If You Can’t Get Started: An Encouraging Words Episode
Since it's barely past the beginning of the year, I figure some people are having challenges in getting back into their writing on a regular basis. I know I've had some challenges trying to get my head out of vacation mode! So I came up with some ideas that might help you. I took my own advice and got a little more writing done this week! I hope you do too!
Welcome to Write Now Workshop Podcast, where you can write a book and change the world, I'm your host, Kitty Bucholtz, and this is episode 233, “If You Can't Get Started,” an Encouraging Words episode coming to you on Sunday, February 7th, 2021. Some days start out great and end great. And they were pretty freaking good all the way through. And those are the best days. My experience is not that those are the most common days though.
There's often something that's just like, oh, I forgot that I had to do this thing, or crap, I didn't know I had to do this thing, or I did this thing and it didn't work and now it's broken and now I have to fix it. Or, like, there's lots of things, at least in my days, where I'm just like, seriously, seriously. I just wanted a day, I just wanted one day where everything is going really smoothly.
And when I get one of those days, I'm like, this is the best! But I'm spoiled, and then I want more and I get irritated when I have days where it isn't, you know, kind of tulips and roses and unicorns all the way through.
Okay, but on days like that, like, am I doing a lot of writing? The thing is, is that the days that I'm having the perfect day and the days that I'm having kind of crap days, I'm not necessarily getting a significantly different number of words down. So what are we doing? Like, what's happening in our brains? I can't really comment on the brains thing right this second, because that is not any research that I did on this particular topic.
But you know how some days start out difficult and then they get better. And thank goodness, that's always a good thing. I'm not sure, I think for me it's harder when the day starts out really well and then it gets difficult and stays difficult until I go to bed. And then all I can think about is, please let this day be over and I can go to sleep and forget about it and wake up and it'll be a new day. That actually happened to me yesterday.
I don't know. It was just a very not awesome day. Wasn't a crap day, but it was worse than “meh.” And, you know, sometimes it's just hard to to get writing. And sometimes it's like a whole long time, a whole lot of things that happened in a row.
And, you know, all of us can very quickly come up with a whole bunch of things where we're like, yeah, like this or this or this. So what do we do when we just need to kind of force ourselves back into writing without necessarily using the word “force?” So I'm always trying to think of a way to ease myself back in in a way that makes me cheerful and happy again and just excited and wanting to do it. So how do I get that excitement going?
Sometimes, sometimes it's just a matter of showing up. Some people say once you sit down and put your fingers on the keyboard and your document is open in front of you, like that's 90 percent of the battle. So butt in chair. Sometimes you can't even get that far. So what do you do? Well, in my Sydney writers group, so I have writer friends all around the world because I've moved so many times. And in my Sydney writers group, one of my friends was just like, I'm not getting anything accomplished and I just, I got nothing. I can't even get myself to want to do more. And so we were like, OK, you know what? Just show up to the accountability call. Like, don't have a plan for anything that you'll be able to say, oh, at least I got this done this last week or this is my plan for next week. Like, have no plan, just show up for the call. Listen to us, be excited, like, get the energy of hanging out with us and then just let that be enough.
That will be the goal that you accomplish this week. And she did. And the next week she's like, OK, you know, I have a goal. I'm going to do this this week. And I think she started just, she got over it somehow. You know, part of it is the showing up. So that might be something that whether it is, you know, calling one of your writing besties or getting on a Zoom call with somebody or just showing up in front of your computer, one of those things might be helping.
All right. What about if it's been a really long time, you barely can remember what you are writing because it's been so long since you were able to get yourself going. This might be something that's happened with you. With like this episode is the first one for February. The Encouraging Words episodes come out the first Sunday of every month. So here in February, there are times when I'm like, OK, so in November I got consumed by the beginning of holiday things, particularly if I was in the US or in touch a lot with people in the US.
