Thursday, March 17, 2011

My 8 Steps to Getting 'it' Back!

Over the last few months, several of my writing friends have told me they’ve lost the ability to write. Now, I’m not talking about just any writer—I’m talking writers who’ve been committed for a long time, but for one reason or another, they’ve become disgruntled or have gotten off the beaten track and were afraid or didn’t want to get back on. Putting your work out there is a scary thing. If you love writing you’ll find your way back but here’s what I do when I’m feeling doubtful.

It’s a matter of forcing yourself to get back on the horse. Let’s face it, we’ve all had problems at one time or another—something else comes up that takes priority, or you’re too down on yourself to get back on. If too much time has elapsed, you may have found having that freedom of those few days goes into a week or two because you’ve decided you’re enjoying yourself too much. You tell yourself you’ll get back to it--maybe your non-writing friends got a glimpse of you away from your computer and began to complain because you haven’t made time for them, so you take a few more days. Or maybe the time off has taken its toll on your confidence and you’ve decided maybe writing isn’t for you after all. Maybe you’ve given in to those doubts because you haven’t been able to get something else published. Don’t give into it. If you love writing, and I know you do, here are a few tips you can try. I hope this helps you.

1. Call it practice
Start out small. Take a few days by using a subplot from your current WIP, the one you were writing before you became plagued by those insecurities and play the ‘what if’ game. Write a short paragraph about what you think the answer is to that ‘what if.” Obviously, this works not using the WIP, but I have something else in mind here, so stay with me.
2. Commit to the practice
Commit to doing this every morning, even if it’s just for an hour. As Nora says, you can’t edit a blank page. So, get something down, even if it doesn’t make sense.
3. Be realistic (and kind)
If you miss a morning, don’t berate yourself for not doing the practice. Just pick it up again in the afternoon, or whenever you have some free time—but do it. You’ve made a commitment to yourself so don’t ruin it by giving up now. What you’ll find is that you’re writing a lot more than you imagined.
4. Read your musings
Use post-it notes, a file on your computer. This tells the creative side of your mind that you’re serious about getting back into the swing of things. By reading the file or whatever you’ve used to jot down the words gives your psyche a feeling of accomplishment because you can see the fruits of your practice, but you’re also seeing that creative side is writing some pretty darn good stuff.
5. Share your practice
There will come a point in your practice when you know you’re ready to let someone see it. Feedback gives life to work. It doesn’t have to be everyone. Chose a select few or even just one person. It’s called reinforcement and encouragement from them.
6. Pay attention to the encouragement
And when you’re really ready, announce it on Facebook or Twitter. One of the many benefits of thinking aloud on these social networks is that those who do know your work will come forward and let you know they’ve missed your musings. If it wasn’t for encouragement, some of us might never have written in the first place.
8. Reap the benefits of your practice
Now, here comes the best part. Remember I said I had something else in mind? If you used a subplot from your WIP, you already have a scene completed and can use it in your story. Now see how easy that was?
9. Notice the difference?
You’re back on track and ready to greet the writing world with anticipation.
Now don’t you feel more grounded, cheerful and resilient? Sure you do. Keep on keeping on.

Shut Up and Kiss Me ~ October, 2011
Dishing Up Romance ~ TBA


I.J. Parnham said...

A nice article. I'll add my own number 7 to say that the flip side of seeking out encouragement is to avoid negativity and negative people. There's a lot of it out there and when you're feeling a bit vulnerable it's easy to let the doom and gloom merchants get you into an even deeper rut.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Thank you, IJ. Excellent advice!

Beate Boeker said...

Thank you, Carolyn! I needed that - my WIP has felt like chewing gum these last weeks!

Carolyn Hughey said...

I hear you, Beate. I've been there and done that too.

Gina Ardito/Katherine Brandon said...

Great advice, Carolyn. Sometimes we just need to make writing a "daily need/habit" like brushing our teeth.

Sandy Cody said...

Great advice, Carolyn. I also agree with Ian that you can't let negative people get to you. Writing a novel can be a daunting task and the last thing a writer needs is having more doubt heeped on his/her plate.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Sandy and Ian, that should have been the number 1 item on my list because the last thing anyone who's trying to get their mojo back is to listen to someone who's negative. This business is hard enough without being pushed down further.

Thanks for your comments.

Jane Myers Perrine said...

A friend was having this proble. I suggested she write a book for her five-year-old grandchild. It got her going. Sometimes doing something completely different can help.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Great idea, Jane!

Carolyn Brown said...

Wonderful advice for all of us, Carolyn!!

Zelda Benjamin said...

Great blog. We all need to hear this every so often.