No one tells you that when you haven’t written for a while, it’s hard to start back up.
They tell you that you can do it, and that is true.
They tell you it will come back, and that is true.
They rarely tell you how long it will take, or how hard it will be.
Today, friend, I bring good news: I know how to regain writing momentum after a dry spell.
Step One: FORGET YOUR STANDARDS
Don’t stop reading yet.
It’s not too dissimilar to recovery from a bad sprain or broken bone. Yes, you might once have been able to run a marathon or bench 200lbs, but if you try that mad action right after the cast comes off, you will be sorry.
You will improve, but only if you give yourself permission to suck while you work at getting better.
Step Two: THE HARD PART
Okay. Have you put the standards down for now? Great. Now write something.
I’m not saying this like I think it’s easy. I am very good at Staring At the Blank Page (I took the gold medal in 2015 and 2018), and it took me a long time to realize that if I didn’t lower my standards first, I would never be able to write – and only actual writing would improve my writing, thus elevating it closer to those standards.
So: write anything. It doesn’t have to be good, or on brand, or even related to anything you’ve been writing.
Write. Anything. And don’t stop until it’s finished, whatever it is.
You can write down a weird dream you had.
You can write down a weird dream someone else had.
You can write a memory, the details of a shopping trip, ANYTHING at all.
- No one will ever see it. This is only for you.
- No standards. It doesn’t have to have a plot, a three-part structure, or correct grammar.
- JUST. WRITE.
How do you know you’re doing it right? There will be words on the page.
That’s it. That is step two. And it is possibly the most crucial of all.
- This is training to ignore your inner critic.
- This is also training for distance. Writing is not for sprinters; it must involve marathons when you’re at fighting weight.
- You’re not at fighting weight yet, so just write.
Step Three: Repeat Steps One and Two
Are you ready for this? Are you ready for an absolutely crazy thing to happen as you diligently apply these two steps?
You’ll get better at writing.
I know, right?
- Read a lot. (Fill that well, learn new styles, absorb HOW words can be used.)
- Write a lot. (Practice. See what works and what doesn’t. Keep applying until writer muscles are strong.)
You Can Do This
Don’t believe the lies your inner critic spouts at you. That voice is a jerk, and does not help you grow as a creative.
There is no one weird trick. There is writing and getting better as you write.
If, like me, you’ve been away from writing for a while, take heart. You aren’t “done” as a writer. Follow these steps, and I promise you you’ll be back up to writing weight in time.