Write well. Write often. Edit wisely.
Summer is a season when writers step back from writing to work on other tasks and to enjoy extra hours with family.
I’m glad that happens, that we find time for the other loves in our lives. Yet now that the summer is almost through, I want to remind you to get back to your writing. As if you needed a reminder.
Well . . . maybe you do.
It’s so very easy, once we step away from our writing habits, to stay away. But if you’re close to being finished with your first draft or close to finishing your self-editing or close to finishing research in preparation for starting a new story, I hope you’ll get back into the swing of writing.
Don’t let a few days or weeks away turn into months away. And don’t think that it can’t happen, because it so easily can. Two weeks or two months turns into six weeks and six months, and all the momentum you’d built up seeps out like air out of an old balloon. Slowly. Maybe without you even noticing.
You’d notice a loud pop, a sudden cessation, but you might never notice the gradual decline in interest for your writing projects. My reminder is here to head off that gradual decline.
This article won’t be a long one, won’t give you any pointers for grammar or tricks for certain techniques. It will be a kick start for the fall season, to remind you that it’s time to pick up pen and paper again. To take up your spot behind your keyboard. To slip into your characters’ shoes and minds and hearts.
If you’ve been away from writing, welcome back. If you’ve been away not by choice but through means beyond your control—maybe you were attacked by the blahs, maybe a family emergency or family excitement interrupted you—make this your day or week to get into the groove again.
Need some help getting started? Try one or several of the following—
If reading a great novel always gets you excited about writing your own, read one or two or five this week. If going through a craft book, one with writing exercises, usually fires you up, look for a new one and dive into the exercises. If grammar books do it for you, crack open your favorite and give yourself a refresher.
If writing poetry stirs your creative juices, take a pad and paper and visit a quiet spot and write. If writing description or an action scene or a love scene gets you jazzed, start writing. Don’t worry that you’re not writing something you can use. You are getting great use out of the words you get down; you are putting yourself in the mindset of writing.
Whatever moves you in terms of writing, use it to get yourself going.
Any time we’re away from writing, getting back can be difficult or slow. But you’ve got to start, so just start.
Don’t think you have to wait for some lightning bolt of inspiration to strike—just write the first word and then the next and then the next. Write something. There’s nothing better for writing, for getting into a flow, than just starting to write. Sports and dance and other endeavors have their muscle memory—writing makes use of the same kind of habits and body memory.
Prime the pump with toss-away words if you don’t know where to begin with your own story. Describe an accident you saw on vacation. Describe an unusual person you met on vacation. Picture a location from your vacation, then imagine aliens landing there, right in front of you. Then write that scene.
Write about the ugliest trinket you brought back. Write your most recent dream as if it were a real event. Write about the objects on your desk coming to life when you’re not around.
Don’t wait for your muse to kick your butt—kick your own butt.
If you were in the middle of a manuscript when you took off for a while, read the last chapter or scene and then begin writing from that point. Don’t read the whole story—get into the current flow and emotions.
If reading doesn’t do it for you, print the final couple of pages that you wrote and then retype them. Get into the setting and the entanglements of your characters as you type them out.
If you have trouble imagining your story world after seeing some true wonders in this world—and those wonders could be simple or profound—find a quiet spot and lie down, picturing your story world and its characters. Imagine yourself into the streets and buildings, into the shops. Into the arguments and passionate moments. See if you can’t put yourself back into the zone that makes writing come so easily. Don’t fall asleep on purpose, but if you do, think of your story world when you wake up. Before you get up and get involved with real-world activities and people, see if your waking mind can’t slip into your fictional world. Right before sleeping and right upon waking, you should be able to guide your characters through events and actions and dialogue that fit your story.
Now, if you’re not having any trouble getting back into writing after a few weeks off or a few months on a reduced writing schedule, then go at it.
Maybe you can’t wait to get writing again. Maybe you’ve got so many ideas that you don’t know where to begin. Maybe you’ve got so much to write that you plan to work day and night for the next month.
My only caution for you is that you don’t allow yourself to burn out. Write all day and night if that works for you (and your family and your day job). But don’t think you have to do it all in a week or a month. Jot down ideas if you think you’ll forget them. Get a recorder if you’re truly worried you’ll forget. And after you jot your ideas down, start in on one of them. Don’t merely make notes to yourself about what you’re going to write—do some actual creating.
Now would be a great time to join that writing group you want to join. Yeah, you said you would one day. Today is one day. What’s wrong with starting today?
I took a little time off myself this past week. Meeting up with family I hadn’t seen in years was beyond wonderful, but the meet-up also gave me story ideas. Doesn’t everything give us those ideas? Put your ideas to work for you, whether for a work in progress or for some future project. Make your notes, capture the essence of the moment, and then get working on that project that needs finishing.
You’ll be glad you did. There’s nothing like immersing yourself in the activities that satisfy and give you pleasure, activities that test you, that push you to be better than you were just last week. If you’re a writer, the act of writing is one of the activities that satisfies you. It probably excites and soothes you at the same time. Don’t wait too long to get back to it.
Write today or tomorrow or next week. Finish up your vacation and get back into your stories. Write something good, something worth reading. Something worth your time, worth the time you give up to create it and the activities you have to pass up in order to make that time.
Do you still need some encouragement to begin? Shall I be your muse for a moment? Let’s assume that for today at least, she’s fairly gentle with her encouragement. I’ll have her assume you’re as eager to get started as she is. We’ll save Butt-kicking Muse for another day.
First-day-back Muse says—
Get writing, we’ve got a story to tell. And nobody but you and I can tell this story, the one that’s churning and tumbling inside us, the one that wakes you in the night and scratches at you all during the day.
Get writing. Let’s create a story world and people it with characters no one has ever met, never imagined. Characters who’ve never lived until you first sketch them and then create rich, believable lives for them.
Push off the blahs and the hesitations and do what you do so well. Write a story.