Finding Your Writing Groove

by limebirdkate

Sometimes we have to take a break from writing. And by break I mean longer than a day. IMO, skipping a day of writing is a form of a ‘break’ as I believe in the importance of writing every day—no matter if you only squeeze in 15 minutes, no matter if your material is dreadful. It still counts.

When I miss out on writing for a day, I lose my rhythm, I lose that groove. My ideas abandon me, scenes fade, imagery dims, my characters pack up and move out. When I finally do get back to my nether world, I’m removed from the action, and it takes me a long time to be a part of it again.

This conundrum is about reconnecting to your imagination. Similar to going away on vacation, then trying to get back into the workplace or household mindset—writers are bound to have trouble if they don’t nurture their imaginations on a regular basis.

There are a few things I do to help me restore my writing, and ultimately my imagination. I use these fulfillments when I miss one, four, eighty-six, or 1,825 days.

Writing is joyful – This must be the foremost reason I write. When I return to my writing, it can’t be because I have a deadline to meet, nor can it be about publication. It has to be because I love to create worlds. Once, when I spent about 5 years away from writing it was because I put too much pressure on myself. I didn’t think I was good enough. With that ridiculousness behind me, now I make sure that I write purely for myself—this is separate from any writing that I share with others. I never consider them for publication; I only write them for me. And I tend to them several times a week. Like cultivating a secret garden.

Find a support system-and not mom, as lovely and wonderful as she is. I need at least one person who I can contact at the last minute and tell them I missed out on a day of writing—and they get it. This is the person who knows what it means to be a writer, the investment, the process, the lunacy. They understand what it feels like to not write, why it’s a big deal.

Support is two-dimensional. While I need the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah, I also need grounding, a kick in the arse. There are people in my writing life that I trust to give it to me straight, to empathize with the daily struggle, and who consider me as one of their go-to comrades. It is a reciprocal relationship. This is why Mom, hubby, or the eager-to-please dog aren’t true sources of writing support. This isn’t to say they aren’t supportive. But if they aren’t writers, then they don’t get it. They don’t really get it. I need someone who really gets it.

Start off easy-I go straight to an area in my WIP that is a favorite. It might be one scene, a whole chapter, a sub-plot, a character, an exchange of dialogue, a blurb of setting. I start wherever I feel the most excitement. And if I had left off in my WIP at a point that was giving me some trouble, I usually don’t go back to it first thing. Instead, I kick off my writing at a point that is fun, easy, enjoyable. I don’t worry about where in my story this particular moment might strike. I just write it.

Writing the moments that are most interesting and exciting helps get the creative juices flowing. And once the juices are flowing, I’m energized. Then I feel more confident about tackling the areas in the novel that are more challenging, but must be written.

Give yourself permission-This threatens to be one of my biggest setbacks, not giving myself permission to write. Because it is me-time, how selfish! This is a serious dereliction of duty on the part of a working mother! I’m also doing it in a room with-gasp!-the door closed.

Well, the older I get and the more devoted I am to writing, the less difficult it is to give myself that permission. Some people spend two hours a day watching television; I spend two hours a day writing. I think that’s a fair way of looking at it.

So, there you have it. A sampling of some things I do to get back in the writing groove. What do you do?

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44 Responses to “Finding Your Writing Groove”

  1. Thank you for this post – the permission part struck a chord with me, I think it’s the old parenting guilt issue isn’t it. When you have work and kids, trying to fit writing time in isn’t easy. It invariably impinges on some of the time that you could be doing things with your children, and that guilt is hard to take!

    • Hi Vanessa, I so wholeheartedly agree. It’s almost like an unwritten rule–that mothers aren’t allowed to take care of themselves, unless it benefits someone else lol. My husband gripes about my alarm going off at 4am, but he thinks nothing of coming to bed at midnight after having watched a game on television.

      Bottom line is that we all deserve our own kind of me-time–whatever that is for each person. Besides, what else am I going to do at 4am for someone else? Nothing, so my writing block shouldn’t interfere with anything (except my beauty sleep) 🙂

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Great ideas here. I think having a blog really helps because you can write for fun and connect with other writers!

    • Hi Victoria,

      Yes, blogging definitely rounds out that “support system” idea. I think we are lucky in that we are part of this community in Blogosphere where we all can share the ups and downs of writing and we feel self-actualized at the end of the day. I know after I post something and then engage in back-and-forth comments (like I’m doing now) I feel a surge of energy, and I feel valued. I lose that niggling feeling that I’m barking up the wrong career tree.

      And you’re right again about how blogging is a great outlet for writing for fun–once you’ve built your community, pretty much anything goes, and judgement is very scarce.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Lovely post, Kate, thank you. I love the honesty in there. It’s such good advice to have a friend to whom you can say “I didn’t write anything today” and they know what you mean. No non-writer could ever understand that.

