How do we get back into writing once we’ve lost our place? Do we just sit down and write? If it was that easy, I think we all would write. We’d write 3 or 4 books each month. We’d come up with an idea on Monday, sit down Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc., and write 20,000 words each day. Then voila by the end of the week, we would have a book written.
But life isn’t like that. Even in the movies, writers struggle with writing. So let’s say we don’t know what we want to write about. We don’t have the book idea flushed out just yet. Maybe we took a year off for whatever reason and we can’t get back into the groove of writing. Can we still get back to writing?
I think we can. If you’re game for this experiment I’m going to jump into, then let’s start with these steps. Remember we don’t have our book idea yet, we just want to put words on the page.
Step 1: Get Out of Your Head
Being a writer, I think I have the tendency to let the voices in my head read me the riot attack. I let self-doubt freeze me into a position of immobility. I certainly let my full-time job keep me preoccupied with tasks. Then home life takes over when I walk in the door at the end of the day, and in just a few hours my day is over.
But I’m learning that listening to self-doubt won’t solve anything, forgetting to save some time just for myself won’t make me a happy person, and working on the weekends will drain my spirit. It certainly won’t put words on the page, so that’s my first step, getting out of my head.
- Envision what it was like to write – What process did I like most? Creating the book cover, editing a paragraph, dreaming up a scene, holding that finished paperback in hand?
- Revisit a favorite place where I enjoyed writing – A coffee shop or favorite restaurant with a quiet table.
- Find a place at home that could work as a writing spot or studio – Without really meaning to, I created a spot on our patio perfect for writing. Surrounded by plants I planted last summer, I’ve turned our patio into my summer writing spot.
- Tell the Voices to Shut Up – When self-doubt brings up some lame excuse for not writing or for not planning your time writing, tell him or her to shut up.
Step 2: Plan a Paragraph
Getting back into writing is a lot like exercising. If you haven’t walked 3 miles recently or ever, is it really a good idea to go outside and hike off into the hills? Probably not. Same with writing. For me, I can’t sit down and write 10,000 words in one sitting. I’d love to be able to do that, but I know I just can’t.
- Set a Limit and Plan Small – The act of writing is getting your brain used to thinking creatively again. This helps us shift gears and leave reality alone for an hour or so. I’ve been practicing writing a blog post each Monday. I set a limit of 500 words to write and at least each week, I write 500 words. It may not sound like much, but let’s say I was writing on a book idea. If I wrote 500 words each week for two months, I would have 4,000 words written at the end of those 8 weeks. That’s more than what I had two months ago. Right?
- Write Anything – Let’s say we don’t have the book idea formalized yet. It’s hard enough to get our brains into writing again. Let’s not worry about the book ideas for now. Just write. Write anything you want. Dialogue. A scene you think about over and over. What you’d do if you won the lottery. I like to re-write movie endings. After watching a movie, I like to scratch out on anything I can find handy to write on what would have happened if this had happened instead.
Step 3: Find 15 Minutes
Keep writing. If you’re like me, you spend 8 hours at work and probably at least an hour driving to and from work. Finding time to write can be challenging. That’s why I’m on an active mission to search for ways to find 15 minutes to write.
- Get Tasks Done the Night Before – Make your lunch the night before lunch. Take your shower. Lay out your cloths. Do anything you can the night before work, so you’ll have 15 minutes in the morning with your coffee to write.
- Maximize Your Lunch Hour – If you have an hour for lunch, take 15 minutes to eat your lunch in one of the nearby break rooms. The remaining 30-45 minutes you can spend writing, plotting your next scene, or creating a blog article.
- Daydream & Drive – Commuting can be a stressful task you have to go through daily. If you can safely do it, think through your thoughts. Plan out a few paragraphs. Record those thoughts or a few key sentences with an audio recorder to listen to later. Most smartphones have a video memo feature now.
I’m going to take my advice this week:
- Get Out of Your Head
- Plan the Paragraph
- Find 15 Minutes
Let’s see where we are next Monday with our writing.
Please note this is a path I’m volunteering as a way to get back into writing. It may not work for everyone. Whatever course you are on, keep at it! Just keep writing.
Share your thoughts and approach that has worked for you in a comment as well. I’d love to hear from you and Happy Writing!