Writing Habits
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

10 Ways To Return to Writing Regularly

Note_creative_author_260972_lTrue confession: I haven't been writing.

Okay, that's not exactly true.  I've been writing blog posts, guest posts, interviews and comments on my client's work.  I've been writing in my journal every morning.  But I haven't been writing writing.  I haven't been working on my WIP.

Until this week.

In my case, I had a wonderful reason not to be writing: my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, was recently released and I got caught up in the hoopla surrounding that.  But in the past, I've gotten distracted for the most mundane of reasons: all the events of day-to-day life.  There's just no two ways about it, it's easy to get distracted from your writing. 

But this week, as I said, I've started back into working on my WIP.  It took me awhile, but I'm back.  Watch out world!  It didn't happen all at once, however.  I don't think it ever does.  Getting back to writing regularly is  a process.   I found ways to ease myself back into it, which I share with you here:

1. Download Scrivener.  This writing software for writers is intuitive and helpful–who knew such a thing was possible? I'm still playing around with it, going through the tutorial, but I think it's going to be wonderful.  And I feel like I just got a new toy at Christmas, which alone is worth it because it makes me want to go play with it.  You can get a free 30-day trial here.

2. Direct your thoughts.  Consciously tell yourself to think about your novel, as in when you are driving, when you are vacuuming, when you are walking the dog.  It's also especially good to do this when you're thinking negative thoughts about how you're not writing.  Direct those thoughts to pondering character or plot instead.

3.  Take notes.  I'm a huge fan of jotting things down, because it leads to more jotting and before you know it you're in the middle of writing a scene.  Put all the ideas you get from #3 onto paper.  The other thing that happens is that ideas breed with each other, like rabbits.   Soon you'll have so many of them you'll be at the page writing.

4.  Familiarize yourself.  On the most basic level, this is about getting accustomed to working on the novel again.  Remember where the files are stored on your computer, stare at your vision board, recall where you were in the manuscript when last you wrote.

5.  Take micro action.  Now that you've gotten oriented again, set yourself a very small task.  Like, opening one file.  I'm not kidding.  Set yourself up for one tiny action and call it good.  This is a way of tricking yourself back into interacting with the work regularly.

6. Research.  Reconnecting with the ideas and topics of your novel can get you excited about it again.  Make a Pinterest board for actresses who might play your character or locations in your novel. Do a Google search for that obscure subject that fascinated when you began. Look for images of your settings.

7.  Use bursts.  Feeling ready to write?  Okay!  Set a timer for 30 minutes and do nothing else but write until the buzzer goes off.  This means no surfing the internet, no looking at email, no chatting on the phone, no getting up to get more coffee.  At the end of 30 minutes, you get to take a break.  Then start the process over again.

8.  Read!  Nothing makes me want to write more than reading.  I just got a Kindle (last person on the planet to do so, I know) and I'm amazed at how it enables me to devour books.  Which, in turn, makes me want to cover pages with words.  Most of us come to writing because we love reading so much, so use that impulse to propel your work.

9.  Reread.  While you're in a reading mode, go reread your WIP.  From the beginning.  Immerse yourself fully in the world you've created so that you can go forth and make it come even more alive.

10.  Create a vessel. Commit to a schedule of some sort.  Now, I am the first one to struggle with this–I end up rebelling against myself.  But when I wrote Emma Jean, I rose every day at 5 to work on it before the day began.  When I wrote my previous (unpublished) novel, I was earning my MFA and I had deadlines for 35-50 pages every week.  Each of these examples enabled me to complete a novel.

So there you have it–my rundown of how to get back to writing regularly.  Have you tried any of these, or something else?  What works best for you?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

20 thoughts on “10 Ways To Return to Writing Regularly

  1. Don

    All ten are excellent points. I’ve forgotten about Scrivener, so I’ll have to check it but I remember trying it and liking it.Of all the points, taking micro action not only really works, but I have found that it works for just about anything you have to do, be it writing or otherwise. I use it regularly when reading my Bible, and thanks to it, I’ve read the whole thing three times this year alone. Without micro action I’d be stuck on the first two-or-three paragraphs.

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    Don, Wow, you've read the bible three times this year?  That's amazing and really cool.  I totally agree that micro action is revolutionary for anything you want to get done. And Scrivener is fantastic.  By the way, I just got my latest batch of books in so I'll have yours on its way to you tomorrow!

  3. Don

    OOOH… I can’t wait to get to meet Emma Jean. I know we are going to get to be the best of pals. As far as the Bible goes, I just finished reading it for the 436th time this month since I started taking notes in 1993, and I owe it all to micro action! If I want to clean the old dump, I mean house, then I just say I’m going to do a small room and then presto, just like magic… before I know it the whole bloody place is spic-n-span! Seriously, I can’t wait for your Emma Jean to finally get here. Make sure she has enough room to breath and has lots of snacks to nibble and a good book to read during shipping? I’m sure she’ll just love the weather here in the Maritimes, as it is much like Portland….. wet and foggy! Many, many thanks Charlotte.

