Today I have a special guest. The lovely and talented Cynthia Morris shares some tips on how to get back into your groove as a writer. Enjoy!
You know the feeling – you’re writing regularly, feeling the flow of your unique writing impulse. You’re making headway on your project and you feel gooood.
Then life, as it is wont to do, throws a wrench in your rhythm, halting the sweet ratatatat of your keyboard. Events on a scale large and small, tragic or irritating interrupt:
- illness, either yours or a loved one’s.
Once the chaos has settled, you start to hear the sound of your inspiration calling you back. You like this tune and truly want writing back.
But weeks pass and you don’t return to that project you flowed with so well before life intruded on your progress.
Despite our best intentions, life’s distractions can easily derail us from our writing.
It seems all the time we spent finding our writing rhythm and focus was a one-time investment, and we’re forced to learn the steps all over again.
But even though it may feel like it, you’re not starting from scratch. Try these seven simple steps to resume – and refresh – your writing groove.
1) Draw upon your past successes.
What structures, times or places helped you focus on writing? Resume your Friday afternoon writing date, return to your special writing café, and other rituals can be renewed.
When we consider what worked in the past, we will often get snagged by stories of how our plans fell apart. The inner critic loves to chime in with variations of “Remember what happened last time – it didn’t work! Why bother now?”
We lose trust in ourselves when we focus on what didn’t work. We build something sustainable when we turn a curious eye toward what will work for us.
If there are negative associations with any of those practices, what can you replace them with?
2) Manage your expectations.
We often set ourselves up to plunge back in, pens raised and charging forward with brio. We expect to spend hours at the work, producing pages and pages of scintillating prose.
But it’s more likely we’ll start slowly and ease back into our rhythm. Instead of letting your high expectations lead to disappointment, use little victories along the way to fuel more successes.
3) Fend off saboteurs.
If it wasn’t a major interruption but a foggy dissipation instead, what derailed you from your course? Knowing the main saboteurs can help you identify trouble when it shows up next time.
Write down all your naysaying excuses that beat you away from the keyboard. See? Once they’re exposed, they seem to carry much less weight. Keep the list handy for the next time you’re tempted to believe your saboteurs.
4) Start with a brief rendez-vous with your project.
This is a simple meeting to reacquaint yourself with your work. We’re talking a 15-minute ‘project assessment’. Take notes. Jot new ideas and insights.
If you are starting anew with shorter articles or blog posts, check what you had done before you took your sabbatical. Review your lists of content ideas to spark new posts.
5) Refresh your deadline.
Deadlines can motivate us, even self-imposed ones. Recall former deadlines. What worked? What didn’t? One of the most common mistakes we make is to be overly optimistic about how long things take.
What do you know about yourself and your pace? Use that to set a deadline that engages, not strangles you.
6) Keep your cards close to your chest.
Some writers find it useful to announce their intentions publicly. Others find the pressure of others’ expectations counter-productive.
I prefer a middle path. Speak your intention to your writing tribe: your writing buddies, former classmates and teachers, a coach, or your favorite writing forum.
7) Dial it just right.
When planning the return, people often envision something like this:
“I’ll write five days a week for two hours each day.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
We don’t operate in two-hour time periods. Saying we’ll strap into the writing chair for two hours is a guaranteed way to assure that you won’t do it at all.
Let this be easier by starting small – one or two 30-minute writing sessions per week are much easier to slip into.
Which approaches will you try to get your groove back?
Try any or all of these strategies to slowly but surely ease back into your groove. Focus on building trust, engagement and momentum for this new phase of your writing life.
Notice that these suggestions ask you to rely on yourself. Build a positive and sustainable relationship with your writing that can withstand the capricious fluctuations of life.
Set yourself up to win by choosing steps that are right for you, right for this time, right for your projects.
What has helped you return to your writing groove after losing your step?
Cynthia Morris is the author of the historical novel Chasing Sylvia Beach (coming June 2012) and Create Your Writer’s Life: A Guide to Writing with Joy and Ease. She keeps her writing groove going in Denver with frequent trips to Paris. Smooth out your writing rhythm at Original Impulse.