Long Time, No Read (you don’t call, you don’t write)

Hey World, some of you have asked offline where I’ve been. Sometime I’ll tell you the story, but for now, let’s just say I’ve had a year.

When Life happens, it may make good fodder for a future tale, but it can wreak havoc on your daily practice. For the first time since I was seven years old, I haven’t been writing. I only recently returned, about a month ago, and it’s been hard to find my voice again. This has happened to many writer friends, so I asked for a few tips I’ll share with you. If you’re just getting back to writing, and it’s not coming as easily as you’d hoped, these ideas may help:

  1. Accept the rust. This is my tip. I was fighting the fact that I was rusty from not having used my writing mind. My brain had flooded with everything else, and corroded the framework I had long established. I wasn’t sure how to begin. But once I said to myself, “Rust means the work will be creaky for a while,” I was no longer fighting myself, and instead began to find new ways into the work. Rust might conjure the wrong image, because ultimately, the point is that we are not machines. You can’t write on command. Sometimes you have to ease in.
  2. Reach out to other writers. Talk to anyone who writes. We’ve all been there. But it’s nice to commiserate with someone who gets it. You aren’t alone.
  3. Read everything. When you can’t write, read. REading will inspire you. You might also despair sometimes at how beautifully other people can write. That is good. It should ultimately inspire you to aim higher.
  4. Study what you read. Read for fun, as a reader…and then go back and examine the text. Read then as a writer. Look for how the story is crafted, the words used, the way something hooks you.
  5. Great artists steal. If you’re really stuck, imitate what you’ve read. Just for fun. Write a short story. Rewrite something you’ve read with a different ending. Try a tactic you’ve admired from a book. Experiment, have fun.
  6. Have fun. Bears repeating. All writing should be infused with some sense of fun, lightness. Even technical and scientific writing. Anything you write (that is read by others) is intended to communicate, and no one likes to be bored.

And if all else fails, sometimes writing outside in the summer, with a cold beer in the hot sun, can work wonders.

Good luck.