Hello! I am back, after what I realized was my first extended blog break in five years. Five years! My how the time flies. I haven’t been idle this past month as I have been hard at work finishing Wonderbar #3, but it still feels a bit strange to be getting back to the blog game.
To that end, I thought I’d tackle one of the most dangerous moments for any writer: The long break.
I’ve known writers who hit their stride, were interrupted for one reason or another, and then days turned into weeks turned into months and they were never able to get back in the saddle. All that work was squandered. Breaks = kryptonite achilles heel termite ridden ankle breaking weakening things. Don’t let long breaks destroy you!
So. Once you break your writing rhythm, how do you get it back?
Here’s how I do it:
Know that your first day back will not be productive
You must know that your first day back after a long absence will not be as productive as a normal day. This is okay. Knowing is the first stage of not panicking and not getting down on yourself. Don’t set page goals, don’t be hard on yourself. Just focus on getting your rhythm back. That’s all you need to accomplish.
Don’t head straight for the novel
Instead of going right back to my novel and feeling the crushing weight of the blinking cursor, I start off by writing something, anything other than fiction. E-mails, blog posts, forum posts, you name it. Chances are you have stuff that has piled up, and it’s easier to write an e-mail than figuring out what is going to happen next in your novel.
Don’t procrastinate endlessly, but get the words flowing for an easier reentry. Then it’s time to…
Badger yourself into opening up your novel and getting started again even if it feels like you are peeling off your own skin.
It can feel so incredibly intimidating to start again. You might not remember where you left off. You had gotten used to filling your time with episodes of Downton Abbey.
Writing is hard. Getting back into writing is really, really hard.
Do whatever you have to do to get that file open. Cursing and threats of bodily harm against yourself are perfectly acceptable. So are rewards. Just get the dang file or notepad open.
Start somewhere easy
When you do crack open the old novel, start somewhere that will get things flowing and keep your confidence high. Know a scene you want to write but aren’t there yet in the plot? Write it anyway. Need to do some revising to get back into the rhythm? Awesome, start there.
Writing a novel is full of tasks large and small, everything from figuring out the whole freaking plot to making sure the chapters are numbered properly. Tackling one of those smaller tasks still gets you closer to the finish line, and sometimes they can help you get back in rhythm.
Don’t get down on yourself
Remember, the first day back is just about getting back into it. It’s not going to be your best day. It might not be fun. But you did it. You’re back in the saddle, which is why it’s so crucially important to…
Follow up with a good day of writing
You slogged your way back into writing. Don’t waste it! Chase it as quickly as possible with a good, solid, uninterrupted, productive chunk of time. Now you’ll have momentum. So keep it up!
Also: Shouting, “I’m back, baby!!” is strongly encouraged.
What about you? What’s your favorite technique for getting back in the writing groove?
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
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Art: “A Love Story” by E. Phillips Fox