    • Hi Chris,

      It’s so hard to get my non-writing family and friends to really comprehend the meaning behind anything I tell them in regard to my writing habits, activities, progress (or lack thereof). And I don’t think it’s the same as not understanding someone’s job. Writing, I think, is more than a job (generally speaking, although I’m sure there are some writers out there who don’t take it quite so seriously). But it takes a writer to know another writer, it’s as simple and as complicated as that.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. The “Start Off Easy” is definitely true. When I am in the writing groove I read the last page or so of what I have been doing and just carry on. When I’ve had a break, I keep away from current projects and try and come up with something new. Sometimes this is a one-off poem or piece of flash fiction, sometimes it actually leads on to a whole new project! The main thing is that it has to inspire an idea in me and be fun to do!

    • Hi Dennis,

      Don’t you just love burrowing in front of your laptop (or notebook) and re-reading something you wrote that sits well with you? Picking up from that point takes a lot less effort and brain-power. You’re on a roll that much faster. And how right you are–lots of times those scraps of writing do turn into bigger projects with lives of their own.

      Thanks for commenting.

  5. The 2 bits I mostly liked of all these good tips were starting where the ms is fun and easy (the rest will come if you are in a happy place with writing) and the idea of giving yourself permission. There is so much to try and balance in life, but if the writing is important to you, definitely make it a priority.

    I will add in music. I have playlists for different novels or other kinds of writing, and the playlist helps me re-set the mood if I’ve been away too long.

    • Hi Janet,

      I love that: ‘happy place with writing’. I think that’s true. If you’re in a funk with your material, then you don’t want to tackle it and you’re more likely to come up with reasons to stay away from your project.

      Permission is key. This goes along with my personal pet peeve, when writers claim they don’t have time to write. You said it brilliantly, ‘if the writing is important to you, definitely make it a priority.’

      Ah, music. Lovely. I listen to music when I’m writing, and like you, I have different playlists depending on what project I’m working on.

      Great comment, thank you.

  6. I think that, for me, the biggest thing for getting back in the groove, no matter how long the break has been, is giving myself permission to write poorly at the beginning. I do this just so that I can get rolling, so I don’t freeze trying to find the exact right words to put on the screen. It’s not so much trying to write badly, but rather understanding that it won’t be great work because the writing muscles need to warm up and that’s okay. The longer the break, the more I find I need to give myself this permission. Funny thing is that I tend to find later that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. 🙂

    • Hi Julie,

      Absolutely, writing poorly is allowed! I think this goes along with when I talked about writing for myself. That stuff I will never share with anyone, and it’s because I don’t think it’s written well, it’s straight, pure, un-doctored writing passion. But it frees me up and helps me write the stuff that books are made of, I guess.

      Writing poorly is probably a lot more common than we realize; that’s why we have to do multiple rounds of edits 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. As my hectic life always gets in the way of writing, I often have ‘breaks’ whether intentional or not but I always have this itch; a sort of restlessness inside me when I’m not writing. To get back into writing I do one of two things: I always read through the last chapter that I wrote. It helps me get back to where I need to be. Or I skip ahead slightly and maybe write down a scene that will appear further on in the story. When I travel to and from work every day, I often come up with ideas of things I want to happen in the story, so I will write that down, sometimes writing out a whole chapter that will appear later, because it helps me to head in the right direction and feel motivtated to go back to from where I left off.

    • Hi Lindsey,

      Ah, yes, the writing itch. I know it well. If my mind isn’t occupied by skeighty-eight other things, it will immediately go back to my story. I’ll rehearse scenes that I already wrote, or scenes that I want to write. Your process sounds excellent; you’re all about the book and I think you really need to be at certain stages of the writing game.

      I get lots of ideas when I’m traveling places, too. Not the safest way to drive a car, but I can’t help it! 🙂

      Thanks for commenting.

  8. My novels and writing in general usually nags me I.to submission and guilts me when I don’t write. My support is here on WordPress and the pants-kicking comes from a non-writer friend who appreciates how much this means to me even though he doesn’t read much of what I write because it isn’t his cup of tea. He also slaps sense into me when I hit the low points and say I’m a horrible writer. Even though he doesn’t prefer what I write, he appreciates that it’s not poo (and tells me I need more details :D)

    Happily for me, once i start writing again it usually comes with ease. And when it doesn’t, I get a notebook out and hand write. I loathe the retype process, though.

    • Hey Ottie,

      The support here on WP is amazing. I have never experienced such a great group of people in one place. I always count myself lucky that I’m growing and learning from some top-notch people.

      I’m thrilled to know you have a non-writer friend who is a huge cheerleader for you. I think that’s wonderful.

