Coming Back to Writing

Shut Up & Write! Blog - Coming Back to Writing

It doesn’t matter why you stopped. You’re coming back to writing.

We all have our reasons for stopping, and most of them sound good. Our day job kicked into high gear, our family had some drama, we moved, we were stressed out. Whatever it is, whether it’s legit or not (because let’s face it, sometimes we’re all a little less disciplined than we’d like to admit), the reason isn’t relevant. We’re past that.

Because you’re coming back. You’re going to start writing again.

You ready? Take my hand, we’re jumping off that cliff together…

Step 1: Know Thyself

OK, take out some paper (or your phone) and write down everything that keeps you from writing. Put down the reasons you’re not writing now. Put down the excuses you tell yourself why it’s OK not to write.

My list looked something like this:

  • Not enough time in the day
  • Too much going on with work/life
  • Stressed out
  • I don’t know what to write about
  • My story is broken and I don’t know how to fix it
  • I’ve lost my inspiration
  • I’m frustrated by how hard it feels
  • My muse hates me
  • I feel terrible/sick
  • I suck (AKA, I’m not a real writer)

Got it all out? Good. Now put the list away somewhere, in a dark place preferably.

Guess what? You just wrote something. Yeah, it’s just a list, but because you took the time to write it all down, you’ll feel a release. You’ve taken the first step. All those reasons aren’t going to haunt you the same way.

Step 2: Make the Time

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But you’re out of practice, other things have been prioritized over writing, and that time needs to be taken back. Something has to give in its place. Whether it’s the video game or Netflix series – give up the thing you don’t really need for the thing you really want.

For me, it was time with my family. That was the excuse I was telling myself as to why I couldn’t write. But with a little negotiation, I was able to carve out two evenings a week when the kids actually wouldn’t need me. The first couple of times trying this out were hard; I felt guilty and more than a little selfish. But the time spent writing made me happier – which in turn, made me a better parent.

So get out the calendar, block off an hour a couple days a week. Then stick to it. Set a timer and focus for an hour. Bang out some words and see how you feel.

If finding an hour seems impossible, then start with 10 minutes a day. Everyone has ten minutes. Set a timer and write by hand or on your phone. See what comes out. After a week, increase it to fifteen minutes. See if you can write the same time every day. Maybe it’s in the morning when you’re first waking up with a cup of coffee, or maybe it’s right before you go to bed. After a couple weeks, increase it to 20 minutes, then thirty, then an hour.

Step 3: Just Write

It doesn’t matter what you write while you’re getting back into the routine. It could be free-writing gibberish. What matters is you taking the time to dedicate to your writing and following through.

If you feel the muse has abandoned you, here are some easy suggestions to get you going:

  • Write a childhood memory, just the way a child would tell the story.
  • Write a scene based on a new character; if you don’t know a character or a scene, pick the scene in front of you and your favorite character from a book/movie. Try to imagine what they would notice, how would they interact, what would they say and do.
  • Write a different ending to a television series or movie.
  • Write a conversation you would have with an ancestor or historical figure: what would they ask you, how would they find the world today?
  • Pick someone around you and try to tell their story: where did they come from, why are they dressed that way, where are they going?
  • Pick an inanimate object and imagine what it would say: how long has it been around, what has it seen, how would it feel about where it is now, would it want to change or stay the same?
  • Imagine what you’d be like if you’d been born in a different country, in a different time period, in a different family, as a different sex: write how you might see the world, what your life might be like.

However, maybe you already know what you want to write: getting back to that novel or short story or whatever it is that is nagging at you.  Get to it! The story isn’t going to write itself.

Step 4: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Every writer has heard the mantra “write every day,” and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t write every day.

But try not to get discouraged with the routine before you’ve put it in place. If you miss a day or a writing session, forgive yourself and move on. Make it up if you can.

Here are some tips for keeping yourself on a writing routine:

  • Join a Shut Up & Write chapter in your area and go to weekly events.
  • Add it to your calendar! Create the event and schedule it, just like you would a meeting.
  • Keep a log of when you write and how much you write. Seeing the list grow will inspire you to keep going every time you make an entry.
  • Tell your family and friends what you’re doing. Tell them when you are doing it. When they ask, tell them how you’re doing. If you have friends that are writers, try to write together.
  • Set alarms and use timers.
  • Write a Post-It note and put it on your bathroom mirror to remind you when you’re writing.
Step 5: The Fun Part

Now make a list and write down all the reasons you WANT to write. I have this as the last step because sometimes it will take practicing your routine and writing for a few weeks before you remember why you wanted to write.

Mine looks like this:

  • It’s the only time I can lie for fun.
  • I can remake the world the way I want it.
  • I can talk to myself with multiple voices and not be crazy.
  • There is a huge community of badass writers out there, and I’m one of them!
  • Finding that perfect phrase or sentence makes my day.
  • Nothing else makes me feel as good.

If you have any doubts about being able to get back into your writing routine, don’t. I believe in you. You can do it. You’re reading this blog, and you know what that means? You too are a badass writer.

So get writing!

Published by Catherine Ellsworth

Catherine Ellsworth is currently working on a science-fiction novel and runs a monthly critique group in the Bay Area. When not writing and reading, she eavesdrops on commuter conversations, monitors the development of AI, and fantasizes about living on other planets.

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