How to Get Back Into Writing
When you first return to writing after a long hiatus, you should have a plan for building up your writing practice and getting creative juices flowing the way they once did. Here is some writing advice, along with some key writing tips, to get you back to the craft you love:
- Read a lot. Nothing can jumpstart a return to writing quite like some inspiration. It doesn’t matter what you choose to read, but you may find more relatable inspiration in contemporary authors like Stephen King and Dan Brown than in classics from a past era.
- Make a schedule to establish writing habits. Any published author will tell you that the secret to becoming a better writer is getting into a routine. In order to establish a writing groove, most authors write at the same time every day. Some aim for a specific word count or page count, while others simply write for a fixed amount of time. If you have a day job to balance, you can schedule your own writing session at any time of day. The key is to keep writing at the same time over a prolonged period.
- Assign yourself creative writing exercises. If you want to build up your writing muscle after a long time away, you simply need practice. Creative writing prompts can be a great way to kickstart a writing practice.
- Start a journal or digital document for story ideas. Nothing derails a return to writing quite like writer’s block. But you can stave this off by keeping a running list of novel, short story, and even nonfiction book ideas. The process will depend on how you work best. Maybe you prefer to jot down broad ideas, or perhaps you’re the type to sketch out ideas in great detail before you start the actual writing process. Either is fine; the main goal is to not find yourself staring at a blank page and unable to think of an idea.
- Get ideas from real life. Your actual life is full of sources for writing projects. Base your main character on a family member or your best friend and use their real-life changes to guide your story’s character development. Use details about your hometown to build the world of your fictional story. Or, if you don’t want to invoke any person or place that’s too connected to you personally, take it upon yourself to do some people watching. Sit in cafes or libraries and see who comes in. You never know who might provide you with that spark of inspiration.
- Comb through old writing projects. Revisit the works of your younger self and see if there’s an old work-in-progress that might be worth revisiting. Perhaps fresh eyes will give you a thousand ideas as to how to develop what’s currently on the page, or perhaps you’ll remember why you abandoned the project in the first place and turn your attention to a new book project instead.
- Get ideas in unorthodox ways. If you’re still short on ideas, try random idea generation to get yourself going. For instance, pick up a great book you admire and start the first draft of your novel with the same first word. Or start your draft with a totally random word and then write a first line that puts that word in context. Try freewriting without an outline—but perhaps only as an exercise since it’s really hard to freewrite an entire book without meandering. Don’t be too precious about the story you make up. If it’s your first time back in several years, no one is expecting you to write a Pulitzer Prize winner.
- Brush up your creative work as a content writer. Content writing tends to fall into two categories: marketing (particularly branding-based writing for the Internet) and technical writing that explains how to do something. Compared to fiction writing, there are a lot more paid jobs for content writers. If you can get one of these jobs, you can brush up on the mechanics of your writing—from grammar to syntax to clear explanations—and later apply that to your creative work. You can also rebuild your writing skills by blogging or just keeping a private diary.
- Write for writing’s sake. The sobering reality is that most story ideas will not be published, much less end up on a bestseller list. So rather than invest a lot of time triangulating your writing for commercial appeal, be true to yourself. Write about what excites you, give it a strong point of view, and invest in the art of writing fiction for no other reason than that you love it.
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