I have a very strong dislike of writing hiatuses.
Partially because they interrupt the flow of writing, and partially because it feels like pulling teeth when trying to get back into writing after them. Of course, this may be different if you’re the type of person that takes an intentional break that refreshes you and leaves you feeling ready to conquer the world with your words when you declare the hiatus over. But my hiatuses are always unintentional, brought on by me shrugging off the need to write to the next day. Then the next. And then the next and the next until I can’t remember the last time I even sat down to write. And then when I do force myself to give it a go again, it almost feels as if I completely forgot how to write at all.
I know I’m not the only one who has trouble starting up again, and since this has (sadly) become such a regular part of my life, I’ve finally managed to devise some strategies to get me from feeling like a baby who was just given a pencil and told to write a dissertation to an actual adult human who knows how to construct a sentence with as little difficulty (read: crying) as possible. I hope that if you’re struggling to get back into writing regularly and are needing a little kick in the pants that some of these tips might benefit you.
Tip 1: Pick A Project
Don’t go in blind. I’ve learned that as soon as I sit down and open the word document or flip to a blank page, I immediately lose almost all will to write and am instead suddenly hit with the desire flee from this tired endeavor. That blank, white expanse can be intimidating, and to me, it almost feels as if its a taunting reflection of all the work I haven’t put into my writing for the past weeks, months… years.
Sure, that’s a little dramatic, but you get the point.
So before you start your writing session, decide what you want to do. Do you want to write a short story? Continue a novel? Make a new blog post? Work on some poems? Decide on this first, so you can avoid feeling so overwhelmed by the things you think you should write or could write, that you end up not writing anything at all.
Tip 2: Give Yourself Time To Brainstorm
Once you’ve gotten your project, give yourself some time to brainstorm it. Don’t let this take up all of the time, but do allow yourself a few minutes or so. I find that even if I have a project in mind, it can still be hard to begin getting those words on the page. So instead, I’ll jot down a few notes about the project — ideas, words, questions — to help get my mind activated. What sort of blog post would I like to write? What topics am I interested in? What scene should follow this one? What themes do I want to explore in this story?
Doing this can get some of those dusty wheels in your brain turning again, getting you back into the mindset you had when you were creating and before your extended break. And getting back into the right mindset is one of the most important things. Because if you begin to feel like a writer again, you might actually begin to convince yourself to write again.
Tip 3: Use Prompts
If you just can’t seem to get started on a project, or can’t settle on what you want to work on, don’t neglect using prompts. Find a handy website with prompts you like, a book, or take your chances with a prompt generator. Talk to a friend and see if you guys can think up any ideas you’d be interested in writing. If you’re too exhausted or feel like you’re at too much of a block to think up any ideas, then don’t force it. Prompts can be a really great resource, and there’s no shame in using them.
I realize it can be a bit hard to weed through the thousands of sites that promise amazing prompts and one day I’ll write a post with links to some of my favorites. In the mean time, if you need a place to start, I recommend perusing some of the NaNoWrimo forums, such as Word Wars, Prompts, and Sprints or Adoption Society where you can find some pretty good ideas to get you moving in the right (write?!) direction.
Tip 4: Set Aside An Ample Amount of Time to Write (If You Can) and Don’t Rush
Time matters. If you’re trying to end a hiatus that’s lasted for nearly six months, don’t you think it might be a little difficult to be ready and going again in 10 minutes? Maybe it’s just me, but I know I can’t make a writing comeback if I only set aside 30 minutes to write. Possibly not even an hour. But if I dedicate a free morning or afternoon to getting through this rut (usually 3 hours is my minimum), I have more freedom to explore, and that means more ability to ease myself back into a writing routine.
I realize not everyone has the luxury of having enough time in one sitting to write, and if all you have is fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, don’t feel discouraged. You have to work with what you have! Get as much done as you can when you can, and don’t think it has to happen quickly. It might happen in one writing session, and it might happen in five. But give yourself enough time to see it happen, and it will.
Tip 5: Away With The Guilt
Don’t let guilt about not having written for so long keep you from wanting to write. I’ve done this so many times and although it makes no sense whatsoever, it does happen (although perhaps I just have a weird way of handling my guilt…). And the longer I let guilt keep me away from writing, the harder it is for me to begin to feel like a writer again. So let me tell you what I’m constantly having to remind myself: just because you stopped writing for a long time (intentionally or not), does not mean you are a bad writer or any less of a writer.
So please, don’t let a guilty conscious keep you from writing. And if you need that guilty conscious, tell it to switch it’s game around so at least you’ll be running back to writing, not away from it.
Tip 6: Write Badly
It might be rough. Don’t expect to your writing to be as good as it was before. In fact, expect it to be well… kinda bad.
When you’ve finally found the time to sit down and begin writing again, it might not come naturally or easily at first, but eventually you’ll get back into the habit. In the meantime, embrace the shitty writing you may have to trudge through before it starts to get good again. Soon enough, the words will begin to flow, you’ll find yourself settling comfortably back into place, and the words will turn from shit to something you’re not too embarrassed to say you created.
Tip 7: Reflect
Remember when you decided you wanted to write in the first place. Remember why. Hold onto that moment and those reasons, and use that to push you to begin again. The will, the desire to write didn’t die during your hiatus. It just… took a bit of a vacation. But it’s still there, and once you can grasp that will, need and desire to write again, then you only need to decide where and when, and you’ll make it happen. I know you will.
So how do you get back into writing after having some time away? Do you have a strategy to get yourself writing as quickly as possible again? And what are your tips for getting to writing after a long break? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading. 🙂
Image found here.