How to get back to writing after a break

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.

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. Read this post to learn a great way to get back to writing after a break.

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.

For example,

Take a walk

Watch a movie/documentary

Garden

Bake/Cook

Organize your garage/basement

Take a child to a museum

Sketch/Paint

Hike/Swim

Volunteer

Read

 

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.

rooting for you kids at a soccer game counts as honoring your creative center

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,

like wallpaper.

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!

6 thoughts on “How to get back to writing after a break”

  1. I don’t do much diary-type journaling, but I do enjoy jotting down descriptions or dialogue exchanges that may (or may not) make it into a story someday. That process helps me stay in touch with my characters, which are the lifeblood of my stories. I prefer character and motivation to lead me down the story path, rather than plot. Dangerous and sloppy, I know, but it’s what keeps me invested in their worlds. 🙂

    Practice is such a huge part of the creative process. But the prospect of discipline and practice can be daunting. Approaching it as a joyful experience, it becomes much less scary. Your tips are great starts to that, I think, Kate. So thanks for sharing!

    • Hey there, Mayumi! I love to explore scenes with my characters, too. Many of them never make it into the story as they aren’t necessarily pertinent to the storyline, but that’s what makes it indulgent and therefore, so much fun. No pressure. It’s exactly that kind of joy that draws me to the story for more serious, intentional writing. It all works together, doesn’t it.

      Whatever it takes to get us to stay committed to our writing is what we must do–IF, of course, staying committed is our ultimate goal. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Kate, for the great advice on how to get back into writing. I need it! I’ve been wrapped up in college course work, and writing academically and mechanically, not creatively. Thursday night, after reading your post, I pulled out my journal and did what you suggested….describing something in the space around me and going from there. It was a good way to practice and delve back into my writing. Thanks so much!

    • I’m so glad you tried the journaling as a doorway to your creative writing. I know what you mean about the differences between academic and creative writing. I feel that way with blogging and writing social media posts. My first love is fiction, and while I enjoy blogging and engaging with people online, there’s something magical about fiction that I have to indulge every day. 🙂

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