Turning 31 can take up a lot of your time.
I haven’t written my novel, Project: HARP, for about 2 weeks now. Even writing that sentence brings an awful pang of fear and panic to my heart. “I haven’t written in over 14 days! I’ve lost all of my momentum! I didn’t finish by my self-assigned deadline! Every other author out there is laughing at me while they look at the book deals flooding their inboxes! All this happened while I did other, equally significant things with my life!”
To better explain that last part: I had a pleasant birthday party on Friday, then another party for family on Saturday, then entertained family all day Sunday and you know? I wouldn’t trade any of it for words on pages. That stuff’s important and if it comes up, absolutely do not reject it or hide from it. Words can be made up, time with loved ones cannot.
But, that doesn’t stop that the feelings are real. Separation from one’s own self-induced work is stressful. You’ve spent priceless hours on a project, so stepping away from it can feel like leaving an arm behind. Or, perhaps you return home to visit mom and dad after not visiting for a whole semester. The guilt levels are off the charts, but I wouldn’t say 9000. No, it’s just enough to remind you, the aspiring author, that real life happened and you should be okay with that.
At least, that’s what I tell myself.
So, how do you get back into the flow? For some I imagine it’s like jumping back into a river. They let the current take them away and figure out ho w to survive amidst the white rapids. Avoiding rocks and stabilizing until they are in full control of their swim/story again.
Not me, though. I need to slowly wade in and feel the water out. I wish I was one of those creators that could put a story down then pick it up days later like nothing ever happened. No, I need some time to becomes buddies with it all over again. So, to get back into the groove of Project: HARP (1st draft now due 8/31/18), as well as lend a helping hand to my other projects, here’s some stuff I’m trying this week to help me rev back up to full-speed writing machine:
- Morning Pages. This actually hasn’t stopped, though I haven’t finished a set-goal in a few days. I’m using a traveler’s notebook-style ledger, so I can fit about 100 or so words a page. The goal is the same, every morning. 3 pages, 300 words. Doesn’t have to be good, just needs to get done. Since I’m writing Project: HARP by hand, this is important to increase dexterity, stamina, and to give me a chance to clear my head and synthesize any information downloaded the last few days. If you don’t know what Morning Pages are, check here.
- Write some hot garbage. This is a new one, but since this is such a bizarre time, I felt like giving it a try. The saying goes if you write 1,000 bad words, that’s 1,000 bad words you’ll never write again. So before I begin my other projects later this week, I’m going to try and write 2-pages of, like, just the worst, most awful story drek I can imagine. To “smash writers block,” some might say. Call it a typing exercise, to help re-familiarize myself with the keyboard. Call it masochism, that I’m purposefully trying to write bad, but expect it later this week.
- Read your outline notes first. This one seems rather obvious, but let me explain. When I’m in the zone writing my novel, I look at my outline every day before I begin, but if it’s during a constant stream of writing and not after a break, I don’t need to refresh on where I’m going. Odds are I’ve looked ahead to see how the story twists and turns and have implanted that as a signpost to where I’ll be going. Coming back to a story after a long break is like starting a road-trip in the whee hours of the morning. You kinda know whatcha doing, but looking at the map in the glovebox (how old am I?) wouldn’t hurt. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, put away the pen and computer, and just read your outline. Know your destinations before you start the engines. At the time of writing, I’m going to do this first, then come back to write the novel in a couple of hours. See! Even giving myself a break between tasks.
- Admit it’s okay. This blog is to serve as an advice column, but also a confessional. I haven’t written for my novel in just over 2 weeks. I’ve said it at the top, and I’m saying it down here. You have to forgive yourself, otherwise you’ll be hung up on the pain and guilt of “wasted” time and never get started. Your story needs you. Put it behind to move forward.
Thanks for reading.