4 Ways To Get Back Into Writing After A Break
The summer holidays are over and it’s back to routine. For many of us, we’re coming back to busy jobs, preparing the kids for school, cooking, gym sessions and everything else associated with daily life. Before you know it, those two weeks in Santorini seem like a distant dream.
Since having children, I’ve developed a writing schedule that pretty much follows the school calendar. As much as I would love to write more during the holidays, it’s not always possible with a five and an eight year old. Instead, I’ll often use this time for reading, coming up with new book ideas, or going to book festivals.
So after several weeks off (plus moving countries), sitting down at my desk to put words down on paper can feel a bit of a shock.
Do I feel inspired?
Sometimes, but usually, I’m dealing with the fallout of jet-lagged kids and an overflowing inbox. The danger is, it’s so easy to put your book aside for a couple of days but then days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and suddenly it’s December and you realise another year has gone by and you still haven’t achieved your dream of becoming an author.
So what do you do instead?
Over the years, I’ve learnt a few ways to tackle this pain point. Whether you’re wanting to get back into writing after a few weeks or even a few years, here are a few things I do after a break.
1) Identify a start and end date
Whether you’re writing full-time or in your spare time, it’s all on you to manage your schedule. There’s a beauty in that freedom but also a responsibility and I’ll confess, I often miss the structure and accountability that comes with a corporate job.
Identifying (and documenting) a start date for ‘going back to work’ taps into that sense of responsibility.
I also suggest clarifying an end date. I know some people who have been ‘writing’ a book for years and I suspect they will still be writing it for a long time to come.
Tip: If you’re a first time author, a year (depending on what you’re writing) is a decent amount of time. Any longer and you risk losing momentum.
2) Set up your environment
As James Clear states in his book, Atomic Habits: “Motivation is overvalued. Environment often matters more.” Clear goes on to explain that to develop any habit, such as writing, you have to design your environment using three strategies.
Automate good decisions, for example using software to block social media sites can help overcome procrastination by putting your willpower on autopilot.
Get in the flow. This means designing your environment so they fit into your current patterns. For writing, this could be setting up your laptop and notes the night before or printing out your ideas in advance so they’re ready for your writing session.
Subtract the negative influences. For me, this would be my phone. To avoid it, I put it in a drawer or in a different room when I’m writing so I’m not tempted to check messages or emails.
Tip: Wherever your write, make sure it's a place you enjoy being.
3) Get into the right mindset
One of the biggest myths about writing a book is that you need to be continually inspired.
Let go of limiting beliefs such as ‘you need to be in the right headspace’ or ‘you’re not feeling it.’ Instead, focus on strengthening discipline rather than inspiration or motivation. In my online course, Kick-Start Your Book With Karen, I have a whole module dedicated to mindset - that's how important I believe it is! You can have all the writing talent in the world, but it takes so much more than that to write and publish a book.
That’s not to say inspiration doesn’t help, but it usually hits when taking action, even if that’s just writing for ten minutes each day.
Tip: Writing a little and often is usually an easier way to get back into routine.
4) Remind yourself of your WHY
Writing a book is a big undertaking and there are times (usually when it’s not going well!) that I wonder why I do it!
For me, I can’t imagine doing anything else but it goes deeper than that. Writing novels is my way of processing my experiences and identifying my place in the world.
For you, it might be about entertaining people, or helping people. It could be about leaving a legacy. Whatever your reason, write it down, print it out, and refer to it often.
Tip: Go a little deeper on this exercise by journalling - you might be surprised at what you discover.
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