Misplaced Your Writing Groove? A Lesson in Getting Your Groove Back

Have you ever taken a substantial block of time away from your writing? Maybe a lengthy break away from your blog? Or has a family crisis interrupted the latest draft of your manuscript, and getting back to it seems impossible?

The last 20+ months for me have been what seems like a never-ending break from not only my writing but also blogging and social media, not to mention life in general. How do I recapture my momentum in those areas? How will I manage to return to what I was as a writer pre-January 24, 2016. 

Initially, it didn’t seem so serious. Then the chronic pain hit with an intensity I couldn’t rise above. My pain management doctor, doing what he thought best, prescribed an opiod (more on this crisis in another post later). Literally, my head space didn’t cooperate when I wanted to write. It was as if I’d lost the ability to focus on taking my thoughts and putting them down in written form.

Now I am somewhat improved and working toward regaining physical stamina and strength daily. I also want to return to doing what I love most–writing, whether it’s on my memoir or a blog post or a simple Tweet. Some days these tasks are still hard. Too much brain time can be as tiring as physical activity.

Doctors tell me that the amount of inactivity requires an equal or greater amount of rehab to regain the physical strength and stamina. A reduction in mental activity over time will likely require similar rehab to regain flexibility and creativity.

What am I going to do? What could you do if confronted with this kind of down time? 

Let’s take a look at some options I’m attempting to use in my daily attempts at writing:

  • Accept that your writing habit has been disruptedLike a runner who doesn’t run for three weeks, you are out of shape and so is your writing. That runner will run at least three weeks before regaining his stride and pace. Initially, your writing will seem inadequate or inept. Don’t be hard on yourself. Writing is going to seem harder. Ease back into it. Don’t try to pick up where you left off. This is going to take time.
  • Make drastic changes in your expectations. If you have been writing a certain amount of time (i.e., two hours, 60 minutes, etc.) each day, scale this back to a segment of time that seems stupidly easy. Say three to five minutes. The same applies to those who write a certain number of words per day. You will want to follow the same exercise. Set goals that allow you to hit the ball out of the park.

  • This is the hard part of this new goal. Take slow, easy steps in increasing your time or word count. Don’t move too quickly. Stick with your new goals for at least 10 days. This will insure you experience feelings of success and motivation. Both are necessary to feel good about your writing.
  • Increase your goal, either timed or word count, slowly. This will likely feel painfully
    S-L-O-W. After the first 10 days increase by 50%. At the next 10-day mark add another 25%, and lastly after yet another 10 days add the last 25%.
  • Understand that whatever you can write is better than not writing at all. So write daily. I am reminded of Ernest Hemingway’s quote below. If all you can write is one true sentence, then accept that as your success for the day.

These are the five principles I’m putting into practice. I’m tired of struggling to find blog post topics and content. I’m tired of thinking about picking up my manuscript and beginning to rework it. I want to be actively engaged as a blogger and a writer.

I’ll keep you posted on my success in finding my writing groove, and I will share more suggestions of how I’m going about it.

Have you ever faced similar struggles? How did you cope with them and make a comeback in your writing? Sharing here may help someone else. 

10 thoughts on “Misplaced Your Writing Groove? A Lesson in Getting Your Groove Back

  1. Hi Sherrey, it’s so good to have you back! Thanks for this excellent advice, I can certainly relate to having to take time off for health-related issues. I think I’ve finally learned to listen to my body so I don’t fight it as much as I used to. I guess what matters is that we both keep writing when we can. And now that you have your "She-Shed", you’re all set. One step at a time. We can do this!

    1. Hi Kathy, it’s good to be back! Sorry for the delay in replying to your comment. We spent our first weekend away from home this past weekend, and it took a bit of a toll on this still recovering patient. I’m still having trouble fathoming the length of this recovery.
      I thought of you as I wrote this post, and your advice in "learned to listen to my body so I don’t fight it as much as I used to" is well worth taking into my storehouse of good advice. We can do this, and we will!!

