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 opioid (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 downtime?

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 ensure 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. 

Repeat Performance: What to Do When the Book You’re Writing Throws You a Curve Ball

As I was working out a topic for this week’s post, I came across this one from May 6, 2014. Reading it, I am reminded that once more my memoir has thrown me a curve ball. I need to sort out what to do with this draft still waiting in the corner.

The two curve balls came from different directions and for different reasons. If you want to know more about the second curve ball, you can read a personal note to my followers and friends who subscribe to my newsletter.

Upon reflection, I believe my May 6, 2014 post may stand me in good stead when the time is right to begin inching my hands toward the binder holding my manuscript. I don’t think I’ll be rewriting so much as restructuring and moving things in my draft around to make my memoir more readable. The wheels are turning and never forgetting this draft, but the pull to go back and revisit this post left me with a need to share it with you once again.


Here’s the original post from May 6, 2014:

WHAT TO DO WHEN THE BOOK YOU’RE WRITING THROWS YOU A CURVE BALL

The drafting of my memoir began in earnest sometime the late spring of 2012. I had jotted down notes and memories plus digging through boxes of my mother’s personal papers for years. Folders filled with potential material for a book cover a work table.

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

Now, here we are approaching late spring of 2014, two years later. A few weeks ago as I was considering my progress and listening to my husband’s take on what I had written for one particular chapter, I felt like I had been hit by a tidal wave of emotion.

It was as if a tsunami had taken over the life of my memoir, and what came next threw me for a curve.

An epiphany in the form of a major change in direction left me wonder struck. Not so much because it was such a stunning transformation, but because it had stared me in the eye since the year 2000, when the seed germinated into thoughts of a memoir after moving my mother to Oregon from Tennessee.

Now, what am I going to do was the next thought passing not so silently through my mind. It was simple: Regroup, rethink, rewrite–the writer’s three R’s.

REGROUP: 

When I began writing my story of life with Mama, I sat down and started pounding out words on the computer screen without any thought for an outline or a plan. I knew the story I was writing and thought I needed no organizational scheme to get it done. So far, I believe I have a pretty good draft on that first turn. But this curve ball I’ve been thrown made me stop and take stock of the time I would have saved if I had gotten my writing act together first.

  • The first thing I decided I needed to do was spell out what I wanted to tell my readers and why. And I did.
  • I then moved on to think about outlining or story boarding. I vaguely remembered a post of Kathy Pooler’s on Memoir Writer’s Journey where Kathy talked about story boarding. Unable to find it, I emailed Kathy and she sent me the link, which is here.

 

Kathy Pooler’s Storyboard
Kathy Pooler’s Storyboard
  • As I sat and studied Kathy’s storyboard, it occurred to me that my favorite writing software, Scrivener, uses a bulletin board with index cards to act as an option to an outline. I rarely use it, but checked it out and below is an image of my current storyboard or imaged outline in Scrivener:
Scrivener corkboard
Scrivener corkboard

 

  • I think it’s going to work perfectly, and I’ve set about rewriting my first draft.

RETHINK

A good deal of rethinking went into picking up the draft and rewriting it. Was this worth making the book into a better story to share with readers? Would the rewrite get my point across any better? After all, I’d spent a goodly number of hours not only in writing but researching, retrieving and reading.

  • I decided the answer was a yes. I want to publish not just a good book, but a book people will refer to as a “really good book,” perhaps a “must read,” maybe even a “bestseller.” No matter the nomenclature used to describe it, I want it to be my best work product. So, yes, the extra time is worth the effort.
  • As I rethought the outline I’d come up with it, I could actually see the story unfolding in a much more cohesive fashion and with greater ease.
  • Rethinking taught me a great lesson: Rushing in headlong isn’t always the best route to take.

REWRITE

I am actually enjoying this “R” of the three “R’s” because I am sensing a better writing style, a tighter style. I feel the story coming together with less negativity about my mother, seasoned with a dash of her goodness here and there, because there was goodness in her. And at the end of her story and mine, I learn there was good reason for her parenting skills, or lack thereof. I think in the rewrite this will be more easily finessed.

Like schoolchildren sent off to learn their three “R’s”–reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, we writers can also learn from a different set of three “R’s”–regroup, rethink and rewrite.

We’re never too young or too far along in our writing to learn a little something or make a change in the direction we’re headed.

Happy writing!