You always dreamed you’d become a writer.
While others imagined themselves putting out fires, administering medicine, or playing guitar in sold-out arenas, you imagined yourself typing away in tiny cafés, scrutinizing dialogue, word choice, and sentence structure.
You saw yourself crafting characters and landscapes out of thin air.
And it felt good, honest, rewarding—everything you wanted in a career.
So, you took the first steps:
- writing blog posts,
- outlining stories,
- writing and editing chapters,
- publishing here and there.
Somehow, however, you lost your way.
It could have been many things:
- financial issues,
- health issues,
- relationship problems,
- family pressures,
- a competing career,
- lack of confidence.
But the reasons don’t matter…
For whatever reason, you stopped writing.
And it’s breaking your spirit, isn’t it?
You want more. You need to create. You long to express yourself.
But it’s been some time, and you’re not sure how or where to begin.
What came naturally before, now seems like a lifetime ago–another you, another planet.
So, how do you find your way back to writing, back to the path you used to enjoy?
Read on to discover how to reclaim your creativity, productivity, and connection with your inner writer.
How to Reconnect with Creativity (3 steps)
Read and Write with Purpose
I’m willing to bet your fascination with writing began with reading.
All it took was an author, a book, a special poem. The author’s words spoke to you. In a matter of minutes, you found yourself transported to another lifetime, another place, another worldview.
And you’ll be the first to admit that the right words, the right author, the right approach to a subject made all the difference.
Conversely, bad writing left you cold, disinterested, annoyed.
Now, you have the opportunity to go back, to relive, to rediscover what made those words work their magic.
The first time around, you read for pleasure. Without thinking or evaluating the words on the page, you enjoyed the experience. Today, you can relive those experiences with new eyes—with discerning eyes.
And I’m not suggesting that you critique these old works, but to look for and make connections.
Find out exactly what’s working, why it’s working on you.
Is it vocabulary, imagery, action?
Is it a feeling?
Find a paragraph or passage that grabs you, a passage that makes you forget you’re reading.
Which passages elicit full immersion?
Read the sentences aloud. Type them into your word processor. Notice the word choice, the word order, the sentence construction. Was there a particular line that pulled you in?
After completing this exercise, write a paragraph of your own—a paragraph from your imagination, a paragraph that feeds your unique interests.
Make a list of books and/or authors that speak to you this way. These examples will become your mentor texts.
Deconstruct and reconstruct the authors’ methods.
And don’t overdo it; make sure you’re enjoying the process. Keep it fun, light, refreshing, rewarding. Start a notebook of these passages.
Allow the process to inspire new characters, new story arcs, new projects.
Change Your Writing Environment
If you haven’t written in a while, this has become a pattern.
And this pattern is supported by many factors: your daily schedule, your daily habits, your daily surroundings.
The best way to shake up your schedule and your habits is to change your environment.
Depending on your specific pattern, this could mean leaving the house more often, staying home more often, or finding a new, safe, productive place to practice your writing.
If you try to incorporate writing in the same environment, you’re likely to return to familiar habits and rituals– the same activities that pulled you away from your writing in the first place.
To find the optimal environment, prepare for some trial and error.
Make a list of places that are both comfortable and novel.
For example, if you’re a homebody, preferring to work at the kitchen table or the family office space, consider venturing out of the home to a café, library, or bookstore. Take your laptop to the park, the pool, or your favorite diner. Don’t be afraid to check out the new spaces in town (or the next town over).
Consider purchasing a membership at your local co-working space.
The point is to break with your routine, to stimulate your senses with new information.
And most importantly, you’ll want to avoid all of the common distractions that occur in your current environment.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be a permanent activity. You want to begin writing again, and once that practice resumes, you can weigh the pros and cons of writing in your current environment.
You may want to create a new space in your home for writing– a clean, inspiring place with minimal distractions. Apply a fresh coat of paint to an attic room or a corner of the garage. Fill this space with objects that calm and inspire, objects that support and reflect your writer identity.
In any case, make this activity fun.
Make this writing time sacred.
And while we’re discussing environment, make sure the people in your environment understand the new rules. You’ll be unavailable in the home or outside the home during your writing time.
Test and evaluate three new settings for writing. Find the one that sparks the most creativity, the one that best supports your writing efforts.
Make your environment a top priority. When you get into a rhythm, you may find that you can write anywhere. For now, however, find a new physical space to facilitate a clean break with your habit of not writing.
Limit Yourself to Increase Creativity
I can only imagine what you’re thinking…
How is limitation going to inspire creativity?
Studies show that constraints can increase creativity.
I witness this daily in the classroom.
Like you, my students are preoccupied. They have their studies, their sports, their friends, their jobs outside of campus. Some have spouses, kids, cars, and mortgages.
Everyone is busy.
The result is a limited bandwith for variables, for “creativity.”
