Returning to Writing after a Long Break

The Mental Game
The Mental Game

This week I returned to my novel after a hiatus of almost four months. That is certainly not as long as the infamous break in Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain took from 1876 to 1880, but it was enough to make getting back into the project a challenge for me. I have found the writing life to be quite the mental game. The longer you are away from your project the easier it is to stay away–that is, unless you get the irritating itch to return. Inertia is the name of the game: once the ball stops rolling, it takes a much greater force to get it rolling again.

Even if you are motivated, though, to pick up the pen again, you need to reacquaint yourself with your story, characters, setting, and narrative voice. You have to re-immerse yourself in your world, and that is rarely easy. To reconnect with my story, I turned back a couple chapters and read up to the point where the narrative abruptly ended. I was relieved the “stopping point” occurred in the middle of a chapter that I had completely outlined. Looking over the outline helped kickstart my mind into reconstructing the mental images necessary for story building.

Writers approach their tasks in a myriad of different ways, but I think I learned my lesson. When we drop a story, we cannot be certain how long we will be away. From my brief stint on Twitter, I see that other writers have these challenges too. Life circumstances can pull us from our writing routines, and we might be kinder to ourselves if we leave some touchstones to help us “get back in” when we are able to return. It could be beneficial when you stop for the day to jot down a brief outline of where you think the next several paragraphs will be headed. Details are key.

My word counts have been smaller these first couple days back. I’m hoping I can take my frustration, though, and wrestle it into a resolve to do better today and tomorrow, to get the ball rolling again, to finish this story. Even if the word counts are smaller, I can at least tell myself they are better than the zero count of the past months. If you’re a writer, hang in there, for Resistance looms over us! If you’re a reader, we hope you appreciate the work!

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