Getting Back to writing
As I write this article, I've been sick for a long time. In fact, so sick that I was in bed for
months, but I'm getting well enough to get back to life. Well enough to get back to writing.
This kind of non-fiction as well as my fiction.
Every time I've taken a break from writing though, getting back to it seems almost as hard as
getting through what ever took me away from it. They say once you learn how to ride a bike,
you never forget. That doesn't mean you're likely to go jump back on one either though.
When we take a long break from writing, I don't think we forget how to do
that either, it's the jumping back on, or the jumping back in as it may be,
that gives us the trouble.
I still know how to write and the story I was working on and the one I was
editing are both still alive in my mind, but it's like they are on life-support. Getting them
breathing again, getting me writing again, might take a little CPR and a lot of effort on my part.
Having been through this before, I know there comes a point where you just
have to stop putting it off, set a date and jump in. I started Monday. It
was supposed to be Monday morning, but I had some really important things I
had to handle first. Like, well, there was these dirty clothes in the bathroom, and I found
grime in the kitchen sink. Oh, and Monday's are good days to pay the bills, and who wants to
start writing when you have a backlog of mail in the in box. Then the dogs did kind of need a
bath, and there was....
See, all very important things that couldn't be put off. Right?
Finally I took hold of myself, forced my butt into the computer chair, fought with my hand to
keep it from opening up my e-mail program, and made it open the file that held my incomplete
manuscript instead -- and then stared at it for a good fifteen minutes as my brain rebelled and
other things tried to call me away.
After that, I began by reading over the last chapter I had written. Funny how I recalled some
of it so well and wondered if someone else had written other parts of it while I had been
away. I had to resist the urge to go back to page one and read the whole story away. I need
to do that I'm sure, but I needed to write first. In the end, before I closed the file, I wrote two
pages. Yes, two pages, that's it. Those were two very hard pages to write. It felt like trying to
get ice out of a cactus.
The next day, I found more non-writing things to do, even after I had done the things that
really did have to be done. I also didn't feel very well on top of it, but I opened that
manuscript a little sooner than the first day, and I did two pages again. The last half a page
was a real push. I had wanted to go up a page and do three, but I knew when it was time to
call it a day and let myself be satisfied with what I had accomplished. The next day, before
noon, I'd already done my two pages, hoped for three again, but didn't make it again.
Thought I might try again later in the day, but didn't get a chance.
Over the next couple of weeks, I was pretty happy with the amount of writing I managed. I did
only get four days in on one of those weeks, instead of the five days a week I had set as my
goal. I had family come in from out of state to spend a few days with us, and it was a holiday
weekend, and hubby's birthday, ect... So, all in all, I think I did pretty well.
I've decided I'm not going to be hard on myself when something big or important comes up
and I miss what should have been a writing day. The same for when I get less pages done in
a day than I think I should have. After all, this is life, and my writing and life have to merge
together. That means there will hopefully be weeks when I write more than the five days and
there will be times when I do a lot more pages in one day than I would expect that I could. It's
going to be a good mixture that will give me a good end result.
Another thing I keep reminding myself is, that for now, I'm in training. At least that's the way I
look at it. My husband runs marathons. The full ones. You know, the 26.2 mile ones! (Bless
his crazy little heart.) He trains for weeks before one. When he starts out, he doesn't run 26.2
miles, or even 13 miles, or eight. He starts small and just keeps building. It's a daily thing for
When I first got where I could get out of bed again, walking through the house left me winded
and feeling like I had been doing one of his workouts. Being up on my feet for more than a
little while left my back feeling like it would break just from holding me up right. I didn't push
myself and go outside and walk for an hour...although I used to walk at least an hour five
days a week. I just kept walking around the house, standing longer, sitting longer. Slow day
after slow day. Now I can walk for thirty minutes or more before I start wearing down. I can
stand up for an hour and half or longer before my back screams enough. I got here, and will
get further, by taking it easy on myself, going at my own speed, and getting back to what
once was my normal, at a comfortable pace for my body.
I'm handling my writing the same way. Right now my goal is to write at least
five days a week. Even if it's only two pages, or even if it's less. I'll keep building, letting my
writing muscles get stronger, and one day I'll be back to where I was. I've never been one of
those writers who can put out twenty pages a day, but on good days I used to be able to pull
ten or so. I will again, if I hang in there and don't give up.
By the way, friends have asked me why I don't just give up. If it's that hard to get back to it,
then why not just call it a day and move on to something else? I've asked myself that before.
Okay, I've screamed that at myself a lot of times.
This is not by far my first long spell away from writing. I didn't write for over a year after I lost
my mother from cancer, for long months after my father died, for months again after we
recovered from hurricane Katrina. One time I just found myself depressed with all of the
rejections and with all the wasted time I had put into my novel writing and gotten no where
with it. Another time I gave up my fiction writing to do freelance non-fiction for a few years so I
could help pay the bills. When I started the freelance work, I thought I could do both, but I
was so drained by the time I finished my deadline and turned in my work each week, there
just was no writing left in me for my fiction.
So, if I've had to fight so many times to get back to my fiction, why keep fighting? I wish I
knew. I've tried to walk away from it a number of times. I really have. The same thing
happens every time though.
Once the bad gets better and I start getting over that black spell of time, whatever it may be,
the characters in my stories won't stay out of my head. I think about my storylines, about my
characters, I plot things out, build in more conflict, map out whole scenes in my mind.
Openings for new stories pop into my thoughts, new characters show up and whisper
something like, "Do you want to know why I fell in love with him?" or "I'll survive just to get my
revenge." or something other intriguing line. The next thing I know, even if I'm not writing, it's
taking up such a big part of my life, that there's just no way to completely give it up.
That means the choice becomes either keeping these stories growing only in
my mind, or sitting back down at the computer, opening up Word, and getting
on with it. It's like one part of me fights getting back to it, but another part fights just as hard
to get back to it, and I'm just caught in the middle and finally have to give in and go with the
stronger part--that writer in me that won't say die. (Wonder if there's a 12-step program out
there for it?)
So, here I go again!
If you've got that stronger writer part in you, and you can't get away from it even when you try
your best. Maybe it's time you give in and start back. Answer that character that won't leave
you alone, that story that keeps plotting itself out even as you try to block it. If I'm brave
enough to give it another go for the I-don't-know-how-manyth time, I know you are. All we
have to do is take one step at a time...or just write one word at a time. One day at a time. The
story you finish this go around might be the one that helps you reach whatever your goal as a
I Wish You Luck! I Wish Us Luck! (Smile)
Charlotte Dillon ~ www.charlottedillon.com
Copyrighted in 2008 by Charlotte Dillon
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