Getting back into it

In my last post I mentioned getting back into writing again (Passion lost, passion regained), and also referred to the potentially excruciating experience of revisiting an old draft.

I selected something I composed, very roughly, several years ago, about 25,000 words of it. Well, a few passages were more ‘refined’, those that had been redrafted for a writing course I was taking at the time. Predominantly, though, it was akin to what I’ve seen called ‘junk draft’, the first rough attempt to get the ideas down on the page, with only a rudimentary structure to the piece over all. It’s commonly accepted these drafts may be utter cr*p and, much like the first pancake, tend to get thrown away (cue some more pancake analogies – too flat? Firmly stuck? Coming out lumpy?)

So was this draft headed for the bin? Not necessarily. Having persuaded myself this early writing attempt would be worthless junk’, the reality wasn’t too dreadful. No extensive text of any worth, certainly, but maybe some plot and character ideas, with much more work and extension, a phrase here and there containing some recognisable truth… But not something I  choose to work on right now. It may be symbolic, but I don’t want the sense of going backwards at the present time.

So if an attempt to revisit an old draft didn’t help, how to get into writing something new, after a break? As mentioned earlier, apart from this blog, plus the sporadic book review, all I have been doing is the occasional scribble in a notebook, nothing sustained or cohesive, certainly nothing like my earlier daily habit.

Advice abounds.

1. Set goals? This has worked in the past; however, it’s not the right time to put the pressure on. When you’re getting back into a routine, awakening a near-dormant activity, any progress is good. So it may not be helpful to start off by measuring it. Instead of pre-setting goals, I have found it more motivating to make a brief note of what I have done or completed, afterwards.

2. Try some freewriting. That is, switching off any ‘inner critic’ or filter and taking a few minutes to put pen to paper, no stopping, no consideration to accuracy—a sort of extensive brainstorming, if you like, probably best done with paper and pen than on your computer. In theory, this can be like warming up before a full exercise session. Except, like any other strategy, this isn’t the pass key for everyone. Perhaps I just don’t let myself go with the flow sufficiently, but freewriting doesn’t help me.

3. Record something factual. I guess I already do this, in a way, through a blog. I find this more helpful that freewriting, personally. There’s something tangible to hook into. I can make it a doodle, rough sketch, a satirical caricature, or detailed miniature, depending on my mood and on the amount of time available. It’s surprising how something that starts off as fact writing can veer into fiction.

4. Start with some background research. Okay, maybe a bit of a cheat’s way in. After all, it’s not straightforward, capital W (capital R?), ‘writing’, as such. But, in the end, this is the one that’s helping me most. A trigger to visualising, a time, a place. Details start to come forward.

How have you managed to get back into an activity after a break?

 

Image credits
Photos by Daniel Páscoa and by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

25 thoughts on “Getting back into it

  1. I do have a few of those types of writing stuck in virtual drawers. I have yet to bring them out. I do have fond memories of them and am sure if I looked again, through my more mature lens, I would be embarrassed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It wasn’t as excruciating as I had feared – but the, my expectations were low!

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  2. I have an old novel manuscript I am slowly rewriting that I use to get back into the swing. When I can’t write fresh prose, I find I can always edit, and the act of editing helps the new words flow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is good to know it’s possible to go back to something. I have a fondness for this particular work that I cannot shake. Good luck with the editing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And best of luck to you. 😊

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  3. Don’t pressurize yourself… as you say ‘any progress is good’. 🙂

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    1. 😂You have me guessing now… How many of my posts are as you say ‘junk draft’?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Zero of course! You have the greatest eclectic mix, never know if I am admiring a ladies’ assets or visiting London next!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. personally, this is exactly how I work (oooppps, I did it all my life, so I AM partly the problem* here😂). I can ‘black out’ and have a break ….monthssss looooong. Then I suddenly want to work and I do huge amount of job in a week or two (as soon as possible, I can work almost non-stop, even nights) … ah, simply because I know, when I’ll be done – I’ll take a VERY long break again 😂😂 and do nothing. Like literally…👽🤨

    About old pieces – I don’t have any, because I publish everything I can/have lol 🙀 but if I had 25k – damn, that would be my next book (20-25k less to write? lol)

    About goals – I set goals all the time (small), of coz only when I’m working, and I strike them happily (every day) when I’m done.

    ‘Automatic’ writing works for me. I’m usually pick 5 words from the book and 3-4 random names – and I create a story or novel from it.
    but cool idea with the sketch, doodle…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The main thing is to find what works for each one of us at a personal level, I guess. I am normally a goal setter, just trying to go easy until I am back into ut. As a amazingly prolific writer, I wonder if you’ve considered sharing tips on your blog?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thanks, sorry I’m late with my answer. Prolific? Make me smile, really :)) I’m such a lazy person, you can’t even imagine!!! I just spent almost 2 weeks straight watching all 8 seasons of Monk (ok, ok, add dogs walking, food, cleaning and such, simply because I’m the woman in the house and have to do the chores, damn it!)… but you got the picture. 😂 Still, I’ll publish the book (new thriller, 60k)… maybe will take 1 extra week but it’s 98% ready; I’m checking the details in my text (chapters 11-22) this week. BUT I have scheduled a post for March – 10 eye-opening writing tips from the greatest authors (mostly new/modern or heavy classic authors), I think it will be interesting for people to know…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That sounds a hugely varied list of goals to me. And let’s not say lolling about or watching light entertainment tv, let’s call it ‘re-emergising the mind’ instead. Looking forward to the tips.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I like how you see it haha
            Yes ill start with Tolstoy & Kazuo Ishiguro… & then move to the girls-authors 🙂

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  5. I tried this several years ago and had a terrible time with getting all of it to be straight. I eventually made some shorter, some longer and used that layout.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a bit painstaking, getting there in the end.

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  6. None of the above really helps me. I tend to “write” in my head. The complete thing. If it is long, maybe jot down a plan as a reminder. That’s all. Once the story is finished I sit down to write. The story writes itself, I must say. Then, when it’s over I edit it. What I’m doing right now is just organising my past and future writings in a folder. Maybe write a list of stories to write and prioritize them. Almost done. Once it’s organized I can probably sit down and start writing. Again… 🙂 No hurry.

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    1. I like a plot or structure all laid out in front of me, too, and do write in my head first. Maybe that’s the blocker, like waiting for fog to clear. I like a clear plan on real life as wel.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice to hear you write in your head too… 🙂
        Now, a clear plan on real life is good as a goal, but things tend to happen… The best laid plans… 🙂
        (How’s job hunting?)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Still looking 😦 A lot of work in my field is contracts for 1 or 2 years, and I cannot give up a permanent contract for this (I used to contract, but not since having the children). Thank you for asking.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Don’t mention it… Contracts are not the best option… with children… (What is your field again?) I don’t know about the job situation in the UK, but I suspect all is a matter of time… Patience. I’m sure you will find something…
            Meantime, “Bon week-end”.

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  7. This is great advice. I hope you don’t mind if I put it in my Saturday share. 🙂

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  8. Great advice. I am dusting an old manuscript again 😊

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  9. I try to write anyway, and something surfaces.

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  10. I like setting goals. They keep me in check. They give me the push. Otherwise, I continue doing nothing.

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