Everybody needs a vacation once in a while to simply float in time, away from the typical routine. Returning to daily life, however, often requires re-entry skills. The same is true with an art such as writing. Yes, writing takes practice, regularly. However, whether you’re writing poetry, novels, blogs, reports, or even a dissertation, you need periods of time away from writing to rejuvenate the brain and writing muscles. It can be easy to let a day or more slide by without writing, thus giving yourself a mini-vacation. If you stop writing for an extended period, even a week, you may need re-entry skills.
Out of the Writing Zone
So how many days are too many before you realize you are out of the writing zone? When you are finding ways to avoid writing, it has been too many. When you are convincing yourself you only write as a hobby or you have time to finish that document if you start tomorrow, it has been too many. Have you encountered the hard stone in your stomach when you have to force yourself to sit down and write because it has been too many non-writing days? Then you have begun re-entry.
Re-entry takes much more energy than sitting down to write every day, even if your writing produces little at first. Perhaps you think you are not writing on target. Writing anything will get the juices flowing, as they say, and eventually, what you write may be exactly what you need. When clients tell me they don’t know where to start, one of the first things with which I respond is, “Just write!” It may sound simplistic, but that is because it is. I say it along with other tips:
- If at first you have to write about how you’re not writing, do it
- Writing anything is better than writing nothing
- Break the task down into portions
- Give yourself deadlines for those portions
- Try just writing and organizing later (does not work for everyone)
- Go to the library or a different venue than normal
- Change scenes or sections, i.e., work on a different part of the document
- Re-read a section and clarify your thoughts about the story/project/proposal
I use writing for a variety of reasons from working through a creative block to producing a document. I learned the power of constant writing from Julia Cameron through her book The Artist’s Way. After working through the book, I came away with something I still use 10 years later – morning pages (not always done in the morning). Cameron suggests a practice of expelling our own critics by dumping them onto the page and “just writing.” I always do this exercise in longhand but it can be done on the computer or even via different media. The exercise is to fill three 8.5×11 pages without lifting the pencil/pen from the paper or stopping writing (except to turn a page).
If you are experiencing a block, it will inevitably show up on the page. It is stream-of-consciousness writing but what can happen, and often does, is the writing you have been struggling to produce gets uncovered. Sometimes all it does is allow us to vent our frustrations in preparation for writing. But not giving up and trusting the process is key. The point is to open the creative floodgates.
If you are at a writing crossroads, try the morning pages. They’re a good way to get out of a non-writing rut or get past the feeling of being overwhelmed. They’re a perfect way to “Just write! Then, as writing becomes a regular activity again, try some other tips mentioned to keep it fresh.
(see also this writer’s post on scheduling)