I have a confession to make. I haven’t written a single word in my novel in about five or six weeks.
The short version is, life happened. But now I’ve got that writing bug—bad. I’m getting the shakes, man. Yet somehow, it is so intimidating to get back into it—where do I start when I have so many new ideas, so many things to go back and add, so much to reread just to regain my equilibrium? How do I move forward without going back to the beginning and incidentally re-writing everything I’ve already done?
How do I get it all out of my system?
Well, this is a rodeo I’ve been to more times than I’d like, and I know I’m not the only one. Hopefully, by sharing some of my tips and tricks with you, I’ll be able to kick my own self in the butt and get back on that horse, too!
Step #1: Make time sacred, and use it for what you promised yourself you would.
Before I was forced to take a break from writing, I had specific time carved out for it regularly. It can be hard to force myself back into that rhythm when there is still so much not done, so many necessities demanding my attention. I have to remind myself that I made it work before. I am ALLOWED to have this time. This is a goal that moves forward, and the rest of it is always going to be waiting for me, no matter how much I get done.
Even if all I am doing is staring at a blank Word document for my allotted hour, that is time dedicated to thinking and processing about my novel—or at the very least, building the habit of dedicating my brain and focusing at a given time. You might be surprised how effective it can be to Pavlov yourself into productivity just by making your brain used to the fact that “x-o’clock is writing time.”
Step #2: Throw up on the page.
You heard me. Do it. All of those random moments your characters have been having while trapped in your mind, all of those plot twists and foreshadowing ideas that popped into your head while you did the dishes or scrubbed the toilet—just let your fingers fly and get it all out.
For me, I can’t focus on particulars like finish the draft until I’ve gotten all of those things on paper. The trouble is, I’m too scared of forgetting all my good ideas while I’m working on something else. I can’t keep my brain on one thing because there’s too many things I don’t want my brain to lose.
Every novel I write has it’s own dedicated file on my computer, with a subfolder for each draft and an extra subfolder for randomness written out of order. In there are usually 30 or so short documents, some only a paragraph, each titled as a sort of summary of the scene or concept inside. Some of them are redeveloped character profiles I want to see manifest better in later drafts, some are scenes I want to work in, some are potential outlines for the climax or the sequel. When I’m stumped for direction or inspiration, this is where I go to browse and gas up my writing engine.
Step #3: More Pavlov stuff.
Engage all the senses to create an overwhelming mass of signals that make your brain scream WRITING TIME. Got a big candle or an oil diffuser? The smell of peppermint or evergreen or whatever can mean WRITING TIME. Got a particular time of day you’re able to set aside? Have a small indulgence, such as a particular drink or a special once-a-day treat? Associate it with WRITING TIME.
Pick a type of background noise, music, or complete silence. Pick a particular location. Shoot, you can buy yourself a special writing hat or writing robe to engage your sense of touch. Build a routine that can be recreated, and you will be astonished how much easier it’ll be to flip that switch into writing mode—even if on some days you’re missing an element or two.
So, mommas, how do you get back into the groove when you’ve had to set your writing aside for awhile? I would love to hear your tips, too!