Getting Back to Your Writing After a Break
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A BREAK
It’s always difficult to take up your writing again after a break. Whether you’ve been on vacation, entertained a houseful of company, been called away from your pen by an emergency, those first days back at the page can be a strain. But don’t worry. It’s only natural.
For reasons I only partly understand, most of us are easily pulled away from our writing. We give permission to interruptions, and when interruptions don’t present themselves, we often invent them. I worked through my writing inhibitions over a period of years, and on most days, I’d tell you I sustain a regular and intimate writing practice. And that’s mostly true.
However, we had a houseful for Thanksgiving, which involved a bustle of preparation the week before, and I got behind in my life. This meant that last week, I had to spend time catching up, and as the weekend drew near, I realized I had let my writing drop. Immediately I felt guilty, and allowed the voices in my head to begin chastising me.
IT HAPPENS TO ALL OF US
I’m used to this happening with my clients. They work to achieve a dependable writing practice and begin to feel successful. Then they go away for a short trip or friends visit for a few days, and suddenly I don’t hear from my client for a while. When I talk to them, I hear a familiar story: “I thought I’d jump back into my writing this Monday, but I never sat down. I promised myself I’d write the next day, but the same thing happened. And before I knew it, a week had passed.”
“Don’t feel guilty,” I tell the client. “This happens to everybody.”
No matter how regularly you’ve been writing, the minute you take more than two days off, those pesky critics see an open door. And they waltz on through. What an opportunity, they tell themselves. This writer hasn’t exercised her writing muscle for a few days. We can show her just how weak it is!
Working with your critics, finding something better for them to do while you’re writing, showing up for yourself at your committed writing time—all this helps keep your critics at bay. But it doesn’t make them disappear. They will always be with you, waiting in the wings for an opportunity to sneak back in.
But you can outsmart and out maneuver these critics by being prepared for their return. Hearing their voices again doesn’t mean you have failed. That all your previous effort has been for nothing. That you’ve done anything wrong. Understand that this is normal and natural. The price we all have to pay when life interferes with the writing rhythm we have established for ourself.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
In addition to expecting the critics to slip back into your head—which takes away the element of surprise they wield so well–you can diminish their impact by starting your writing up again in a small way. Don’t expect to return immediately to your previous schedule. Whether you were committed to writing for two hours or 15 minutes a day, don’t plan on returning to your previous commitment. Instead, start small and slow, easing yourself back into your writing routine. Two-hour writers can start off with a half hour the first day, then once that feels easy, gradually increase their writing time. If your writing allotment was 15 minutes, start off with five, and over the week, gradually increase to your former 15.
It’s that simple. If you give yourself a break after life has asked you to take a break from your writing, taking it small and slow will get you back on track within a week. And don’t forget to remind those critics that they have better things to do than interfere with a relationship that has for some time proved beneficial to both you and your writing.