How to Get Back Into Writing: Dust Off Those Author Cobwebs
Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’ve been crushing this first draft by keeping up with your daily writing sessions. Whether it be in the morning after your hot beverage of choice, during your lunch break, or maybe after you tuck the kids in for the night, you’ve been getting 500, 1,500, or 5,000 words in every day (kudos to you if you’re getting 5k words out consistently, but it’s doable!).
Then life gets in the way, as it often does. You get sick. You go on a trip. The day job gets busy. Suddenly it’s been two weeks since you wrote a single word.
Listen, we’ve all been there. Heck, two weeks is a fraction of some unintentional breaks us authors take. But, if you want to get that manuscript done, you need to get back on the horse.
So how do you get back into writing after you haven’t written a word in a while?
Spoiler: it’s easier than you think.
Odds are, imposter syndrome or anxiety is just holding you back. But we’re going to look at some specifics to light that fire again.
To do that, this article has been divided into two big sections: mindset changes and actionable ideas.
Don’t just jump to the actionable ideas, though. Arguably, adopting the right mindset is just as important as actionable steps, if not more.
Enough waiting—we’re doing enough procrastinating with our writing, anyway. Let’s figure out how to get back into writing.
Mindset Changes to Get Back Into Writing
There’s a reason mindset changes comes before the seemingly more practical steps: adopting the right mindset will make those later steps easier and more effective.
When it comes to mindset changes that will help you get back on track with your writing are:
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
- Embrace tropes
- Look for unorthodox ideas
- Be patient and kind with yourself
- Enjoy the journey
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
When you start writing again, you need to understand that it won’t be perfect. Even when you’re back in the groove, your writing will never be perfect.
But one of the biggest roadblocks many writers struggle with is overthinking every detail. Did you use the best adjective? Is that word spelled right? Should this nameless tertiary character have brown hair or red?
Pledge to yourself now that you won’t sweat the small stuff. Save that for revisions and just write!
Some people love tropes. Some folks want to avoid them. Some genres need them (I’m looking at you, romance).
If you’ve gone a while without writing, don’t spend the next three weeks trying to come up with a character or situation the world has never seen before. Odds are we have seen it, and you’re spending valuable imagination on this self-imposed tribulation.
Instead, lean into tropes. Embrace the stuff that everyone loves. You can always add some extra details later if you’re feeling too trope-y.
Look for Unorthodox Ideas
Your creative muscles are a little stiff when they haven’t been flexed in some time, so you might struggle to come up with new ideas. This is extra true for ideas you actually like.
So get a bit unorthodox with where you’re getting ideas. Here are some ways to get started:
- Keep a diary or dream journal - Jot down any ideas that jump into your mind throughout the day or when you wake up.
- People watch - But don’t be weird. There are 7,700,000,000+ other people in the world leading lives as intricate and unique as your own. Use them for inspiration!
- Read your old work - Even the bad stuff. Maybe it will spark something new or you can rework something that has been in a drawer for years.
- Try new things - Being open to unfamiliar experiences, ideas, food, media, etc. can catalyze new ideas in that imagination of yours.
Be Patient and Kind With Yourself
This is one of the most important mindset changes you can adopt. Let’s say you were writing 2,000 words every day through an hour of writing sprints before your break. You won’t be able to sustainably match that pace once you start writing again.
Take it easy. Understand that getting back to your peak takes time. If you only write 400 words one day, don’t be mad at yourself; that is 400 words more than any day you weren’t writing.
It will take small, regular steps to get back to where you were, so be patient and kind with yourself.
Enjoy the Journey
I know you want to get right back to writing the way you were before. We don’t want to go through the baby steps, right?
But you aren’t writing to write 2,000 words an hour. You aren’t writing to say “I’m a super efficient writer.”
No, you’re writing because you love it. You like bringing that story to life. So understand that even writing a few hundred words is a few hundred words of something you love doing. Not many people in the world find something they’re as passionate about as authors and our stories.
Actionable Steps to Get Back Into Writing
Now that your mind and attitude are both armed with the things they need to help you get back into writing, let’s talk about the more practical, actionable steps you can take.
To reignite your writing process, we’re going to talk about:
- Writing messy
- Writing something new
- Reading the right stories
- Refining your craft
- Building a writing habit
- Setting SMART goals!
First up, try writing messy. Writing messy embraces that first mindset change we spoke about: don’t sweat the small stuff.
You might want to do this with a short story idea or maybe a scene that you know won’t make it into your current draft (unless you surprise yourself and it turns out awesome).
Whatever you write, just write. You heard me: Just. Write.
Don’t care about what you’re writing. Don’t stop and check your notes. Can’t remember the love interest’s eye color? Don’t care, keep going.
Imagine your creativity comes through some pipes before hitting your keyboard. If you let things sit for too long, those pipes become gross and gunky and maybe clogged. By writing messy, you’re essentially flushing those pipes out so you can be extra creative where it really matters: your manuscript.
