When most people do something for a long time, it’s inevitable that there will be lags in production.
Writing is no different — especially for people juggling work, writing, and a life.
If you find yourself frustrated after a lull in writing, don’t dwell on it — follow these five tips to get back to piling up the pages:
There have been times I’ve looked back over a period of time of little to no production and felt that I didn’t deserve to even call myself a writer.
When I’ve dwelled on the past, the only thing that happened is things got worse.
So you may have lost out on a month, or even a year of writing. Yeah, it stings — yeah, you think, “I should have done this instead of that…”
The trick is to accept the past [you can’t change it] and drop the frustrated feelings of what could have been.
It’s more important to accept it and move forward than to stay frustrated or angry and keep going nowhere.
Look at Past Accomplishments
If you’ve done something once, you can usually do it again. (And often improve on earlier successes).
If you’ve sold articles in the past, you can sell articles again. If you completed a novel, you know you have it in you to complete another one. If you overcame nerves to pitch something in person, you’ve been there before and know what to expect the next time.
An added benefit of doing something you’ve done before is with each new time you do something, you not only do it with the knowledge that it can be done (because you’ve done it before), but that you are doing it with more experience each time.
Now’s your chance to correct those little things that irked you in earlier attempts; now’s your chance to remind yourself that you can not only repeat earlier successes, but improve on them!
When you’re getting back to writing after a break, read the writers who made you want to write in the beginning.
Don’t copy their style, but remember what it was in their words that made you want to follow in their footsteps. Maybe you’ll realize they aren’t as great as you once believed — if that’s the case, it probably means you’ve become a better writer and see the things that can be stronger, even in your heroes.
Also read your earlier writing. You’ll probably see things that can be stronger, but don’t dwell on that. As you read your earlier work, recognize what leaps out as strong –that’s probably what you do best as a writer.
Read and let the ideas come…and the writing will follow.
Is Writing What You Really Want to Do?
Maybe you’re not writing because it’s something you once thought would be the best thing ever, only to realize it isn’t.
Maybe you love the thought of writing, but loathe the effort it takes to complete something. (Many well-known writers feel the same way!)
There’s nothing wrong with realizing something isn’t what you hoped it would be — at least you tried something, instead of just thinking about doing it.
If you find yourself with recurring gaps in productivity, ask yourself: “Is writing what I really want to do?”
Life’s too short to dedicate years to something you’d rather not do.
There’s no shame in stopping something you don’t fully enjoy; in fact, it’s best to quit something your heart’s not into and find what you really enjoy doing.
It’s often easier said than done, but nothing’s going to happen unless you put your butt in a chair and write!
(If you need help, here are 10 ways to write everyday, and the short version.)
Writers write. They write whether they are in the mood or not. Waiting for inspiration gets you nowhere.
Don’t worry if the words you throw down are good or bad — things can always be fixed later. Allow yourself to falter, but produce no matter what.
The only way the pages pile up is if you dedicate time to writing regularly.
There’s no shame in breaks in productivity — it happens — but nothing’s going to ever happen unless you take that first step again and just write!
Cynthia Griffith says
A good entry! I also find it interesting how a lot of your entries could still help those of us who don’t write. I always find myself thinking about things when I read your blog.
Some of the points that really stand out to me:
Definitely don’t dwell on it if you’re not producing . I know there was a time you were in a funk about things, but seriously, the minute you stopped dwelling on it and just moved on mentally you were able to start writing again. I think, as I mentioned before, that this can go for so many things in life. It’s best to just move on and stop focusing on so many negatives or kicking yourself for not doing this or that.
Also, as silly as this sounds for inspiring yourself… I loved treating myself to some fun new stuff to inspire me to do work again. Office supply stores were like candy stores to me when I did art. Maybe treat yourself and buy a new notebook, fresh pens, maybe even a new coffee or tea and a new mug and sit down and do those edits once you’ve cranked out new content. While we really shouldn’t set ourselves up for rewards in order to get ourselves to do something… well c’mon. It’s fun! I’ve always wanted a bigger office for you and to find some furniture — especially the perfect cozy chair and side table — so you can sit down and read or do your edits.
And as for walking away from something when it turns out it’s not what you wanted to do, you know I have done that with art. While I hope to eventually get back to art for myself, I never again want to consider it as a career choice. It ruined my love of art. I mainly did art for myself, and I want to get back to that again, so I also agree with occasionally asking yourself if writing (or anything else) is really what you want to do.
Christopher Gronlund says
A very good point, the treating yourself to something new.
Yes, it’s amazing how a new notebook, tea, or something else can revive a person getting back to doing something they’ve set aside for a bit. Even more, maybe that certain tea will become part of a daily ritual, something that ends up triggering production.
There’s nothing wrong with walking away from something you don’t enjoy. There’s no better reason to do something creative than to do it for yourself. I think a lot of people who wish they had dedication, talent, and ability see a creative person walking away from something as a shame because they can’t fathom walking away if they could do something.
The funny thing is, almost everybody can do something creative. I know people like to believe that talent is this great thing that divides the talented from average, but every talented person was average at some point in their lives. What makes a talented person seem “talented” is a lot of practice!
Anybody can reach a level of success with hard work; most choose not to do it. Furthermore, the very people who choose not to do it are the people who are often the most perplexed and even offended when a “talented” person walks away from what most people dream about.
Success takes work, and I understand the people who reach a high level of success and talent and then do it for themselves. For some people, the constant work and even drudgery involved of being talented can suck. It can suck time, energy, and just suck suck! 🙂
There’s no reason to do something you hate for more than a temporary basis. If you hate a day job, work to find a way to do something you love. If you hate creating art for an audience but love creating, do it for yourself.
I’m glad some of the things I post cover more than just writing.
I really do believe that people should strive for what makes them happy.
Writing, and sharing what I’ve learned, makes me happy. This blog helps me probably more than it helps the people I hope take something from it.
I know my dreams may never come true, but I have to try. Not because my ego craves success, but I like working from home doing something I love and having more time for family and friends, even if it may mean late nights working and odd schedules I create myself 🙂
I believe creativity exists in everyone and it’s one of the plusses about the human condition. Lack of creativity isn’t because it doesn’t exist; it’s because of laziness and a lack of nurturing it.
Nice entry and I love the pictures you come up with.
Christopher Gronlund says
Yep, everybody has the ability to be creative; unfortunately, I think most people think it’s this magical thing other people are born with.
All people need to be creative and talented is to dedicate themselves to something for a decade or so and be aware of their surroundings and express their reactions to the world in their own way.
Most people, though, seem to lack the drive to dedicate themselves to something they would love.
I can’t imagine dedicating myself to jobs I wouldn’t do if I won the lottery for 50 years and not take a chance on myself.
I think a lot of people have convinced themselves that just coasting through life unseen is better than the few times you mess something up bad and have to live with the results when you trust in yourself and take chances that sometimes don’t work.
Other times things do work, and the more you try, the better your odds (and the happier you become).