When I started teaching, I took my training to heart, offering students nearly unlimited choices for their essay projects. I was trained to avoid limitations, to give them choices, more agency.
I was stressing them out.
A week before essays were due, I had students lining up to see me during office hours.
“I don’t know what to write about.”
“I was thinking this, but now I think this. I’m so confused.”
“I don’t know where to start.”
Every skill I’d taught them–writing effective thesis statements, introduction strategies, body paragraphs, transitions– went out the window.
Because they had unlimited options, they couldn’t choose.
I’ll bet you’ve had the same experience:
- staring at a dinner menu with dozens of entrees,
- looking at sixty shampoo options in the grocery aisle,
- trying to choose a multivitamin on a shelf with a hundred options.
When I revised my coursework for the following semester, I gave students three thesis options per essay. The line at my office disappeared.
This simple change paid dividends.
My students were more productive, focused, relaxed. My grading time decreased as well. With homogeneous subjects, I didn’t need to spend time on additional research.
Constraints can work miracles.
A few times a year, I conduct keyword research for writing topics. Every time I search, “writing prompts” turns up in the top five results.
So, add some constraints before sitting down to write. Outline your scene for the day. Enlist the help of some writing prompts. Decide on the outcome before writing.
Write Down Your Writing Goals
The first step to reclaiming your writing productivity involves writing down your goals. As I’ve said many times before in other blog posts, you’ll need to focus on smart goals.
Smart goals, referring to the acronym SMART, contain the following elements:
S: Your goals must be highly specific. For example, if your goal is to write a novel, you’ll need to construct a detailed checklist. Your checklist may contain the following items:
- a detailed outline of your book
- a list of chapters and/or scenes
- a commitment to a specific book length
- a commitment to writing a specific amount of words per day
Once you have the specifics in place, you’ll simply go down through your checklist, and tick the boxes as you complete each item.
Vague goals, such as write a book, write more, or write every day, offer little value for long-term success.Vague goals, such as write a book, write more, or write every day, offer little value for long-term success. Click To Tweet
In fact, goals like these will guarantee failure.
So, make sure your goals are highly specific.
M: make sure your goals are measurable.
Often, we rely on intuition were vague criteria as measurement tools.
Focus on goals you can measure. For example, a daily word count is something you can measure. Writing “better” or “more often” is going to create problems.
One of the bonuses of creating measurable goals is being able to track your progress in real time. Each day that meet or exceed your word count, you’ll be able to see it in print. Witnessing your progress on paper will increase your motivation, helping you move forward when the process becomes challenging.
So, reduce your goals to measurable chunks, and record your progress.
A: The A stands for achievable.
Too often, we set unrealistic goals, thinking they’ll motivate us to take consistent action. In reality, the opposite happens.
After a few days or weeks of Herculean efforts, you’ll become overwhelmed with the pressures of performing at this level. You’ll experience burnout, feeling the need to take time off to recharge, to find balance.
This is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, make your specific, daily, measurable tasks easy to achieve. Everything you accomplish beyond this practical level will feel like bonus points, increasing your energy and drive to succeed.
You may want to take your desired activity level and reduce it by ten or twenty percent to arrive at a truly achievable benchmark. We tend to overestimate what we can achieve consistently.You may want to take your desired activity level and reduce it by ten or twenty percent to arrive at a truly achievable benchmark. We tend to overestimate what we can achieve consistently. Click To Tweet
Over time, you can adjust levels up or down to work at maximum efficiency.
R: Make sure your goals are relevant to your end goal.
Relevance is rarely discussed in effective goal setting. We assume every/any goal is important. It’s easy to get caught up in goal-related activities that do little or nothing to propel us forward.
You could end up creating too many goals or goals that are currently incompatible with your long-term goal.
For example, if your goal is to write a novel, you may think meditating for an hour each day will guarantee progress. You tell yourself the daily meditation goal will motivate you and spark creativity.
This activity may have nothing to do with your success as a writer. Depending on when you schedule it, it may work against your ultimate goal. After meditating, it may take an hour or more to feel ready for writing.
I’m not trying to denigrate meditation. I practice it myself. But I’d be careful about setting priorities.
Consider adding the meditation as a reward—after you’ve nailed your daily word count.
Ask yourself which goal is most important (now and over the course of the next year) and whether the goals you’re choosing are compatible.
Finally, ask yourself whether the goal itself is truly important to you. Does it align with your beliefs and values? Is it worthy of your time and attention? What larger goal does it support?
T: The T in SMART goals stands for time bound.
To be effective, your goals must have time constraints.
Think about it. You could take ten years to write your book. You could take twenty…
If you’re like me, however, you’d prefer completing your book in under a year.
To create effective goals, decide on a start and end date.
While you’re at it, break each part of your goal into a daily activity, something you can measure and evaluate for adequate progress.