  2. Sherrey, Thanks for the good advice. I’m glad you’re better and getting your stride back even if it’s not easy. Nothing is ever easy. Sometimes we have to allow our bodies to direct our lives. I thought I had my writing, and reading when I wasn’t writing, and now I find that most of the time, I’m without both of them. I have a rare condition in my back that requires lying down; I can’t read much because one eye (the good one) sees double or lopsided; I can barely use my right hand because 10 days ago they implanted a fistula (for kidney failure) in my right wrist and it hurts (going to see the dr. tomorrow); can’t walk much or use my right hand and, well, I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m 74 and I thought old age would be easier. So, what is the answer? Let my ailments beat me or beat my ailments. I have a feeling that I’ll overcome them. Always have before. I also have a feeling that you’re on the way to recovery and finding your wings to fly again. Good luck with your writing. By the way, 25 years ago I wrote a 500-page memoir then lost it. Found it the end of 2015, cut out 200 pages and published it in 2016. "Getting Rid of Ian" has received a few good comments so far. So go for it, girl!

    1. Penny, who would have thought that at our ages of 74 and 71 we’d be in the shape we’re in? Not me, and I’m sure not you. But we do the best we can. I’m sorry to read you are without both writing and reading at this point in time. "Let my ailments beat me or beat my ailments" is the battle we’re waging, and I agree that we’ll "overcome them." I’ve never turned my back on a good fight. Your last words about your memoir are encouraging to this writer. Thank you for always supporting and encouraging the writers around you. Know that I’m thinking of you and praying for improvements for you.

  3. Except for a benign cyst removed from the top of my head a few months ago, my pain for the last 1 1/2 years has involved real estate and family passages. We sold two houses, sorting through 37-years accumulation of stuff and moved to a new(er) house. On the heels of that, we survived various health scares, visited my beloved aunt in PA for 5 consecutive months, sorted through piles of her possessions, watched over her during her sad decline and death in May, and then sold her house in August. Through it all, I continued blogging with some breaks but had to put my memoir aside. As you well know, writing long works requires focus and concentration, definitely in short supply with a steady stream of family crises.
    When I picked up my memoir again, I floundered. Then I gave the manuscript to another reader, who suggested a new direction. That gave me a shot in the arm for a while, but now I’m flagging again. There’s the rub: I think people with ambitious goals expect too much of themselves. I know I do. Maybe all I can manage is 1-2 hours of revision a day. Even skipping some days I’d make progress. Have you heard about the author of The World’s Strongest Librarian? He published a memoir writing a mere 15 minutes a day because that’s all he could manage with Tourette syndrome.
    Remember goofy Bill Murray in "What About Bob?" Baby steps . . . baby steps . . . baby steps!
    Here’s to starting, stopping, starting again, but never quitting.We can do this! 🙂

    1. Marian, what an illustrative comment you’ve posted. In our generation, this is so indicative of what many of our peers face. Like you, I’ve had a friend suggest a new direction and/or structure for my memoir but I have yet to get very far in doing that rebuilding.
      Indeed I have heard of Josh Hanergan (sp?), author of The World’s Strongest Librarian. Wish he had come to mind earlier while drafting this post, so thanks to you he made it to the page. If he could do that by writing 15 minutes each day, the rest of us have little to complain about when it comes to finding our groove again.
      Love your last paragraph: "Here’s to starting, stopping, starting again, but never quitting. We can do this!"

  4. Thank you for this post! I, too, have lost my groove allowing "excuses" to derail me. Family issues, work issues, issue issues! I am now flying off to Hawaii for a week to celebrate my marriage and my return to writing; my memoir and my blog. I will follow your suggestions. I think the most important suggestion is to "just write one true sentence" if that’s all I got that day. I look forward to Lynette getting her groove back! Thanks again.

    1. Lynette, the best news is we have others experiencing the same with whom to garner encouragement and support. Enjoy Hawaii. Celebrate you and your marriage, your writing and return, and your memoir and your blog. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more about how you get your groove back!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Linda. Bob is still putting the finishing touches on the interior and I’m still searching for a few items like lamps and an easy chair for reading. Soon I’ll be out there but WITHOUT wifi intentionally.

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