  4. J.D.

    I’ve downloaded Scrivener for a trial. I currently write on an old Mac using Nisus Writer Express. It is great, but I would like the opportunity to make notes as I go. I’ve tried that with Mac’s Stickies but it is awkward. If I buy a new Mac I can run Nisus Writer Pro and probably solve my problem. I also have a PC laptop (required for work) with a version of Word. I like the edit feature and I know that it is powerful, but I’ll take my Mac, old as it is, any day. I’ve playing with this Scrivener. It is very interesting. I like that it is for writing. Thanks. Keep selling those books.

  5. Charlotte Dixon

    She'll feel quite at home there in New Brunswick, Don, as the weather is quite similar, though we've had a run of very nice days here recently.  And I packed a couple of pens and bookmarks as company for her on the journey–hope she doesn't get too hungry and eat them!

  6. Charlotte Dixon

    Let me know how you like Scrivener. I’ve been doing the tutorial and loving all the features, but I ran into a problem when I imported files. Either it’s the fault of Mercury Retrograde or I just am really bad with computers. Anyway, it seems to me to be the most intuitive and extensive of software for writers and I can’t wait to really be able to use it.

  7. Carole Jane Treggett

    Hi Charlotte,
    I’ve decided to download and try Storybook, an Open Source program similar to Scrivener. I’m just getting acquainted with it. Looks promising…and free 🙂

    I really need to work on #2 and #10. I find it so easy to let myself get distracted by requests or whatever from others and my mind goes a-whirr…and that’s time and attention away from focusing on my WIP. I was determined to write 1,000 words a day, but have only managed to get an average of about 600-700, five days a week. So I have to step it up a little if I’m going to achieve my creative goals.

    Also having trouble finding that elusive ‘flow’ state as I fret about the amount I’m not writing LOL. Designating a specific time period in my day just for writing and nothing else (especially NO social media)is what I really need to do in practice, not just intention 😀

    Thanks again for such great advice and encouragement!

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    I’ll have to look at Storybook. After a promising start, I screwed up Scrivener somehow and am having a hard time importing files. I decided I just needed to step away from it for awhile. But I’m really excited about it anyway.

    I have another bit of advice for you: focus on what you are accomplishing rather than what you are not doing. You are writing regularly and 600-700 words a day, five days a week will add up to at least 50 or so pages by the end of a month. That’s huge!

    I’m looking for that elusive flow state as well and sometimes I think it arrives when we force it a little.

    Thanks, as always, for commenting (and also for letting me know the comment disappeared)

  9. Vishnu

    hi Charlote – yes, getting started is always the hard part. the two techniques i could use more of is writing when i’m inspired and in bursts as you mention. also micro actions are a good trick to get us moving. so easy to not write but it’s always just that opening sentence – as I read on twitter – those are the hardest ones:) It’s usually all downhill from there. Thanks for sharing these tips and the inspiration to keep us going.

  10. Charlotte Dixon

    Thanks for dropping by, Vishnu! And I don’t know why it is so hard to get going. This morning in my writing session I felt like my hand would just not move across the page. But I forced myself to keep going and soon the words were flowing. Go figure.

  11. Zan Marie

    Charlotte, I love this list. And Scrivener, too. I’ve had it for a while, and still haven’t scratched the surface of what it can do.

    Happy Writing! ; )

  12. Zan Marie

    P. S. I haven Scrivener for Dummies, too. That helps. ; )

  13. Charlotte Dixon

    Thanks, Zan Marie.  I feel like you're such a steady and prolific writer you probably don't need this list!  Glad to hear about Scrivener, too.

  14. Charlotte Dixon

    I wondered about ordering that!

  15. Sue Mitchell

    Charlotte, I love your remark about how you could be thinking about your WIP during the time you’re beating yourself up for not actively working on it. That is the perfect time for a little creative foreplay, isn’t it?!

    I love doing bursts, as well as making writing dates with people. We touch base before we start, write for a set amount of time, and then touch base again afterward. That keeps me from blowing it off. Like you, I rebel against commitments I make to myself, but I’m good about keeping promises to others.

  16. Charlotte Dixon

    Sue, What is up with that?  I'm impeccable with my word to others but not so much to myself.  And I do find that directing my thoughts to ponder the novel in odd moments really, really helps.  Thanks for dropping by!

  17. Susanne Dunlap

    Love this list, truly helpful. I took a nearly two-year hiatus from writing, and it has been tough to get back into it!

  18. Charlotte Dixon

    Susanne, It can be difficult to return to writing. Oh, who am I kidding, it is damned hard. But once you do the rewards are worth it. Over and over again I experience my resistance to it and then I find myself writing and wondering what all that procrastinating was about. Geesh. Stick with it–it does get easier. Thanks for dropping by!

  19. Susanne Dunlap

    Glad to have discovered this resource!

  20. Charlotte Dixon

    And I'm happy you found me.  It is great to make your acquaintance!

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