How to Get in Writing Shape after a Long Break

Today’s guest post is by Janice Kersh:

If you’ve taken a hiatus from writing for whatever reason and are feeling some anxiety about getting back into the game, don’t worry. It’s a perfectly natural feeling, but one you can overcome.

You know the saying “A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.” The same is true with writing. Your finished book starts with the first blank page you stare down, the first word you have the courage to write. By taking it one day at a time, you’ll be back on your writer’s journey before you can say “writer’s block.”

Be Kind

If you stopped writing because it got too hard and you gave up, don’t beat yourself up too much. You just didn’t succeed at something the first time and now you’re trying again. It takes courage and you should be proud for showing up again.

Negativity, frustration, fear, and anger are all counterproductive emotions. So if you feel these emotions creeping up when you sit down to write, stop, take a deep breath, and be nice to yourself.

Think about the things you love about writing. Remember that feeling you get when you’ve written something you like. Congratulate yourself for showing up and getting to work on something that matters to you.

Look to the Greats

There’s no formula for writing. Everyone comes at it their own way. However, there are some habits that a number of successful writers share that you can start to adopt.

The biggest one is writing every day, particularly in the morning. Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Don Delillo, and Haruki Murakami write every morning. Christmas, New Year’s Day, birthdays, sick days, well days, and everything in between. They write every day.

Why is it important to write every day? It’s similar to trying to get in shape or lose weight. You have to show up and exercise every day. If you make an excuse not to do it one day, it will be rather easy for you to make the same excuse the next day. And then you never get around to working out again.

Maybe this is what happened to you when you stopped writing. Make the commitment to write every day, no excuses.

Join a Writers’ Group

A good writers’ group will give you guidance and well-aimed criticism. You may find your identity as a writer by being part of a writers’ group, and that may help you to take your writing more seriously.

Besides the community and the feedback, you’ll also be put under a bit of pressure if you join a group. You’ll be expected to participate, attend meetings, generate new content, as well as help other writers with their work. At the very least, it will serve as motivation not to quit writing again.

Read

Did you take a break not only from writing but from reading as well? If the answer is yes, then it’s important that you get back into both. Good writers are good readers.

Read good works of literature that inspire and excite you. Examine the possibilities of worlds and moods created by writing. Use this inspiration in your own work.

If you write genre fiction, read other authors in that genre. If you write historical fiction, read that. Reading is like a dialogue among writers. You’re each putting your creativity out there. It’s an honor, when you think about it, to pick up a book and give that author your time and attention. Wouldn’t you enjoy it if people did that with your work?

Recognize That Your Style May Have Changed

You may not be the same writer you were the last time around. And it’s important that you recognize and accept that. If you experienced some success with your former writing, you may feel trapped in a certain style that you know people enjoy.

Don’t allow this to happen. Let go of the old writing habits, and embrace whatever comes out next. Writing is an evolutionary process. Give yourself permission to evolve.

Create a Ritual

Sometimes performing certain acts before or during your writing process can help you get back into the swing of things. Maybe you want to pick lemongrass from the garden and brew a cup of tea before you settle down to write. Or go for a walk in the mornings and collect your thoughts before writing. Or listen to a piece of music that inspires your or soothes you. Or read a specific poem every time you write. Whatever you choose, it should be something that helps trigger the brain into thinking, “It’s time to write.”

Go Slowly 

Just because you haven’t written anything in a while, doesn’t mean you need to prove anything to anyone. Don’t come out with guns blazing, promising the world that you’re going to win a Pulitzer that year. Set reasonable goals. You’re just warming up.

On your first day back running after some time off, you don’t tackle a marathon. Running a marathon might be a long-term goal, but for now, your aim is to fill the lungs and work the muscles.

Don’t think too much about the end product or what you want to get out of it. You can worry about that later. Right now, it’s time to embrace writing again, and that means just sitting down and getting some words out.

Work on Other Writing Projects

If you were working on a book and you stopped, maybe you don’t want to crack open that Pandora’s box on your first day back. Maybe you want to eventually work your way toward it. Write something else. Write an essay. Write about writing. Write a poem or a story. Do something that’s less of an emotional trigger. But, write!

Janice Kersh head shotJanice Kersh is an avid reader, a freelance writer, and a literature adorer. She surfs the web searching for actionable writing tips, works as a content manager, and plans to start writing her first novel next year. Follow her on Twitter.

Feature Photo Credit: hang_in_there via Compfight cc

4 Responses to “How to Get in Writing Shape after a Long Break”

  1. Mary Kate September 14, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    Yes to all of this, but the most important thing for me has been having another project to work on when I get stuck. Sometimes you just need a break from the novel you’ve been toiling over for years–after all, when you’re lost in the forest, all you can see are trees. So I like to take a long break to get perspective, but during that time, not let my writing skills wither. So I work on something else.

    Also, having a second project in the works really helps take the pressure off the first.

    Great tips, thanks!

  2. Janice September 15, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    Thank you for your kind words! Other writing projects saved me many times – they helped me to discover new writing horizons and rest from the marathon called “my main writing work”.

  3. sherrie miranda December 9, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    Thank you, Susanne! I have shared this all over the net.
    We should never feel bad about taking time off! We may just have needed that time to let things percolate! I learned this after much beating myself up!
    To sum up, I would just say “Take SMAL STEPS! And ENJOY THE PROCESS!
    Now, I just try to relax and enjoy the input until I am ready to begin with the output again.
    Peace, love & great writing to all,
    Sherrie

  4. sherrie miranda December 9, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    Ooops, I should have said “THANKS, JANICE!” too! 😉 <3

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