Are you someone who used to write regularly, maybe even had work published, but – for whatever reason – stopped writing?
The why and how doesn’t matter. Contracts go south. Readership wanes. Your interests and goals as an author shift. Then there are family matters that can’t be ignored. Health issues interfere. You didn’t mean to let it go, but…
Eventually it dawns on you that you haven’t written in days, weeks, months, years. And now you – for whatever reason – want to begin again.
Except when you sit at the keyboard, or pick up your pen, the results are discouraging. Our command over focus and discipline have fled. Our butts resist the chair. We feel impatient with rough drafts. The words and ideas that once flowed, barely trickle. You worry that your creativity will never return.
Don’t believe that.
Yes, your creative muscles have likely atrophied, but they can be rejuvenated. You wouldn’t expect to run five miles after months of couch surfing, right? So be fair and expect it to feel awkward and unnatural at first. With repetition and determination, you’ll regain lost ground.
Here’s seven tips to kickstart your creative engine after it’s been offline for a while.
1) Think on paper.
Not sure where to begin? Make lists. What projects could you work on? Pick one and brainstorm a list of benefits to doing it. Feel free to imagine a new career versus reviving the old one. Think of what’s possible, knowing what you know now.
2) Start small and build.
If you are feeling resistance, then set a timer for three minutes and write. Don’t worry about quality or even the topic. This is about getting accustomed to starting again. And yes, three minutes is nothing, but it’s more than you wrote the day before, right? Remember the power of compounding action. If you increase writing time by 3 minutes a day, you’ll be writing for a 90 minute stretch in a month.
3) Break it down.
Don’t think in terms of writing the whole book or the entire screenplay. Concentrate on a single scene. Or one character’s goals. Outline the story. Set small, achievable tasks, like: write 500 words, or one page.
4) Think in new places.
Go somewhere different to write. This is especially important if you’ve been avoiding the particular room where you used to create. If weather permits, sit outside. Go to the park, or a coffee shop, or the library. Heck, drive to the mall and sit in the food court. The point is to get away from the usual distractions and discouragements.
5) Fall back in love with your creativity.
Do you need to rekindle your passion for writing? Or for a specific story? If you made early notes, review those. Recall the elements that swept you away. At one time your desire to create burned as bright as a star. Remember that feeling, then write.
6) Read books on craft.
There’s something magical about reading (or rereading) Anne Lamott’s, Bird By Bird. Or Stephen King’s, On Writing. When was the last time you read magazines on writing – Writers Digest, RT Book Reviews, or The Writer? And yes, reading great fiction is a study of the craft. I’m always inspired to write when I read something magnificent.
7) Connect with other writers.
Having a group or tribe of like-minded writers can be inspiring while providing camaraderie and accountability. Can’t find a group? Start one. Check with your librarian or consider a post on Meetup.com.
It can feel daunting to start writing after an extended period. Consider it more proof that once a writer, always a writer. Writers may pause for a while, but they can’t quit. So prime the pump and anticipate hiccups.