And then it's Christmas and then pretty much December is all Christmas. And then January is figuring out, OK, I just had this really great vacation, now I don't know what I'm doing. And sometimes it can be February before I'm like, OK, seriously, I need to figure out what I'm doing and where I'm going. But now it's been since November that I even looked at my file. Thankfully, that has not been my problem this particular year, but it has been my problem in the past.
And so what have I done? For me one of the things that has worked is just tell yourself you're going to sit down, open the document and just reread it. Just remind yourself what the story was about. Remind yourself of how excited you were to write it. And you know what? If the excitement isn't there, then I don't know. I'm not a big fan of telling you to stop in the middle of one book and start another, because I think that's an excellent recipe for never finishing a book.
But sometimes, sometimes you need to stop writing one book and work on something else. But I think a lot of times you just need to reread what you had already written, get yourself back into the excitement of what you had been doing, and then you'll start naturally noticing that you're like, OK, you know what? I just thought of something. This is a scene I want to write or this is this. You could write some notes or you could just start writing.
That might be all it takes for you to get kind of jumpstarted back into it. Now, if it's been just since yesterday or last week, which is more normal for me right now, I've had like a pretty good run of months of being pretty regular with writing. I think I've told you many times before, I'm not personally a “write every day” person. I'm more of a write a certain amount each week and it doesn't really matter to me if it's two or three days or one day or every day.
I have an idea of what I want to get accomplished in a week, but I'm not really a write every day kind of person. There's not very many things that I do every single day.
Get out of bed, eat, kiss my husband. But I don't know, there's just something in my personality. I like my days to be kind of a little bit different. So if it's just been since yesterday or since last week, since I was working on my story, but again, I'm like, OK, I need to figure out how to get myself back into it, because right this minute, like, my mind isn't really in it.
My heart isn't really in it. I have like this thirty minute chunk that I kind of am squeezing in between two other things. And I just need to hurry and get into it. A lot of times for me, the best thing I could do is just go lie down on the bed or the couch or whatever, or sit in a very comfortable chair, close my eyes and just sort of re-watch the movie of the story in my mind again.
That's how I see the story happening. Like, I literally can see it happening. I see the people moving around and doing the things and saying the things. And it usually takes me very little time before I'm like, oh my gosh, yes. That's one of the things that I wanted to put in it. But I haven't written that part yet, so maybe I should just get up and go write that part and then I'm feeling very, very happy.
So that's something that you could try if you haven't. This doesn't work for me, but it works for a lot of people. So I wanted to mention it, take a walk and think about it or go for a walk with somebody else and talk to them about either your story in general or the particular area that you're working on or just the particular area that you happen to be thinking about right this second. This works great for my husband.
He's like, can we go for a walk and can I do all the talking? Which he never says, except for when he is working on a story that he's like, I need to figure out this thing. So that is a possibility. I tend to be like, oh, wow, blue sky, fresh air or snow or, you know, whatever. I'm looking at everything around me and I can't keep my mind on my story when I go for a walk.
So it may or may not work for you, but it might be one of the things that you're like, oh yeah, I forgot. I've done that before and it does work for me. Make a mental list of all the things that you love about the story. Sometimes you're just in one of those moods like, oh, I'm just my day is not going well. I'm not in the mood for anything. I'm just kind of irritated with the world.
So if you can just stop for a second and go, OK, what are the some of the things I love about my story? I love this story because I love the characters. I love the story because it's book two in the series and I loved book one. I really, really, really thought Book one was the best book I've written so far, which is good because I'm always trying to make it a goal to have each book be the best book I've written so far.
And for me that happened. So I can be like, oh yeah, that that made me really happy that that happened this time. I love the characters. I love the setting. What else do I love? And I'll just keep going until I can think of like at least ten things from like, oh yeah. I love the way like Tabitha is so like loyal to her dead husband and she loves him so much and she doesn't want to let go of it.
On the other hand, she's very young, her children are very young, there's no reason for her to spend the rest of her life alone. She knows in her head that she needs to find some way to move past being the grieving widow, but she's not really sure how she's going to do it. And then I'm just sitting there thinking about Tabatha going, oh, Tabatha, I want to help you.
