Wondering why writing is difficult sometimes?
Last week I met up with a colleague and friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. It was SO GREAT to see her. We connected as though we’d just been together yesterday and both the wine and conversation flowed freely.
I wish it worked that way with writing.
But the truth is, the longer I abandon my writing, the harder it is to get back to it and the more awkward and difficult it feels when I do.
(BTW, I don’t use the word “abandon” lightly – once a few weeks have gone by, that’s how it feels to me. Something in me is terrified that this time I’ve given it up for good.)
Although I don't feel you "should" feel that you have to write every day, the reality is that we can’t let our creative work go for a long time without experiencing a sense of disconnection – both from the writing and from ourselves as writers.
We can get into these cycles where initially we’re writing, then our brain skids over a patch of fear and we take “a little break,” intending to come back to it soon, really soon…but our fear that we’re not up to the challenge before us can keep us making up excuses to avoid the page.
To maintain an ease in our writing life, we have to find the ways – all of the ways we can think of – to have a consistent writing practice in spite of the near-constant presence of fear.
It sounds daunting, but it’s possible. And it gets easier every time you bring yourself back to the page.
Something in you knows that’s where you (Hello, Writer!) belong.
Getting back into the writing and allowing yourself to enjoy writing with some sense of ease is similar to entering a lake for the first swim of summer. You remember having swum before and how great it felt, but there you are at the edge of the lake sticking your toes in and worrying about the cold.
The trick to it is to ease back in gently, toe by toe. (Apologies to Anne Lamott.)
If you haven’t been writing, and are feeling paralyzed and guilty about it, the first thing to do is to look those feelings square in the face and release them. They’re not serving you. (If guilt helped us write, we’d all have filled libraries by now.) Let it go: you’re allowed to have a fallow period and then come back.
Then, plan your next writing session. Make it a short one so that you’re not tempted to set up obstacles in the way, like cleaning the entire house first. Make an appointment with yourself for that next writing session and then – here’s the important bit – KEEP IT. If your desk is messy, go to a coffee shop. Coffee shop too busy, bring earphones.
Do what you have to do to keep that next writing appointment.
Write for a short period of time, using prompts or exercises, or perhaps digging back into the writing project you have been wanting to spend time with for a while. Let yourself write just one scene or one chapter, one poem or section, and then before you close this writing session, take some time to plan out what you’ll work on in your next session. Let yourself anticipate what comes next and allow the work to draw you back in.
While you’re in that anticipatory frame of mind, book the next writing session. It doesn’t have to be daily if your life doesn’t allow for that, but nearly all of us (outside of real crisis times) can write each week.
Writing consistently will help you find the ease and joy in it, and prevent you from having to climb back up over the high stone wall that will appear between you and your writing when you let yourself avoid writing.
Paradoxically, it’s fear that can keep us from writing but also the writing that conquers the fear. #truth
So now it’s your turn: look at your schedule right this very minute and book your next writing session. Come find me on Instagram at @resilientwriters and let me know how it goes – I’d love to hear how it went.