Getting Back In the Swing

Girl on a swingHave you ever noticed how hard it is to get back into the swing of something, when you’ve been away from it for a while?  Whether it’s exercise or algebra, if you try coming back to something after a hiatus, it’s almost as if there are cobwebs several inches thick that you have to wade through in order to get up to speed again.

For me, it’s been writing.  Aside from sticking with this weekly blog, I didn’t do much writing for the month of March, due to the gallery showing.  There’s a part of me that tries to harp and berate myself for not sticking to my new year’s resolution, while another part of me is nicer and more nurturing, softening the blow of the inner critic.  That critic calls the photo exhibit an excuse, while the nurturer asks “Is it an excuse if it’s a justifiable reason?”

While that debate rolls around in my head, I have to deal with the fact that I now have that time back, so that I can focus on my WIPs (Works In Progress) again.  Unfortunately, I find myself slogging through cerebral muck, dragging my feet, and somewhat dreading getting back into it.  Just like someone who hasn’t exercised in months or years fears the initial pain and stiffness of beginning a new workout routine, I seem to be fearing that what I’ll write won’t be good anymore, because there’s been so much lag time.

The WIPs I put on the back burner include a revision of my first full-length manuscript, a first draft of the second in the series (not even halfway written), and a short story involving Tabitha to put on my website; I haven’t posted a short story there since, what, last October?  I also have another short murder story that I’ve been picking my way through since last summer, that’s awaiting further action.

I’ve had plenty of time available recently that could be used for exercising my writer’s muscles, yet I’ve found one excuse after another (these DEFINITELY have been excuses) to keep me from putting pen to paper, as it were.  Since I recognize these excuses for what they are, that seems to give my inner critic full reign to nitpick on my “lack of discipline”, “failure to follow through”, and whatever other negative thoughts it uses to kill my self esteem.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Logically I know that, even if I’d kept writing every day during March, I would’ve had to rewrite and revise anyway.  I’m still a babe in the woods when it comes to being an author.  It’s silly to expect that I’d be able to write a perfect, ready-for-publication first draft.  Heck, there are seasoned vets that still go through multiple revisions.  So why would I suddenly expect anything different, or fear the inevitable rewrites.  Is it simply that secret wish that many authors have to be able to produce something print-worthy with the first draft?

While those questions play around in my head, I think the realist in me knows that I need to just shut off the inner critic and inner philosophizer (or at least, turn their volumes down), roll up my sleeves, and start digging in again.  I need to accept and make peace with the fact that the first few words, or pages, might seem very slow to come, but at least they’d be there.  My resolution was to write at least one page a day.  Even if it’s drivel, it’s doable.  Plus, chances are that it’s not drivel, that there will be some kernels of good material in there that just need to be polished and spit-shined.  A better turn of phrase, or more succinct wording often make themselves known in the revision stage.

Since my short story for Tabitha is nearly done, I think I’ll tackle that one first.  I’ve already written the last sentence in the story, I just need to connect where I left off to that sentence.  I’ve even got a clear idea of how I’ll do it, it’s just a matter of turning the ol’ mental crank and revving that engine until all the smoke and cobwebs have cleared.  Then I can go back later and make it all prettified.  😀

What’s  your method for getting back in the swing when you’ve been away from the playground for so long.  (My sincere apologies for the multitude of analogies . . . I did say there were a bunch of cobwebs and muck to wade through.)


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mysti Berry
    Apr 15, 2011 @ 11:04:35

    Sometimes, deadlines start feeling like obligations and can drain the fun out of writing–as can the middle-stage of learning, when one is trying to acquire good rules-of-thumb, understand story structure and all the intellectual stuff that one may do. So sometimes, just giving myself an hour to write anything I want gets me jazzed again…

    If it’s been a longish stretch, I ask myself “Do I want to give up writing?” If the answer is still no, then I try to make the shortest possible dates with myself–just 15 minutes (same trick to get me to the gym). Also, my husband the fencing instructor taught me the power of “it’s okay, you don’t have to WANT to do it, but you do have to DO it anyway.”

    From dieting, I’ve learned to not try to get to 60 MPH from a standing start. If I’ve been away a month, then I promise myself “two days next week,” and when I can do that, then do more. Like working out, frequency first, then duration, then intensity.

    That said, I’ve lost a whole week to starting gym again. So it’s time to sit down and write. I’ll be there tomorrow after swimming class, will be thinking of you!!!

    I think I’m going to have to make appts on the calendar or something to get my good writing rhythm back.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Apr 15, 2011 @ 11:12:18

      I didn’t know your husband was a fencing instructor…how cool!

      I like the idea of easing into things again, Mysti. Now, I just gotta tell my inner critic that easing in is better than letting go completely. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, & good luck on starting your balls rolling too!


  2. Maddy
    Apr 15, 2011 @ 11:40:54

    For me it’s been a case of a dose of flu gradually moving through every member of the family [all 8] which has meant I’ve spent my time to and from the doctor and the pharmacy.

    However on a practical level I found the best thing to keep me on track is to join a critique group – I’m in two. The larger group meets once a month and the smaller group every fortnight [2 weeks] This helps in so many different ways – the camaraderie – everyone’s in the same boat – inspirational – seeing what other people are writing and trying to critique in a positive and helpful manner etc.

    If this option is of interest to you, I remember that Becky Levine was trying to connect up people with similar interests / geographically closer, so you might want to drop her a line.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Apr 15, 2011 @ 11:47:27

      You know, you’re the second person I’ve seen recently talk about the benefits of a critique group keeping you on track. Maybe I will contact Becky.

      Thanks much, Maddy! I hope your family are all better now.


  3. Dana
    Apr 15, 2011 @ 12:40:07

    Sigh. I’ve been experiencing the same problem, Alyx, on revisions for one book and another that is due on October. And I just have been crawling along… Mysti’s statement: “From dieting, I’ve learned to not try to get to 60 MPH from a standing start. If I’ve been away a month, then I promise myself “two days next week,” and when I can do that, then do more. Like working out, frequency first, then duration, then intensity.” really hit home for me… because I get SO angry with myself if I don’t sit down after a long gap of not writing and bust out 5k words in a night. And that’s just self-defeating. It really is just a matter of ass plus seat equals writer… and making sure the TV isn’t on when ass is in the seat. 🙂


    • Alyx Morgan
      Apr 15, 2011 @ 13:38:23

      LOL Ass+Seat=Writer. I’ve heard that many times, & it’s true, unless you use said computer to check email, etc. Then, it’s just as easy a distraction as your TV.

      It’s funny, but I think for many creatively-minded people, the inner critic is our biggest hurdle. But I also wonder if we’d be as driven or good at what we do if we didn’t have that constant mental critique. Personally, I’d like to try it for a while.

      I’m giving you & your critic a HUGE hug to calm her down. 🙂


  4. Emily Allen
    Apr 15, 2011 @ 15:19:34

    What a great topic Alyx. I for one have dealt with this problum in the past. I spent a year not writing after a long illness. What helped me get back to writing was going to my local chapters writing retreat and then it was sitting in my chair and write , no matter what it was.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Apr 15, 2011 @ 22:28:24

      I’ve often thought about writer’s retreats. They sound like they’d be wonderful…I’m just not sure I’d be able to turn my thoughts away from worrying about all the stuff waiting for me back home. Still, even if I only wrote a couple hours out of each day, that would feel like more than I do right now.

      Thanks for stopping by, Emily, & posting your suggestion. 😀


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