Right this second. Tabitha, I don't have an idea. I have a few ideas. I know who you're going to end up with. But how do I help you get past this? What seems like a colossal hill, this this obstacle that just seems too big.
And then I'll just be thinking about it and being like, oh, I really want to help Tabitha. When these things are just you're like, no, this is not I am just not in a writing mood. I am not in a creative mood. I am just not in the mood. But you're thinking but I still need to do something to just sort of like keep up. You don't want to let a whole bunch of days become a whole bunch of weeks, become a whole bunch of months of you not working on your book.
So what else could you do? Maybe you could draw. I don't know what, maybe just doodle, whatever it is that you do, maybe paint if you paint, maybe put a puzzle together, if that's something that you do. Think of something else creative that you like to do, fiddle around on your guitar, your keyboard or piano or whatever you've got musically, braid your daughter's hair, color your hair with something really weird and interesting.
I've always kind of wanted to have like a blue streak or a pink streak, but never really had the the courage to do it. And also, I live with someone who would have to look at my hair every day more than me. So I've never quite given myself, like, that kind of direction. But Tabitha has a pink streak in her hair. So I'm like, woo-hoo, I get to live vicariously through her!
Anyway, do something else creative. And maybe it's something that while you're doing it, you can also be sort of in the back of your mind thinking about your story. And that might help jumpstart things, too.
And then one of the other things that kind of fits with butt-in-chair and will keep you from staring at the blank screen with the blinking cursor is in a different document so that you don't think to yourself, wow, that was really, really good. I'm going to add it to my book because sometimes that's just — a lot of times, let me just say, it's a bad idea. But writing a journal entry from one of your character's perspective or writing some of the back story of one of your characters, or like if you're having a really bad day, you could have a conversation with your character where they're either, you know, taking this side or that side or whatever and whatever the the thing in your day was.
And you can just be talking to them. So there's all sorts of just like other things that you could be writing with your characters in it, they can just kind of get you back into that interest and flow and make you feel like, oh, yeah, you know what, I got to close this document and open the actual book document. Well, hopefully you already did. But and because, like, now I'm totally into it. So those are just a few of the ideas that came to mind very quickly.
And hopefully it will give you more ideas about things that you're like, oh, I've done this. And that worked well for me. Or I've done that. Or my my writing critique partner, you know, does this. I should try that. I forgot that. I told her that that was a great idea. I think I'm going to try it.
So there's my ideas for getting you back on track again. If you have had some reason why you got stopped up, even if it was only for a day. Like I said, I just had a really bad day yesterday and didn't want to do anything. But then after thinking about a whole bunch of things about my characters, not even really about the story, then today I was like, oh yeah, I totally want to write because like now I have, like, the happiness of my characters in my head and how much I want to help them with their problems.
So those are my encouraging words for this month. I hope it is really helpful. I hope that you will think about all the other things that you've already done that have worked for you in the past and some of the things that you've read about or been told about from other people that you know or or people from books or whatever who have also had ideas that you're like, oh, yeah, I just thought of this and this and this.
And remember that also, one of the best things that you can do is share some ideas with one of your friends who's a little stuck right now, who hasn't been writing for weeks or months, just like some little nudge, doing something fun, having a Zoom writing sprint. There's so many things that you can do together that will just add to the positive energy in the air, and it tends to really come out well in the creativity of the writing process.
So there you go. I hope it's encouraging. I hope you have a fantastic week, a fantastic month. And remember, we have another fantastic episode coming up with Jennifer Deibel, I think I'm saying — no, I think it's Deibel. Jennifer Deibel. Sorry, sometimes I read somebody's last name and I'm like, I know they told me how to say this, but now I'm not really sure if I remember right.
Anyway, she is a first time novelist and a teacher. So we were talking a lot about, you know, the difference between, you know what, I'm going to save it. Come back and listen to the conversation with Jennifer on Thursday and have an excellent writing week and a great writing month. Talk to you later.