Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How to Get Back Into the Writing Groove

Lately, my advice posts have fell a bit to the way-side. Mainly, I blame a bit of a writer's burn-out that I suffered from since mid-November.

It's hard enough to write a thoughtful, useful post without feeling like I'm sipping yogurt through a thin straw. (Don't know what I mean? Try it sometime. The feeling compares remarkably well to writing while burned out.)

The only thing I advise people to do when burned out is to rest. But what to do when the burn-out is gone and you just can't get into the writing groove again? 

Oh, I'm glad you asked. 

I know that everyone is different, but I've found that the following steps work for me: 

Step 1: Find a big enough stick. 

I'm serious. Resting during a burn-out is all about spoiling ourselves rotten and doing all those things we usually do to procrastinate without feeling guilty about it. This is a good thing in its time, but now that time is over. But why promise yourself a reward when you're already in the zone of instant gratification? 

It just won't work. So find what will really make yourself feel crap if you don't do it within a certain time, and commit to it now. I picked saying yes to two anthologies and setting up a book for pre-order. 

Of the two, the pre-order thing is worse. I like having the pre-order option. And Amazon will take that option away for a year if I don't submit the finished work in time. See? Pretty big stick. 

And already, I've started making sure that I'll have everything done. Just make sure that the big stick won't be falling too soon. You've got to be reasonable. Setting something up for pre-orders a week from now isn't reasonable unless you were close to done to begin with. 

Step 2: Get into the habit of delayed gratification.

You used to do this before. It's not so hard. Say: "Yes, I want to watch TV, but first I need to finish this chapter."

This is a tricky thing to do, because the excuses are a dime a dozen. But if you want to get that book done, you need to say: "Later." to everything that isn't finishing your book. 

Except, you know, your family needing your attention or something like that. Family is important. Writing is important. Sometimes, friends are important. TV.... not so much. 

And be careful of the social networking you "need" to do. Not that important either. 

Step 3: Find a nice, juicy carrot. 

That's the nice thing about delayed gratification. Telling yourself you'll do something after finishing a chapter means that you'll want to finish that chapter even if it's only to get to a guilt-free session of that other thing. 

I go a bit bigger, though. I've promised myself something really nice and expensive if I publish my book on time. Actually, that was a new laptop, but the old one broke. So I'm going to have to think of something else. 

I'll probably feed my addiction to pretty notebooks. (NOTE: if you're ever a die-hard fan that wants to send me stuff for Christmas or my birthday... NOTEBOOKS. The beautiful hard-cover kinds with the high quality paper.) 

In the short term, I promised myself a decadent chocolate and banana smoothie once I've finished this post. 

Step 4: Actually write, nitwit. 

You know? It's kind of important. 

And that's pretty much it. Simple, right? 

How do you get back into the writing groove after a long break? 

Back to the subject of putting books on pre-order. I'll be putting Endless up on Amazon this weekend. It's already up on B&N, Kobo and Apple. In the meantime, though, I'm looking for people who'd like to help me spread the word in May after the launch. If you're interested, please click here. Thanks! You're awesome.


  1. 'Sipping yogurt through a straw...' Yup, I get it. You make a great point about getting used to delayed gratification again. I've been in that mode for a month, trying to jump start my current manuscript. I think I'm just about to take that important corner, though.

  2. "Actually write, nitwit." Ha! If only telling that to myself actually worked. I've been in a writing rut forever. I like the idea of delayed gratification. I always watch TV or do other things when I should be writing.

  3. I like number four!
    That pre-order thing is a a lot of pressure.

  4. That last one is the hardest for me. =) Actually, I have a book almost ready to go--right on the verge--but it seems like I can never get to it. Maybe if I put it up for preorder... Of course, we just said goodbye to house guests and have two more sets coming in the next month, so that might be part of the problem...

  5. I am off to look for a carrot! ;)

  6. Step 4 is perfect. The other three are pretty great, too. I don't know that I would dare to do the pre-order thing. That is impressively bold.

    Best of luck to you!!

    (And I think I signed up for the Endless promo experience, but if I didn't, email me and I'll correct that oversight right away.)

  7. Love this! I just have to sit my butt down and write. It will start flowing once I actually make myself do it. And I'm getting better at delayed gratification.

  8. lol actually have to write indeed. Good to have that stick.

  9. Great tips! What I need is some sort of external motivation (a stick!). Something to impose a deadline on all the editing I need to do...

  10. Perfect post! am I getting back in the grove??? I'm trying, I'm trying. Your tips might just help :)

  11. #4 ... I love it. :)

    At least you have useful stuff to deliver. I'm not useful.

    Congrats on Endless! Looking forward to it!

  12. I find that working on a different project if I feel burned out about my main project will sometimes get me back in the habit. Or reading a book in the same genre as what I'm writing makes me want to write.

    I just caught up on your last post, and I like your cover a whole lot! Congrats on your upcoming book!

  13. I find 4 does work. It's all too easy to decide we can't write today and not even bother opening the document and having a go.

  14. No pre-order? That is a big stick.

    #4 is what it all comes down to.

  15. Sticks and carrots are useful. When I'm really dragging, I punish myself by setting a deadline with my editor.

  16. "Actually write..." best advice ever:)

  17. Great advice! For me, I just can't NOT write for long. It helps I have deadlines. Doesn't matter if I don't want to write. I don't have a chose.

  18. Hi Misha,

    Thanks for the shot in the arm... It is TIME for me to start writing again .... it has been WAY TOO LONG!

  19. I find it helps to pick a scene that really catches my attention to get started on. It helps that my writing process is a bit haphazard, not linear from start to finish, so I'm always hopping ahead to bits that I want to write, then coming back to fill in the gaps :)

  20. I don't write books but I do set aside time for writing, sometimes I get behind and I love your suggestions... we do need to take some time for ourselves but writing is important as well... and much more important than TV :)

  21. When I want to get back into the groove, I start reading my story from the beginning, and that always gets me back into it. Nice, juicy carrots help, too. And #4. :)


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