Last week, I wrote about how writing at your own pace can be more effective than rushing yourself, and at the beginning of that article, I promised to address how to get yourself writing again if you haven’t for a while. Because even when you’re not pushing yourself to write constantly every day, making a good habit of writing might require you to write even when you’re not 100% inspired and raring-to-go. So here it is!
But before we get into anything else, this is a good time to remind you that you probably should address life-related roadblocks before anything else. Dayjob exhaustion, untreated mental health issues, so on and so forth — taking care of yourself is an important part of the writing process.
You can try all the life hacks in the world to get back into writing, but if you ignore the real reasons holding you back, then not a single one of them will help.
Once you’ve sorted those issues to the best of your ability though, you do still need to figure out how to get your foot in the door again somehow. So here are some methods I use to get myself writing again after a fallow period;
One: Try writing on scrap paper.
If you don’t have scrap paper, then stickynotes, the Notes app on your phone, or some other “unofficial” writing space works just as well. Even changing the font to comic sans (an ever-common suggestion) could help.
Why? Because the point of this tip is to try a medium that feels inherently low-pressure. It’s like how an artist might feel relaxed enough on lined paper to bang out a really spectacular drawing, but when faced with professional drawing paper, get intimidated out of doing their best work. Give yourself a low-pressure space to ease into your art and the results can be surprising.
The difference is that an artist can’t copy their drawing line for line onto a more professional paper. Can we get some Fs in the chat for them?
Two: Work on a different project as a warm-up.
Here’s one of those surprising cases where having a large backlog of unfinished stories can come in handy for an author! Focusing on the same project every time you sit down to write can get frustrating, especially if you’re burning out on that story or genre, or if you’ve hit a point where wordcount has stalled because you’re stuck revising everything. Taking a break-that-isn’t-really-a-break by making progress on a different story can help you refresh yourself and slough off your rustiness before you go back to your main project.
But depending on both whether you have spare projects in the first place, and how easily you can get sidetracked by hyperfixation… well, this suggestion might not work for everyone.
Three: Try outlining what you want to write in plain language.
Get those creative juices flowing by NOT pressuring yourself to be the most creative, poetic writer out there! If you have nothing more detailed than “Lucy walked up to the table. She picked up the photograph of her mother and felt sad,” then you go on and let Lucy walk up to that photograph and feel sad. That’s progress.
Writing a skeletal version of a scene is one step towards fleshing it out later down the line. If you can get plain words on the page now, you can gussy up the wordplay in the editing process.
Alternatively, you can write the scene in silly language if straightforward isn’t working for you.
I promise you that no-one will judge you for jotting down “and then she totally vibechecks The Dark One to death, and it’s fucking badass and shit” if you’re not sure how to describe the vibechecking yet.
Four: Skim over sections that have you stuck, then come back to them later.
Are you stumped on a particular scene?
No, really. Some authors get in a big twist about how you really really really should be writing your story in order, but that’s not a requirement for creating a finished story — it’s just the method that works best for them. And that’s valid. But for some folks, it helps a lot more to give a scene some space to breathe and work past it until they have it figured out.
Because if my option is between glaring helplessly at a scene I haven’t figured out yet, and making progress on something later in the story that I have a better foundation for, I’d rather take the latter option and make progress.
Five: Write the most gratuitous, self-indulgent thing that crosses your mind.
Sometimes we talk about writing as if it all has to be serious and literary, as if the point of it is hard thought, philosophical quandaries, and suffering artists. But you don’t have to be performing the part of Great American Novel Writer when you sit down at the keyboard. You can be Cheerful Fanfic Writer, or Bloody Mystery Writer, or — my favorite person to be — That One Gay Fey That Won’t Stop Writing Rainbow Genre Fiction. Point is, you are one of the readers in your own audience. You can write a little bit more for you, and a little bit less for The Greats you were taught about in high school.
I enjoy writing about elaborate, fantastical environments and hammy villains. So guess what I put in my first drafts? Lots of environmental descriptions, and lots of scenery-chewing.
If you go back over your writing later and decide that the indulgence is just a little too extra, or doesn’t serve the story you want to tell, then you can always cut it out in the editing process. (Cutting is a part of writing too, after all.) Store it in a detail bank or delete it outright. It doesn’t matter — if it got you excited to write again, then it’s already served its purpose.
Because in the end, what matters is that you’re able to do your craft again, and more importantly, to do it out of genuine enthusiasm.
And that’s it for productivity advice for today. If you find this helpful, then you can support me as a creator by purchasing Shadow Herald, my debut dark fantasy novel! Thank you, and have a lovely day.