Caution: To Begin Writing Again, Be Willing to Take Baby Steps
After discussing SMART goals, many people feel like crafting ambitious, lofty goals.
Not so fast…
If you want to resume writing and make it a habit, consider starting small—taking baby steps.
After spending considerable time away from the page, the last thing you want to do is overwhelm yourself.
Ease into writing. Write a short poem, a haiku.
Write a paragraph or two, to remind yourself you can do it.
Increase your word count and time commitments in small increments.
Heaping on the pressure with a 1000-words-per-day goal looks good on paper.
In practice, it will tax your
Make Yourself Accountable
All the good intentions, creative genius, and planning in the world will amount to nothing if you don’t hold yourself accountable.
This may have been one of the more tangible reasons why you stopped writing. Without accountability, you’re bound to lose your way, caving in to daily distractions.
Life will always present challenges, demanding more of your time and attention than you’d like to give.
The key is holding yourself responsible on a daily basis.
If you haven’t done so already, buy a calendar for your writing practice; put a check mark in the corner for every day that you meet your writing goals.
While you’re at it, track and record each win, each challenge, each inspiring idea that comes your way. You may want to do this at the beginning or end of your day. You’ll begin looking forward to this centering time, to evaluate your progress, to take note of what’s working and not working.
Accountability also implies consequences.
In other words, if you skip a day, add it to the next day’s word count. If that adds too much stress, divide the missed word count by three, and make it up over the next few days.
Studies suggest that it takes 30 days to adopt a new habit.
After four or five weeks, your writing practice will become automatic, and you’ll begin to look forward to this time. You’ll feel bad when you skip more than a day or two.
The best part? You’ll begin to see results—real results: scenes, chapters, the first draft of a new novel!
Start Keeping a Journal
Keeping a journal is one of the easiest ways to begin writing again. It doesn’t require research, equipment, or creative inspiration. Chronicling your thoughts and activities takes little time, and it brings you back to the page.
All you need is a blank word processing document or a sheet of paper.
Julia Cameron, creator of “The Author’s Way,” recommends daily “morning pages.” Every morning, she recommends writing three stream-of-consciousness pages without editing. She considers this a vital part of a writer’s practice.
Like the morning pages, keeping a journal provides you with daily exercise. Over time, this practice will become a natural, welcome part of your day.
And there are other benefits, too:
- Journaling will help you organize your thoughts.
- Journaling will help you realize progress.
- Over time, you’ll begin to make connections and recognize themes, producing viable material for memoir projects or creative nonfiction.
Most importantly, this easy activity will get you writing again.
So, pick up a notebook, and pick a daily time slot to begin writing your journal.
Create a Ritual for Your Writing Time
Too often, we associate writing with hard work.
While this is often the case, you can certainly find ways to make the experience fun and rewarding.
The key is creating new neuro-associations. In other words, you’re going to find ways to link writing with pleasure.
First, find an appealing place to write.
After settling on an appropriate place, add your favorite sensory elements:
- your favorite cup of tea,
- a favorite snack,
- a scented candle,
- soothing classical or instrumental music.
Each day, when you hear the special music, when you feel the warmth from the cup of your favorite peppermint tea, you’ll know it’s time to write. Your brain will link these sights, sounds, and aromas with writing. And your writing time will feel comfortable, special, rewarding.
Keep in mind, many seasoned writers will discount the value of rituals—preferring the “butt-in-chair” method for productivity.
You, however, are starting anew, looking for ways to get started, for ways to construct a reliable writing habit.
When a big-five publisher picks up your novel, you can dispense with the candles and let deadlines provide the motivation. 😊
So, be kind to yourself.
Create a rich, enjoyable, ritual for writing.
Take a Writing Course or a Writer Workshop
Depending on your budget, your personality type, or your time commitments, you may want to consider taking a course.
Check your local community college for credit and noncredit writing courses. The financial outlay and time commitment may help you stay focused and accountable.
No one likes to waste money, so a formal course could provide the perfect motivation to resume writing.
Traditional, structured courses provide multiple benefits:
- They have beginnings and endings.
- You can work your way up through increasing levels of expertise.
- They provide an expert to help guide and evaluate your progress.
- You’ll have access to a peer group for support and motivation.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to settle for the traditional classroom, either.
Thanks to technology, you can take writing courses from the comfort of your home. Many are open ended, asynchronous courses, allowing you to work at your own pace.
Check the newspaper, community magazines, and online communities such as Craigslist to find free and paid writing workshops in your local area.
If a course or a workshop doesn’t appeal to you, consider a workbook with exercises. Give yourself a reasonable timeframe to complete the exercises.
And if you’re willing to do some research, you can find dozens of writing courses from independent websites.
Join a Facebook or Reddit group for writers, and ask for recommendations.
How did you reclaim your passion for writing?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.