      Yes, you are one of the lucky ones who can just jump right back into the writing once you decide that’s what you’re going to do. Haha, retyping is no fun. I am very dependent on my laptop 🙂

  9. Agreed, good approaches. If my writing rhythm gets thrown askew, I immerse myself into the story and shut out the world until I’m on track again. I suppose that is an approach I take with work in general.

    • Hi Nelle,

      Oh, I love it when I get those rare chances to shut everything out and tend only to my book. I’m pretty intense like that in all parts of my life, too. Maybe that’s another element that helps?

      Thanks for chiming in

  10. I think about Anne Lamott’s counsel: bird by bird.
    Also this quote from Martha Graham: There is a vitality, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
    First of all, I love the word and concept of “a quickening,” a coming into being, coming alive. Second, she’s so clear: your job is simply to translate your own voice.

    • Hi Maia,

      Love Bird by Bird. It’s a wonderful approach, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Great quote, too. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Perfect timing for me as I have been buried with work for two weeks. Thanks for the helpful ideas.

  12. Thanks for the great ideas to keep inspired in writing, Kate. I like the Give yourself permission–because as a Mom, it IS easy to feel guilty for writing at times.

    • Hey Char,

      It is super easy, and the only way out of it is to remind ourselves that everyone is self-indulgent to a degree–whether it be going out with friends for a margarita, watching a movie, getting a pedi, everyone has their own special me-time. For those writers who write because they want to make a living from it, then why should we feel we need permission? It isn’t until the bucks roll in that it’s justified. Well, because I look at it from both sides: it’s enjoyable and it’s my career path, then I need to invest the time and energy.

      Thanks for commenting! And keep on writing, Char 🙂

  13. Kate,
    I love your idea of “starting off easy.” Too many times, we stop writing at a particular point because it’s difficult (tired, too, though that’s a separate issue). I’ve banged my head against a wall too many times trying to pick up at that point that I learned (eventually; I’ve got a hard head) to just take it easy.
    Part of all of these suggestions do seem to stem from that most important note, though: that writing should be joyful.

    Thanks for reminding us that this journey doesn’t have to be an uphill one at all times. 🙂

    • Hey Mayumi,

      Yes- start off easy, love what you do. Then there’s little reason not to go back to that project. Right, the journey needn’t be uphill at all times. But when it is uphill, make sure you’re well-packed with all the essentials and you’ll be good to go. 🙂

      Thanks for chiming in.

  14. I couldn’t agree more. I write everyday, it doesn’t matter what happens. I could be weeping, screaming, whatever and there I am in font of Mac.

  15. Whew, late to the game here, so I’m probably going to repeat what a lot of other folks have said. When I’ve been away, I also try to read what I last wrote as a memory refresher. And unless a character has just given me his brilliant idea to pick up with, I start with something simple to ease back into it. That may be some light editing and revision of the previous section I’d written. In theory, it gets easier then to move into the tougher spots.

    Definitely the blogging cohort is the big support group, and my best friend of many years is also a writer. Luckily, my husband is also supportive and looking forward to the day I get published—in whatever form it takes.

    Great post!

    • Hey JM,

      You bring up something that hasn’t been mentioned–the characters easing us back into the project. Lots of times we might not even need to think about what should be written. Instead our cast gives us a helpful nudge.

      I think that working on that easy area does make it easier to shift to the areas that are more troublesome.

      Sounds like you are surrounded by a lot of supportive people. That’s awesome. Makes it easier to say ‘I can’t do that right now, I have to write.’

      Thanks for chiming in!

  16. I go to my shelf and pick up one of my writing books. The instruction and ideas inspire me to get back to work.

    • Hi Darla,

      Oh, yes, a good writing guide is usually helpful towards getting ourselves writing again. Thanks for commenting.

  17. Sometimes words come and sometimes they don’t. I believe that my brain is at work on something and its just not ready for me to write about it yet. The time will come when the words are ready.

  18. Oh great post! I once spent a good deal of time laboring over a few short screenplays that I was working on (with my husband) for some competitions. I guess I had become some sort of hermit for a bit and a couple of folks I knew thought it strange that I was spending my time on that. Hey Stephen King says to write with the door shut, and you know how I feel about following the things Stephen King says to do! 😀

    • Hi Laura,

      I love being a hermit when I’m writing, and I have run into that issue with people wondering how I could shut myself away for so long on just writing, lol

      Oh yes, SK is quite wise and there are many things he says that are helpful to our muses.

      Thanks for commenting!

  19. TV versus writing. Or for me dvds versus, writing. Put like that I really should be able to write something every day, even if just for ten minutes.
    Thanks for the post, Kate. 🙂

    • Hi Ileandra,

      Oh yes, I have a DVD fetish myself, lol. Sometimes I just want to escape, and if I’m at a point in WIP that’s too difficult then writing isn’t exactly the escape I need. That’s why it helps to start somewhere fun/easy in your project and you slip right in. 🙂 Best wishes with your writing endeavors!

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