One of the things I get asked most is how to get back into writing. There is no magic pill or one-size-fits-all answer. But I have a few ideas.
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Original photo by Hannah Jacobson
I know we hear a lot about the writers who are driven to create no matter what — the writers who eat, sleep, and breathe words.
That’s cool if that’s how you roll. It’s cool if you wake up in the morning and all you can think about is writing.
It’s also cool if that’s not you.
I think we’re given all these examples of writers who overcome the odds and do their work. But we rarely hear the stories of the writers who took a year off because they were so burnt out and they wanted to come back to their work fresh.
Why don’t we hear about the writer who set their WIP aside to focus their energy on a project for their employer because they knew it would pay off financially?
Why don’t we ever talk about the writer who just didn’t feel like writing for a while because they were in a season of life where writing didn’t serve them?
It’s because it doesn’t fit the dominant narrative.
But as a writer who didn’t write for a while (and as a blogger who once deleted all the content from this blog in a fit of rage), I can tell you that you can always come back.
Writing is always there. Even if you have to leave for a while, it will be there. It’s goign to feel uncomfortable at first — like trying to fit into a pair of jeans you haven’t worn in years. It’ll be like that first trip back to the gym after some time off.Writing is always there. Even if you have to leave for a while, it will be there. Click To Tweet
There will be soreness and frustration.
You won’t be as good as you were the moment you come back.
But you can get back there.
And that’s what I want to talk about today. Knowing how to get back into writing is key, and I would argue, a skill all writers need.
Because life comes in seasons, there will be times for tremendous output, and times for stepping away.
And when you need to come back, here’s how you can do it.
How to Get Back Into Writing
001: Practice Habit Building.
Even though writing can feel like a transcendent, spiritual experience, it’s mostly a mundane habit.
The reason it can be so hard to get back into writing is because you’ve lost the habit. So in order to write again, you have to focus on the habit building.
I have a whole post about how to build the writing habit, as well as a post on good writing routines. Both are great places to look for more information about building your writing habit and creating a daily routine around your writing.
But the key here is to know that when you’re trying to build a habit, or re-build one, you’re going to fail a little. The key is to give yourself the compassion to allow yourself to keep trying.
So, if you miss a day, it’s cool. There’s always tomorrow. You just have to make sure that you’re giving yourself the time and space you need to get where you’re trying to go with your writing.
002: Know Why You Want to Write.
So, for me, it’s really hard to write when the thing I’m writing doesn’t 100% align with the vision I have for my life.
On the one hand, I rarely have to write things that don’t align with my vision. On the other, I’m a freelancer, baby. Sometimes I need money.
And that’s where knowing my why comes in.
I’ve been writing professionally for the past 10 years, and in many cases, I can make myself finish projects just for the money. But when it comes to writing stuff that I’m working on for soul reasons?
I have to 100% be into it.
So, if I’ve been working on a project for too long, or if I get to a point in a project where it no longer serves me, that usually means it’s time to move onto something else.
I know this can sound counterproductive and like I’ll never finish anything, but here’s the thing: I don’t want to write stuff if it no longer fits the vision I have for the career I’m building.
So remind yourself why you’re writing, and that will help you find the drive to move forward on a project. Or, it will help select a new project that you can really get into.
003: Don’t Look at the Big Word Count.
I’m the kind of person who can’t think about how big a task is. I need to be able to imagine myself completing it, and thinking about the end product makes that really hard.
So, the only way I can think about novel writing is in 1,000-word increments. Because that’s only 15 to 30 minutes of writing, really. (See my post on how to write fast if you don’t think so.)The only way I can think about novel writing is in 1,000-word increments. Click To Tweet
But by not thinking about the actual 70,000 to 90,000 words that go into a novel, I’m basically giving myself hope. And if you’re looking to get back into writing, you need some hope.
Gigantic word counts can be super daunting when you’ve been away from the writing habit for a while. That’s why you need to think about the small numbers and wait for the big picture to unfold after a while.
004: Get Yourself a Writing Coach.
Depending on how serious you are about writing, a writing coach might be for you.
If you see a future for yourself in the writing world and want to invest in yourself from the start, hiring a coach is a great way to build up your writing habit and hold yourself accountable. It’s also a great way to start taking your career as a writer seriously.
There are all kinds of writing coaches out there. The key is finding one that works best for you.
If you’re interested in hiring me as your writing coach, you can check out all the writing coaching packages I offer on my coaching and consulting page. As of right now, I do have a few openings for clients, and I love working with other writers to help them build their writing habits or create their online platform.
005: Binge Pro-Writing Media.
Sometimes, you just need to get in the writing headspace.
Take a look at all your social media. Are you following writers online? I recommend that you do.
If you fill up your Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube with writing and writing-related accounts, it’s hard not to feel jazzed up about writing. And the cool thing is that based on that, social media platforms will start recommending more writing-related content to you.
While I admit this won’t get you to sit down and actually do the writing work, it will help you feel like you’re part of the community, and it will make it easier for you to get excited about the idea of writing.
006: Read Big Magic and Listen to Magic Lessons.
I’m sure everyone who comes to this ol’ blog knows about Elizabeth Gilbert. But I can’t sing the praises of her book, Big Magic, or her podcast, Magic Lessons, enough.
I read the book when it first came out, and loved it. It was partially tough love, partially new perspective, and partially kick in the ass I needed. I recommend it to a lot of creative folks, and I’m probably going to have to give it a reread when 2020 gets here.
The cool thing about the podcast though, is that you get to hear Elizabeth Gilbert coaching other writers. I love listening to her heartfelt advice, and it’s so interesting to hear how the advisees are doing when she checks back in with them.
In either case, both resources have a ton of great advice, and I recommend them wholeheartedly to everyone.
007: Set Attainable Goals.
My biggest flaw as a writer is that I regularly assume that I can perform at top-level. Sometimes I can. And then, there are days when I can’t spell my own name.My biggest flaw as a writer is that I regularly assume that I can perform at top-level. Sometimes I can. And then, there are days when I can't spell my own name. Click To Tweet
So when it comes to setting attainable goals, something that I have to remind myself is that I need to average out my efforts. I need to figure out what I can do on my best day and also on my worst day, and then average out that word count and make that the target.
And if you’re trying to get back into writing, it’s crucial that you set those attainable goals. If not, you’ll be demoralized on day one.
So think about what it is you want to achieve, and think about the small chunks that make it possible. From there, figure out how much you can do regularly, and let that be your goal.
Have You Ever Had To Figure Out How to Get Back Into Writing?
What did you do to get you back in the writing habit? How did you set attainable goals? Did you read Big Magic?
My personal life has been going through some serious changes this year be it financial, personal, or my health. As such, my writing has taken a backseat to all of it. Last time I wrote anything was back in April when I attempted to restart my blog. Again. That crashed and burned. I’ve been going back and forth between feeling like I am no longer a writer and being excited to start writing again. It’s one hell of a whirlwhind in my head. The need and desire to write is still there no matter how hard I try to suppress it. I’m beginning to suspect fear is a big reason for my hesitation. Maybe 2020 will be the time to return. Baby steps though, amirite?
Always baby steps. And just remember that fear is always there. But you get to have the final say. And once you start writing more and more and sharing it, the fear will definitely lessen.
Yes, I agree. I write mostly crap which makes me feel good afterwards.