We have all taken a writing hiatus, maybe even a few or a dozen. I’ve taken more than a few. Some because of pure laziness and others due to life’s endless demands, events, changes, and what-have-you. Whatever the reason was though, I know that without writing in my life I was always filled with a sense of anxiety. That same feeling I get when I sense I’m forgetting something, like a doctors appointment I was supposed to be at or my sons shoes that are absolutely necessary before heading out to the park... And at the same time my creative mind is hollow, dark, full of spider webs. It’s one of the most unpleasant feelings I’ve experienced and I ask myself over and over again why I do this to myself.
If you are taking a break from writing and you feel awful or lost or anxious, just know that you are not alone and there are people out there who want to help you out. Like me! Here is a simple, but effective way to jump-start your writing and stay in love with it!
Before you jump-start your writing, evaluate your situation. Boring right? I know you want to jump right back into writing, but just hear me out. You better understand yourself and can more easily avoid falling into a writing rut in the future if you take the time to think about the reasons why you stopped writing, what you're feeling right now, and why you want to start writing again. We study history so we won’t repeat it, so why not reflect on these questions and learn from the answers so you don’t repeatedly stop writing? If you see that there is a pattern or something that triggers you to halt your story (or whatever it is you’re working on) then you will be ready to combat your need/want to stop before it happens again.
I noticed that I usually stop writing when I get stuck, when bits and pieces of my story aren’t coming together like they should. I get frustrated and down on myself. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be writing at all because I suck and I’ll never be as good as it takes to get published and… it goes on and on. This starts the spiral down, down, down until, in a final fit of rage, I’ve shoved my manuscript aside and made the conscious decision to stop writing all-together. During my dark-ages (AKA writing hiatus') I avoid writing because of fear. The fear of starting and stopping again. The fear of not being good enough. All that. But at the same time I can’t stop thinking about writing because, well, I love it and it makes me feel good.
The last time I stopped writing, however, was due to the start of the literary magazine, which I poured every last bit of my life-energy–that I hadn’t already given to my kids–into. The problem here: I just wasn’t allowing myself to write less each day. I was in the “all of nothing” mind-set (which for me meant “write 1,000 words a day or nothing). I thought I didn’t have time to write, but I really did. Even 30 minutes a day is writing and I could have easily fit that into my busy schedule. This is me analyzing my writing life roller coaster. Go ahead. Give it a shot. When you're finished write out a mantra for yourself. Something that you can say to yourself when times get rough. Place it somewhere you can see on a regular basis.
It’s important to then make a goal for yourself. That way you will have something driving you. Yes, you’ll have your love of writing and that will help greatly, but a goal sets you up to successfully write consistently. Set smaller, achievable goals each week. Be sure to look ahead at your schedule. If you’re planning on taking a vacation next week, then you probably won’t want to set a goal of five chapters. If you’re sticking around and have a pretty open schedule besides work and few other things, then it would be safe to set a larger goals for that week. Just be smart about it and don’t overwhelm yourself. That is a surefire way to stop you from writing again. If you want more tips on goal setting and creating deadlines for yourself you can read about it here.
Start Writing. Pretty straight forward. I suggest starting out with a low word count goal each week (the word “low” will have a different meaning for everyone). I started off with 500 words a day (about 2 pages). That was doable for me with kids, the literary magazine, and everything else. I haven’t upped my word count since and that’s fine with me. That is as much as I can handle right now. The important thing here is that I am writing every single day.
When first starting out again, don’t compare your writing, word count, or anything, to anybody else until you have gained some confidence back. Ease into it. Every time you start writing again you are learning to love it all over again and learning to hate it at the same time and deal with everything that comes along with that. Have some fun with it and remember to keep in mind the reasons why you write. I write because it makes me feel awesome. I’m creating worlds. People. New life-forms. Entire civilizations. All from my mind. That is an experience I will never give up for anything. Start writing again. You will not regret it.