Whether you choose to or are forced to take breaks from writing due to life circumstances, it can be hard to get back in the saddle and start writing again. In this guest post, author and marketer Jodie Toohey shares some tips for getting back on track so the writing starts flowing again.
You’ve no doubt heard more times than you can count how important it is to write, if not every day, at least regularly. But there will be times in your writing life when you’ll be pulled away from your work. Maybe it’s an extended illness or a much-deserved vacation. Then you get back, excited to return to the writing life routine.
You don’t where to begin or continue.
If you are pulled away from your writing for an illness or other sudden occurrence, there won’t be much you can do about it. But, if you’re taking a break, for a pre-planned event or vacation, you can plan ahead. If you’re in the middle of a book, make some notes about where you intend to go next. If you’re lucky enough to take a break between projects, make some notes about ideas to consider for your next book, including a list of research questions you’ll need to answer. This will give you a head start when you get back to your daily life.
Let’s suppose now that either you didn’t know your hiatus was coming or you failed to plan ahead. You still have options to get yourself back in the groove quickly and painlessly.
Set Your Schedule
Make a list of all of your appointments, non-writing-related things you have to do, and any writing-related deadlines you’ve already committed to meeting for the next two weeks. Use Outlook or create a time schedule on a spreadsheet or by hand, like this:
(Or feel free to swipe this one.) Next, insert of all of your appointments. Decide how long it will take you to complete the non-writing related or writing related tasks with deadlines and block off the appropriate time to work on them. Finally, pen in as many writing appointments as you are able. If you can put in at least an hour a day, that’s great, but if you can only fit in four or five over the entire two weeks, that’s fine, too.
Keep Your Appointments
After setting aside the time to write, the next most important thing to do is honor your appointments. Treat them like doctor appointments or other obligations you wouldn’t miss except for an emergency or illness. If you do have to miss an appointment, rearrange your calendar to reschedule it as soon as possible.
When You Arrive
As you sit down to do your writing at your allotted time, first congratulate yourself on your discipline. And then start writing. It may be frustrating at first. It might feel awkward or you might not know where to start, but don’t give up.
If you’re continuing work on a book, re-read the last several pages you wrote before your break to remind yourself of where you were going. If you need to start a new book, look through your idea file or brainstorm some ideas. Or maybe your next book is too daunting. If so, try an article. Search some keywords or phrases related to the topics you enjoy writing about online and read some blogs or articles that pop up, paying particular attention to the comment sections to see if you can answer any additional questions.
If you’re really stuck, free write. Set your timer for the length of your appointment slot and force yourself to keep your fingers moving writing or typing the entire time. “I want to write” is a great prompt; write about what you want to write in as much detail as possible, whether it’s a novel about a certain character with certain qualities, a how-to article that will teach people how to do something with these steps, or a non-fiction book that inspires people with certain insights. When you get stuck, write “I don’t know what to write” or “I’m stuck” or whatever whining complaints pop into your head. Eventually, your brain will get bored and will give you something.
And You’re Back
By the end of the two weeks (likely sooner), you will be back to your old writing self, cranking out words and finding your groove again.
Do you have any tips for getting back into the writing habit after an extended hiatus (or even a weekend)? If so, please share them in the comments section below.
Jodie Toohey provides independent solutions to help authors get their books finished, ready for publication, and into readers’ hands through her company, Wordsy Woman Author Division. (URL: http://wordsywomanforauthors.com/) She’s also the author of four published books: two poetry collections, Crush and Other Love Poems for Girls and Other Side of Crazy, and two novels, Missing Emily: Croatian Life Letters and Melody Madson – May It Please the Court? Her newest novel, Taming the Twisted, is due out the summer of 2015. Learn more about her books on her author website. (URL: http://www.jodietoohey.com)