Tuesday, May 29, 2012

5 Steps Back to Writing

Once, I allowed myself to do the worst thing possible for cultivating my dream of becoming a published fiction author.

I quit.

After journaling my way through adolescence and falling in love with telling stories on paper, writing became a part of my being. But when I became an adult and joined the real world, I wasn’t prepared for the new level of responsibilities that I would face, eventually slipping into a mild period of depression where I just didn’t care very much about anything.

I stopped writing, reading, playing piano, drawing, and basically every other endeavor I’d ever used to foster my creativity. I threw my whole being into the frenzy of my paid profession. At first I had a hard time shutting off the fiction and creativity, but I told myself that I’d get back to it someday when I had more time.

Then I realized that I never would have more time. 
I felt like my dreams were just out of reach.
It hit me like a ton of bricks that day. Not only was I no closer to fulfilling my dreams, but I suddenly felt that I had lost sight of my individuality. I’d been influenced by what other people thought of me and had changed into someone I wasn’t. When I hit that emotional bottom, I took some time off work to rediscover myself.

What I found was a need to write.

After so long since being in touch with my creative voice, I struggled, feeling sapped of my strength. My writing muscles had gotten flabby. The stories were still there, the passion to tell them as strong as ever, but the talent for producing the right words was gone.

These are five basic steps that I took to get back to writing:

Wake Up, Sleepy Head!

Probably the biggest hurdle has been overcoming my habit of staying up late and sleeping in. By going to bed sooner and getting up a little earlier each day, I’m adding hundreds of hours of productivity to my year. 

At first I had to set multiple alarms. Sometimes six or seven wouldn’t even do the trick - I’d sleep right through. But then I felt awful throughout the rest of the day for missing the opportunity to write.

It’s got easier to get up.

Apply Butt to Chair.

I’ve got to be the world’s most accomplished procrastinator. I constantly catch myself doing stuff to avoid writing. My apartment is kept impulsively tidy and people tend to think I’m a neat-freak. Although this is partly true (my family says I have OCD), I'm mostly just avoiding writing.

To overcome this, I set a timer for ten-, fifteen-, twenty-minutes (or however long) and do nothing but write until the buzzer goes off. Only then do I now allow myself to do chores.

Write First, Edit Later.

When I do manage to wrestle myself into a position to write, I find myself sifting through my thoughts and editing what I plan to write before I even begin.

This is just wrong on so many levels.

While editing is good, there has to be a separate time for that and creating. Natalie Goldberg taught me about free-writing, which is putting down everything – and I do mean everything – that comes to mind when you write. No matter how silly or irrelevant it seems. This has really helped me empty my mind and helps me relax.

I remember telling a young writer friend of mine once, “Write. Even if you think it's crap. You can edit crap but you can't edit a blank page."

Pursue Creativity.

I let my creativity go to the way-side when my life got too busy for me to handle. Anxiety took over my life because I wasn’t allowing myself any sort of stress-relieving activity.

Reading, drawing and playing piano all help me connect the dots inside my brain. Now that I’ve found my way back to these, my mind more readily opens the gates to the floods of my imagination.

Apply Yourself Fully.

Sometimes it feels like I still struggle to make the words flow as easily as they once did, pained over the idea of all the wasted words that were never said. But I am making progress, thanks in no small part to the great encouragement I’m receiving from friends and family. They’re helping keep me accountable.

A fellow blogger on Twitter told me once that I need to take my writing more serious and apply myself fully to the task.

So that's what I'm doing now. This blog is a way of putting myself out there for the world to see. And the people I’m meeting are keeping me accountable.

Thank you.

Have you ever gotten so busy that you quit writing? How did you find your way back to the craft?


  1. You always have the best tips! Thanks for sharing them.

    1. I'm glad that you find them useful ^_^ Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Write first, edit later. Now THAT'S some good advice ^_^

    1. So simple, yet it seems to be the hardest rule to follow! Thanks for commenting Isa!

  3. Great blog, Amanda. You have a way with words.

    I have definitely gotten too busy for writing and fallen off the bandwagon many times. Life is so packed with stuff that sometimes you let it get ahead of you.

    Just a few days back I wrote a blog that is similar to this but I think you said it much better: You have to basically force yourself to stay focused.

    It takes some time and effort but eventually you get back into the flow and it's SO WORTH IT.

    Thanks for writing this. I enjoyed reading, as always!

    1. Thank you for the kind words Katie! This weekend I let myself fall out of my own advice and didn't force myself to keep going. Because of that, I feel horrible because of all the words I know have been missed that I'll never get back. I think that proves that nobody is perfect. We're all still struggling, but I like the saying that it's in the struggles that we can learn :)

      Thanks, as always, for reading :)

  4. I did quit writing for about 6 years. Let me tell you, I feel like I've found myself again! I graduated high school and just got caught up in college, work, and well, life. I didn't make time to write, but I'm working on multiple projects now. My heart is happy and I feel like the Felicia I once knew. This post was great, really described how I feel!!

    1. That's awesome Felicia! I'm so glad that you're rediscovering yourself and have found your way back to the craft! I'm so happy that I met you on Twitter too :)

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. I think you find your way back to it one of two ways: you make a decision to return to the craft and rigorously apply yourself to that goal; or inspiration hits you so hard that you CAN'T ignore it, and you must write again.

    The act of creation, whether you pursue fine art, writing, crafts, cooking, etc., is a pressure in our soul. You can ignore it for a time, but it builds and eventually requires action and release. Setting aside part of your heart and soul requires a gigantic act of will...unless it wasn't truly part of you in the first place.


    1. Wow, well said James!

      Thank you for stopping by and also, thank you for the mention on your blog too! :)

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