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Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, January 21 2023

It's a new year so, first off, Happy New Year and best wishes for 2023. And our Blog Hop topic is ... New Beginnings! Appropriate, right? As a writer, how do you motivate yourself to get back to writing when life has interrupted your flow and/or, how do you begin a new writing challenge? 


At the moment, I’m asking myself that very question…How to get back in the groove? It’s been a couple months since I’ve done any constructive work on any of the three books currently in progress. First it was a medical issue, then it was shopping for a series of birthdays with Christmas right on the heels of that and finally travel to be with family over Christmas. So, here I am, at the start of a new year, getting back into the groove and I’m betting I’m not alone.


Years ago, a well-known, award-winning, best-selling author was the keynote speaker of a conference I’d decided to attend. She began her talk with an anecdote about her writing life. She’d been in a rut and told her husband she was having trouble concentrating because of no private writing space. She had three kids and a household to run so sitting down at the table where she had been working had become too much of a distraction. Hubby responded by renovating the space over their garage, creating a wonderful new office, comfortable and private. Space to warm any writer’s heart. As she told the story, on her first day in this awesome new writer’s paradise, she booted up her computer and opened her document. Then checked her email. Looked at her manuscript, then played a game of solitaire or twelve. Back to looking at the book in process, then another game of solitaire or twelve and another quick check of email. Laughing at herself, she summarized this by saying, it’s a matter of discipline, not place, time, opportunity or even inspiration. But just sheer discipline.


That was years ago and now our computers offer us a zillion times more distractions from social media, email, online shopping and games of all kinds. Discipline has become even more important. Bottom line, put the butt in the chair and just “get it done” as the Nike folk say. To that end, there are several technical answers: turn off the internet being one key option. You could always delete all the apps and bookmarks to remove temptation, if disconnecting from the internet seems extreme. But bottom line, it still comes back to discipline.


One thing I’ve found in the past is overestimating myself. I was hot – like on fire hot – when I was finishing up my last project. A thousand words, two thousand words or more a day just poured out without half trying, and it didn’t matter when I sat down to write. It was like having a tiger by the tale and all I had to do was hang on for the ride. But if things have stalled, this isn’t happening. You sit down to write and the words are hard to find. It can be discouraging to plug away and come up with far less than you had planned. All very discouraging. When this happens to me, I find setting a far more modest goal helps. We all know that positive reinforcement is encouraging so instead of expecting myself to write a thousand new words, I cut it in half. Or even in quarters. Telling yourself you’re just going to get 200 new words today sounds like a very doable task and it’s amazing how satisfying it feels to get that 200. Going way over that modest goal? AWESOME!


Another thing to consider is timing. When is your best time to write? When are you most productive? Or, in some cases, when can you realistically expect to have an hour or even just a half hour you can focus solely on the writing. Assess your day, your other commitments, and your writing style and deliberately set aside that hour (more or less) for nothing BUT writing. Exceptions do have to be made from time to time, for various reasons, but don’t let those exceptions become the rule. Stick to your set time, put your butt in the chair, turn off the internet and start writing.


Another writer friend of mine used to do a workshop she called “You can’t edit nothing.” Sometimes we get so caught up in our words being perfect, we end up writing nothing new. We keep going over what we have and tweaking. We are so concerned about being perfect, we end up writing nothing. But, as my friend says, you can’t edit nothing – so just write. Don’t worry about perfection, coherence, repetitive stuff, or even things like character development and plot. Just write. Let the words flow. You can edit later.


Besides the mechanics of writing, there is also the enthusiasm - enjoying what you are doing. Sometimes we lose that and finding it again can be even more elusive. There are a few ways I find to overcome this. For me, one helper when I’m part way into a project, is to send the partial manuscript to my Kindle. Then I fix myself a cup or tea, get comfy and just start reading. When I read all the way to where I stalled I always discover a half a dozen new ideas scrambling in my head to get added to the story.


