How to Get Back Into Writing After a Dry Spell
I’m just starting to get back to writing after a dry spell that lasted over a decade. I did write occasionally during that period of time, but I’m finding that I have a renewed sense of purpose and drive that I didn’t have before. Because I interact with many writers, I have a feeling that more than one person reading this right now is either experiencing their own dry spell or knows what it’s like. So I’d like to share with you some of the things that have helped me get back to writing after a dry spell, in hopes that they’ll be helpful for you now or in the future.
1. REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED
The first time I remember writing something that was recognized as good was when I was 8 years old. It wasn’t long before I started dreaming of holding my own book someday, and even when I’m not writing regularly, this goal is always in the back of my mind. I think we all know that setting goals is crucial to accomplishing anything. If it’s difficult for you to set larger, long-term goals (as it is for me), start small and work up to it. You’ll get there.
2. BE POSITIVE
One of the biggest barriers to my writing process is my own brain. For me, being positive is about being my own loudest cheerleader, yes. But it’s also about forcing myself to speak in terms that, at times, sound a little ridiculous. Instead of saying, “I hope to finish my book by the end of the year,” I say , “I’ll have finished my book by the end of the year.” Instead of saying, “If I ever sell my book/find an agent/have an audience,” I say, “When I sell my book/find an agent/have an audience.” When I first started doing this, it sounded a little too self-help-y to me, and it might to you, too. I’m finding, though, that changing the way I talk about my plans and goals has caused my motivation to grow by leaps and bounds.
3. GET INVOLVED
If you’re reading this right now, chances are you’re part of the Scribbler community, so you already have a space where you can talk about your writing life, ask questions, and connect with other writers. Still, I can’t say enough about how important this has been for me. Before connecting with this community, I knew a few other people who loved to write, but I wasn’t being proactive in reaching out to them. It’s also been helpful to be part of several communities. I follow a lot of other writing pages in addition to Scribbler, and being exposed to diverse voices has helped me to find my own voice.
Oh, and one more thing: when you have a community of other writers with whom to interact, you have access to tons of prospective readers. I know putting your writing out there for the first time is scary; I’ve only recently started doing it myself. It’s such a positive experience, though! Good feedback will identify your strengths and give you helpful tips for improving in your weaker areas.
4. BE WILLING TO BURN SOME THINGS DOWN
Look, this is probably the most difficult thing in this list for me. I started my current WIP four years ago, and it wasn’t even something I had planned on writing. An idea came to me one night when I couldn’t sleep, and I haven’t been able to let it go since. But I’m still in the process of getting to know my main character, so I’ve had to rework or completely throw out some ideas that I was, at one time or another, completely in love with. And that’s ok. If the reason that you ended up in a dry spell is because you were stuck on a chapter or idea that you couldn’t get past, burn it down. Ok, please don’t literally burn anything down. But you may need to work on something that flows more easily, or just start over. I haven’t had to do this (yet!), but I know people who have, and if getting stuck is the reason you ended up not writing for a while, it might be just what you need.
5. GET ORGANIZED
This looks different for different people, and it’s not always about having an organized workspace. They say, for example, that a messy workspace is a sign of genius. What I mean is this: figure out how you need your writing tools to be organized (or unorganized!) in order to stay on task. I always have my plotting papers and cards handy when I’m writing so that I can make notes or refer to an idea that I don’t remember exactly. This helps me stay in the writing zone, and it’s always easier to keep working when I know where things are.
6. BE DILIGENT
This is, perhaps, the most valuable thing in this list. Some of us writers are privileged to be able to spend lots of our time writing, but I’m not one of them. I have a day job (as many of us do) that only allows me to write in between tasks — and sometimes not even then. Hopefully you have at least a few breaks that can be filled with writing, but it doesn’t really matter how long they are. 10 minutes of frenzied scribbling just before bedtime doesn’t sound like much, for example, but taking that time to get at least one idea down has helped me feel productive, even if I don’t have a lot of dedicated writing time.
Most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourself! We’re living in challenging times, even if we’re cooped up most of the time writing. I believe that some of our best ideas develop when we’re in a good mental and emotional place, so don’t forget to give yourself a little love. These tips helped me immensely to get back to writing after a dry spell, and I hope they help you, too.