Writers are vulnerable creatures, and it doesn’t usually take a lot for us to make an excuse to not write one day. I’m not going to harp on anyone for taking a healthy break from writing, but it’s a slippery slope. If we’re taking a break for the wrong reason, then what kind of message does that send your muse, or whatever you call your creative center?
I’m a firm believer in the value of writing every day. Yes. Every Day. I don’t want you to take this as some kind of torture device because you get to choose what to write. Maybe you want to pen a letter to your cousin, or journal, or sketch out a few characters for your next story idea. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, it only matters that you’re writing.
Every time you write you are making a direct connection to your creative center. You’re honoring it. You’re telling it you appreciate the job it does. In return, your creative center gives you more good stuff.
Happy. Thank you. More, please.
I mean, really, there ain’t anything much happier than a writer who is filled with story ideas. Okay, a dog with a toy is a close second.
But there are those days when writing just simply can’t happen. Even though I like to call myself a Time Warrior, I am well aware that we are human and humans have a couple of limitations.
Beating ourselves up over not writing, though, is really not a wise approach.
One of my most common suggestions to writers who can’t seem to find a consistent writing schedule is to at least do something that inspires you. This actually includes such a wide variety of activities anyone would be hard-pressed to not be able to engage in one of them.
Take a walk
Watch a movie/documentary
Organize your garage/basement
Take a child to a museum
That’s just a small sample, but even those ideas can tell you the options are limitless. Creativity isn’t just about imagination. Creativity is about choices, experimentation, adventure, learning, and fun.
Everything in life requires a measure of creativity, to imagine and execute ideas. Whatever you’re doing, whether you’re exploring a sea cave, trying a new recipe, learning a language, speaking during a meeting at work, rooting for your child at a soccer game, you’re being creative.
Taking a break from writing, then, doesn’t have to be a deep scar gutting your journey. Taking a break can simply mean you’re growing from another perspective. That you’re adding to your creative well from other sources. That you’re making something possible. That you’re developing your skills, your approach.
Staying positive about your break from writing is crucial. The minute we bring negative thoughts and limiting beliefs into the mix, it’s game over.
Take a deep breath.
Try this exercise: Ask yourself five things (besides writing) that you would spend your day doing if money, time, and access were not obstacles. What would you choose? This is sometimes an extravagant list, but the point is to show yourself that you are giving yourself permission to have fun in your daydreams, why not in the real world too?
And what if you chose activities that are realistic? Go do them, for Muse’s sake.
You must let yourself off the hook and de-stress. You can get through the tough patches that got you into your writing break in the first place. But it’s also true that if you’ve been absent long enough, your skills, practices, habits might be a little rusty and stiff.
That can make re-entering the writing realm a little scary, a little intimidating. The questions and self-doubt mount. How can I do this? I don’t even know where to start. I’ve lost too much time. I’ll never catch up.
Easy to see how this kind of doubt and fear will lead to limitation, excuses, and avoidance.
How to return to writing
One of the most effective strategies is to journal. Even the busiest members of this species have fifteen minutes each day. Take that time and journal about anything that’s on your mind.
Keep this journaling expectation-free to start. Don’t force yourself into your abandoned story yet, unless of course, that story has lured you back and you can’t resist.
Journal about how the curtains are blowing in the summer breeze. The way your baby smiled at you first thing that morning. The laundry piling up. The raucous construction workers across the street. The rotting bananas on the counter. The squirrel stealing from your bird feeder.
Anything that captures your attention or lingers on your mind or frustrates the hell out of you—journal it. This is your safe place, your secret garden of words. No one has to see it. No one has to even know about it.
Make it fun and keep your journal in a hiding place. Tuck a sprig of mint or a bird feather or a faded photo of your grandparents on their wedding day inside the front cover. Write yourself brief messages on eency scraps of paper and slip them in between pages you haven’t yet written upon to stumble upon later. You’ll have forgotten you put them there, maybe even forgotten the messages you wrote to yourself,
a note from your past self.
I like to search through magazines for words I love. I cut them out and tape them into my journal. I’ll type up favorite quotes in fancy fonts and cool colors, print them out and then paste them onto a page. Sometimes I use these meaningful words and quotes as a writing prompt or simply as a decoration.
I’m a doodler, not a very good one, and I love to doodle on the edges of my pages or in the middle of my words or faintly on the background,
Again, a journal is your creative harbor and it is one of the best launching pads for more intentional storycrafting, when you’re ready.
What do you do to get back to writing after a long hiatus? Do you enjoy journaling? Let’s chat in the comments!
Have a writerly day!