
I’ve been tussling with this one for a while. Some people are happy writing when the mood takes them and produce plenty of work they’re satisfied with. Others find weekly word quotas work for them. I thought I was one of those people. But if that’s the case, why did I struggle to get back into my manuscript after a weekend break?
Over the last two weeks I’ve attempted to write every day, which I largely managed except for one day. Here are the things I discovered:
- Writing is a committed relationship
When writing a story, whether fiction or creative non-fiction, it’s as though you’re in a long-term relationship with your characters and story. By dedicating daily time to spend with your work you’re remaining connected. That means it’s easier to pick up where you left off the previous day. Your work is fresh, alive and growing, like a plant you have to water daily for it to thrive. Also, the characters and story stay with you, which means you’re more likely to be working on them at a subconscious level. It’s all about maximising your flow.
The other point about writing being a committed relationship is that if you treat it well like you would a loved partner, your writing becomes less like work and more like fun. With your story and character connection strong, you’re happier to nurture and spend time with them. This has to be a productive thing.
- Set time aside, even if you don’t write
By setting time aside every day, be it half an hour or two, you’re allowing the possibility of writing to happen. You’re receptive and open to the possibility, like you’ve put the kettle on or wine bottle in the fridge in anticipation of a good friend’s visit. This is about giving your characters permission to speak and allowing your story to move forward as it needs. Perhaps they don’t turn up on the day, but by creating the space you’re extending a welcoming hand. You never know what might happen.
- Form the habit
There are loads of myths out there about how many days of repeating something it takes become you form a habit, but my research showed the correct number is sixty-six. If writing becomes a habit, you’re more likely to do it regardless of your mood or circumstances or other forms of resistance. Do first, think later.
- Write little and often
You’ve probably heard the maxim that goes something like, ‘Don’t write a lot, but write often’. I’ve been doing a lot of this—an hour’s writing, half and hour of something else, another half an hour of writing and so on. For me it takes the pressure off having to sit down for hours, taking on large chunks of work, big themes and major events etc.. I can attack my work in bite-sized pieces and come back refreshed and willing to write the next bit.
- It feels better
Writing is an outlet and a purpose, and on the days I write I simply feel better. I feel more me, more grounded, more satisfied. I’m not sure I’ll write every day, but most days seems to work well for me at the moment. Try it for yourself.
This is my very first post and I thought I would start with something that’s relevant to just about every writer. How to establish—and stick to—a writing routine.
People can have romantic ideals about writing. While your first draft of your first novel might be inspired and flow from you easily like water in spring down a stream because you haven’t yet let the critical editor in you take over, much of writing comes down to discipline, commitment and hard work. That’s perfectly normal so instead of blaming yourself for not being one of those naturally ‘inspired’ people, build a writing routine and see what happens. What have you got to lose?
- No more excuses
Writing is like exercise. You can always find reasons not to do it whether it’s because you’re tired or a family member is ill or you’re working long hours in your day job. Writing can be hard at the best of times, but in the end it’s your choice. You either write or you don’t. What if you wrote for even fifteen minutes a day, or thirty? Bit by bit you would end up with a lot more on the page than if you waited for the perfect time. As they say, writing is showing up on the page and it requires bum glue.
- Be realistic
Don’t set yourself up for failure by telling yourself you’re going to write for two hours every day when realistically this isn’t going to happen. Set achievable goals. That way when you reach them you’ll feel good about yourself and will continue to meet even build on them. Some people say you should write every day but I believe what works for one person might not work for another. Get to know your writing self and act accordingly.
- Define your goals
Work out what kind of writer you are to determine the best goal for you. It might be to write for one hour five days a week or three hours two days a week. Others like to set a word goal. Alternatively, you might like to work out how many words your book is going to be, what your deadline is and work back from there. Whatever you decide, stick to it as best you can. You can always build on success by pushing yourself a bit harder. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you can achieve.
- 21 days to develop a habit
It takes 21 days to create a habit. When something becomes a habit, you’re more likely to stick to it because you don’t have to think about it.These days I go to a café to write two to three times a week, which is non-negotiable. Whether I’m in the mood or not I walk to a café, sit down, get my computer out and write non stop for two hours. This particularly helps me on a Monday when I need to get back into the writing mode after the weekend. It isn’t a cheap way to write, but I forgo other things because it works best for me. Other places you might try are a public library, a park or even a mall. On non-café days I write at home, sometimes not as successfully because I get more easily distracted or interrupted there, but again whether I feel inspired or not, I just do it. What comes can be surprisingly good or disconnected rubbish. Either way, it’s something to build on.What might work for you? Half an hour early in the morning or at night when everyone’s in bed, two hours each Saturday and Sunday when you can find some clear space? Decide and do it.
- Diarise your writing time
Schedule your writing time in your diary and treat it as seriously as you would an outside appointment. Yes you can always ignore it, but just as you wouldn’t like to let someone else down, why would you let yourself down? How important is your writing to you, really?
- Get into the zone
Find ways back into your writing each session. Some people meditate or do yoga breathing, others go to a particular physical place like a desk or room, some free write for ten minutes or two pages because they find that stream of consciousness gets their creativity flowing. Again, create routine. Write it down so you don’t forget it and put it somehwere you can see it as a constant reminder.
- Unplug, of course!
Turn off your phone/email. You can warn people beforehand in case they might want to contact you. If that’s not possible, there are all sorts of apps and buttons you can use to allow only specific calls or emails. This is your time, use it well.
- Forgive yourself for not being perfect
Some days your routine might not work. If that’s the case, don’t beat yourself up. Be constructive instead. Try to identify out what went wrong so you can remedy it. Did you get out of your routine, did you go to bed too late, did you eat the wrong food, have you had a long break from writing?Also remember that sometimes thinking about writing is writing. Perhaps your brain is working through a structural challenge or character problem. If you feel blocked, it often means something is wrong with what you’ve written. Work out what it is and fix it so your writing flows again.