Another option is to discuss my story, or the problem I’m having with a willing friend. That friend doesn’t have to be a writer so long as they are willing to listen. In telling it to someone else I catch the excitement again and often, in telling it out loud, discover the problem that was keeping me from moving forward. And as a bonus, the friend often has ideas to add to my thoughts.


And then there is brainstorming with my critique partner or group of writer friends. For me, it’s a four-writer group we named the Sandy Scribblers and we meet once a month. Used to be face to face in a library, but due to Covid turned into a Zoom meeting (which has the advantage of not having to go anywhere, get comfy in your own chair, have a snack or wear your Pjs.) Bouncing my stalled plot against this group is a sure-fire way to get going again. We are a very mixed group in what we write and the ideas and comments come from everywhere. Not that I end up using all the possibilities, but this kind of give and take gets the creative juices fired up.


If, after trying all these avenues, my brain is still stuck, my best advice is to put that manuscript to bed, at least for a while. Try something totally different. I often have some notes I scribbled at some point about an idea I had while I were busy with another book. I dig them out and take them for a walk. A physical walk. I read my scribbled thoughts, then go for a walk and let the ideas bob around in my brain. Sometimes whole scenes will crowd into my head and I can’t wait to get home and get them typed up before I forget them. I can backtrack and do character studies and plotting later, once I’m fired up about this new project. You might have a book you wrote that was intended as a one-off but readers have asked if there will be a sequel. Think about it. Is there anywhere a sequel can go? Are there characters you could bring to the front of a follow-on?


Last, but definitely not least, sign up for a workshop or a conference. Go to a regular local writer’s meeting and take notes as the speaker digs into the topic of the day. I guarantee you will come home energized with ideas and a desire to get that butt into the chair and start writing again, whether it was the project you stalled out on or something entirely new.


Now you can hop on over and check out the rest of the Blog Hopping Crew for hints on how to get moving again: (Thanks to Marci Baun for our new logo.)

Dr. Bob Rich             

Anne Graham           

Connie Vines            

Diane Bator             

A.J.  Maguire                       

Victoria  Chatham      

Fiona McGier   

Marci Baun       


Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 12:02 am   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
Lots of good ideas there for unblocking the writer, Skye. I use most of them, except for conferences. But my main tool is "Little Bob" who does the writing while I do other things. When I wrote that post, I remember you said you also had a Little Skye. :) Bob
Posted by Bob Rich on 01/21/2023 - 03:14 AM
I also keep smaller goals as a means of encouragement. Honestly, if the manuscript was opened and I got 100 words down, that's progress. It doesn't mean I haven't been 'writing' because my brain has been crunching down on that plot all day.
Posted by Aimee Mann on 01/21/2023 - 09:22 AM
I also have a group of good writer friends to bounce ideas off and that works both ways. After one trip to Calgary and back, she came up with an idea for mystery series simply by us trading ideas on a character's name and deciding she should be a detective! Once you have voiced or written down an idea, it seems easier to bring it into the world.
Posted by Victoria Chatham on 01/23/2023 - 07:03 PM
RE: you can't edit nothing. As an English teacher for the past 40 years, with a special emphasis on writing, I figured out years ago how to describe it to students so they remember the process. I call it, "Barf it out quickly, clean it up later." No one can reach into your brain and pull your ideas out, but anyone can help edit once you have some words out. In the 70's we called that "free writing." I'd make students write for the first 5 minutes of every class, to a topic I wrote on the board. Some just wrote over and over, "This is so dumb. I have nothing to say on this subject." But at least they were writing and expressing themselves, right? LOL. Some great tips in your blog.
Posted by Fiona McGier on 01/24/2023 - 07:02 PM
Hi Skye, What a smashing post. It's almost a workshop on its own. I so recognise the point about not being able to edit an empty page. Almost the best advice anyone can hear!
Posted by anne stenhouse on 01/26/2023 - 06:13 AM

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    Skye Taylor
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