Pro tip from the Dabble crew: Stuck on a name, detail, or idea during your writing? Don’t hang around for too long! Just type TKTK and keep going. TK is a publishing abbreviation for “to come,” but a letter combination that stands out and won’t pick up many other instances when you use ctrl/command+f search, especially when it’s duplicated like that.
Write Something New
Sometimes there can be a lot of pressure to write your current project, especially if your fans are posting comments every couple days asking when it will be ready for them to devour. That’s a good problem to have, don’t get me wrong, but pressure can clog those creative pipes.
If you find yourself struggling to get back into your current project or feel intimidated by it, write something else! This is not writing messy; you’ll be writing with the same intent and care as your current project. It’s just something new.
If you’re anything like most writers, you have a lot of story ideas floating around in your head. Take a day or five to work on one, then use the momentum you develop to slide right on into your main manuscript.
Read the Right Stories
I bet you think I’m going to say “read great books in your genre.” You’d be right. Do that. You’re a writer, which means your forever homework is reading. And reading great books in your genre can get those creative juices flowing and maybe even inspire a whole new story.
BUT! Also read trashy books (I don’t mean that insultingly, just whatever you personally consider “trashy”). Read cookie cutters. Read things that are just fun.
Even years later, I still distinctly remember listening to Taming Demons for Beginners by Annette Marie. It’s a slow burn paranormal romance that had a strange number of baking recipes in its prose. It was so far from my normal genres, but I loved it.
And even better: it gave me some inspiration for the stories I was writing.
So read the best stuff, sure, but also just read some fun stuff.
Refine Your Craft
Writers are what I like to call “forever students.” We are always learning, absorbing new information, and perfecting our craft until the day we stop writing for good.
A lot of this is done passively through reading, feedback from beta readers and editors, and writing more.
However, an easy way for you to refine your craft (and become a more confident, inspired writer in the process) is to seek out online courses and materials.
First stop? DabbleU. We’re publishing awesome, helpful articles all the time. And they all have a bit of sass in them, which makes it more fun… at least for me.
Then head over to the Story Craft Café, an online community for writers like you and me. Ask questions, get inspired by success stories and share your own, and have fun in your new writing home.
From there, work with the mediums you’re comfortable with and can afford. There are a lot of paid courses out there, just be sure to check reviews and testimonials. And don’t spend what you can’t afford.
Check out YouTube, blogs, vlogs, author and story coaching websites, books on writing, writing competitions, writing prompt generators. We’ve partnered with Writing Mastery Academy, so we know they have lots of great courses available, but look around and see what works best for you.
Make Writing a Habit
This is one of my favorite things to discuss, so get ready for some real talk: it doesn’t take divine intervention or some picture-perfect environment to write.
Like I mentioned before, creativity is like a muscle. If you take a long break from writing, you feel that muscle stiffness. But it works the other way, too.
The more you write, the more you exercise that muscle. It stays warmed up. It grows. Soon you’re being accused of taking creativity steroids because your imagination is so ripped.
Honestly, the most practical thing you can do to get back into writing is to make it a regular habit. Book out fifteen or thirty minutes a day to start. Use that time to just write. Track the number of words you get down in that time and I promise you will see that number grow if you keep up with daily writing.
I could write a longer article than this one about the importance of a writing routine and how to get started. Luckily for you, we cover all of that in our totally free e-book, Let’s Write a Book. It’s more than 100 pages of writing goodness, covering everything from characters and plot to writing routines and getting that first draft done. Get your free copy right here.
Set SMART Goals
SMART goals are:
Saying “I want to write again” isn’t a SMART goal. Saying “I want to write 1,200 words per hour by the end of the year and will do that by writing for one hour every day” is. Notice how the latter:
- Has a specific, measurable end
- Can be accomplished through identifiable steps and progress
- Isn’t absurd (like 10,000 words per hour)
- Has a deadline to keep you motivated.
Set yourself a SMART goal to help you focus on what’s important: consistent writing. Otherwise, you might find yourself back on that writing break sooner than you wanted.
Pro tip: Dabble has built-in goal tracking. Let it do the hard work of counting how many words you write in a day and how many words you need to write every day to reach your goals.
What Are You Waiting For? Get Writing!
Let me be clear: you don’t need to do all these things right away, nor do you need to do them all before you can start writing again. In fact, all the things we spoke about take time to implement or put into practice. Even being patient and kind with yourself takes some learning.
In the meantime, here’s my last piece of advice. Just start writing.
Let the other things fall into place over time, but just write. Even if you only write fifty words today, those are fifty words you should be proud you brought to life.
And you need a place to house all the words you’ll be writing. I know I’ve been humble bragging about Dabble every now and then, but it really is the best novel writing platform out there. We already talked about goals and online resources, but Dabble also offers a single place to keep all your character and worldbuilding notes, the amazing Plot Grid, automatic cloud syncing, and the ability to write on any device, anywhere.
Click here to try everything Dabble has to offer for fourteen days, no credit card info required, for the low, low cost of zero dollars and zero cents, and get back into writing again.
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