You hear it all the time- true writers must be writing constantly, always working on their craft. Though this message can be motivating at times, it can also make you feel really guilty when you take some time away from writing. Whether it be writer’s block, lack of time, or lack of inspiration, the longer you spend away from our pens and notebooks, the more intimidating they start to look. At first you’re not writing for a legitimate reason, but after a while you’re not doing it because you’re worried you’ve lost your stuff. Here are some tips on how to get back into writing after an intimidatingly long absence.
1) Just Start
This may seem like a fairly obvious one, but you have to start somewhere right? Admit it, for months every time you’ve set aside time to write you’ve chickened out at the last minute. You suddenly find yourself very busy with chores you’ve invented or… hey, who put that remote in your hand? Don’t you dare start a new Netflix show… If you want to get out of your writing rut, you need to set aside time to write and actually stick to it, no excuses.
2) Start Small
When you’re picking up a pen after a long absence, it may be too much to expect yourself to jump right back into working on your manuscript. You’ll never fully lose your writing mojo, but you’ll definitely be rusty. The easiest way to get some practice without putting so much pressure on yourself is to do some writing exercises. Find some fun and short writing prompts and set aside an hour to challenge yourself. Perhaps the exercise will task you to use a character from your book or maybe you’ll have to write something entirely new. Either way, it’ll get your creative juices flowing again and it’ll help you start to get your confidence back.
3) Make a Schedule
One of the excuses you’ve made over the past few months is likely that you ‘weren’t feeling inspired’ enough to write. Not only do you know that’s just a poor excuse, but if writers only wrote when they felt inspired it would take five times as long for them to finish their books. Instead of continuing to use that as an excuse to let yourself drift off schedule for another few months, create a diligent schedule that you know you can stick to.
When it comes to making your writing schedule, our number one suggestion is to be realistic with yourself. If you realistically can only write once a week for a few hours, just put that on your calendar. The last thing you want to do put too much on your schedule and then keep missing your writing appointments that you set for yourself. Because every time you miss one you’ll beat yourself up, feel like you’re not a real writer, and before long you’re back to where you are now. It’s much better for your schedule and your writing confidence to make appointments you’re sure you can keep.
4) Join a Writing/Reading Group
Look into local writing or reading groups in your area. If you can’t find a good one, start your own with a few close friends! It may feel intimidating, especially when you’ve been out of the game for a while, but these groups can be a great way to hold one another accountable and bounce ideas off of each other.
If you’re planning on starting your own, there are a few options on how to structure it based on your needs. If you want to try to read more books to help improve your craft, you can start a book club and hold discussions about the material. If you want to workshop some writing, you could do a writing workshop where you take scenes (from either your book or specific prompts) and read/workshop them. Finally, if you have a few friends who are working on books/scripts/etc. you can host a group to simply bounce ideas off of one another. You can meet once a month, run each other through what you’ve been working on briefly, talk about any points where you’re stuck, and see if they have any suggestions.
5) Forgive Yourself
This is the toughest one because, ultimately, it’s the reason your absence from writing got so out of hand in the first place. Is your writing always going to be perfect? No. Are there going to be weeks where you genuinely don’t have time to write? Yes. That doesn’t make you any less of a writer than anyone else. Every writer has written bad prose. Every writer has taken absences that have stretched out longer than they should. You have to forgive yourself when you miss your writing days and on days where you feel like your writing is bad. Don’t let these things make you feel bad and don’t let them make you too afraid to pick up your pen again.