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How to Re-Enter the Craft

by S. A. Crawford about a month ago in advice

10 Easy Ways to Get Back into Your Writing Flow

Image: Magda Ehlers, Pexels

Every writer has periods where the craft falls by the wayside for one reason or another. Mental health issues, family commitments, work, and even a simple loss of enthusiasm or inspiration - all of these things can cause writers to put down the pen for a while. After this kind of hiatus, it is common to find that your writing skills have become a bit rusty - the average pace of writing may have slowed, and more complex scenes could be clunky or awkwardly written as you try to readjust and get your writer brain moving again.

Oiling the proverbial gears and hinges of your brain and getting the words flowing again can be tough, especially the first time you experience a hiatus or writing drought. While every person is different, there are some simple things that are generally effective at helping writers to get back into the swing of things.

10 Ways to Get Your Writer Brain Back in Gear

The brain is very much a muscle (despite being mostly jelly, electricity, and water), so when you use it to do something complex, like writing fiction, it needs practice to build its strength. Writing is such a brain-intensive activity, in fact, that writing therapy can be used for those who have suffered brain damage as a result of trauma, illness, or accidents.

So, it makes sense that trying to dive back into complex world-building and fiction writing after months on hiatus could prove challenging. These simple steps could help to stretch out those brain muscles and get you started once more:

1) Brain Storm

An oldie but a goodie, as my gran would say, and definitely a cliche for a reason - brainstorming ideas is one of the first things I do when trying to get out of a rut. Pen on paper and a collection of gel pens, felt tips, and highlighters to make any schoolgirl proud generally helps, too, because even if inspiration doesn't strike, I get to be a little creative.

Sometimes that's the first step - find some way to be creative, any way at all. Sometimes I even scrapbook or make mood boards - not only does this lift my own mood, but it also gives a creative outlet when the writing-centred part of my brain isn't firing on all cylinders.

2) Freewrite

Freewriting is a wonderful way to simply get used to the mechanics of forming sentences and getting them out onto the page once more. It could also help you to figure out what precisely is making it so hard for you to write.

There's a reason that freewriting is often used as therapy for those with trauma and mental health issues, after all - it can be a very useful way to order your thoughts and expose otherwise hidden issues.

3) Read Your Own Work

Depending on your opinion of your skills this could either be pleasantly surprising or a bit of a shock to you, but either way, I find it incredibly helpful. Read more than one piece - when you find parts you like, be sure to take note of what you like, and when you don't like what you've written ask yourself what you could have done differently.

When I have one of those moments, I re-write the work to fix the issues I see - this can help to get the juices flowing again.

4) Re-Read Old Favourites

Reading the books that made you want to write in the first place is always a good feeling (in my experience). If it's been a while since you read them you may find that you see them in a new light with some writing experience under your belt.

Pop some sticky notes on the pages that really strike you so that you can revisit them later and think about just what makes them so enticing to you.

5) Write Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is incredibly challenging to do well, but inherently accessible thanks to its dinky word count. Have a go at a short piece or two to get ideas flowing without the need for complex plotting!

6) Talk Through Plots

They say that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness, but that's not always true! Talking to yourself, or more precisely telling yourself a story, can really help in clearing away writers' block and illuminating issues in the story.

Don't be afraid to ask yourself questions, either!

7) Make Use of Writing Prompts

Writing prompts can be a life-saver when dealing with writer's block or general rustiness. For best effect, I like to take a prompt and write with pen and paper as if it is a part of a creative writing exam or test - thinking on my mental feet often does more to work out the stiffness and kinks in my writing than anything else.

I personally suggest that you do the same, even if you're writing on a laptop or phone - just write without editing yourself. If you write yourself into a corner, stop and try a new prompt, or start all over again. It's frustrating, but this all-or-nothing approach can really help!

8) Enter a Vocal+ Challenge

Entering a writing challenge may seem daunting if you have not been writing for a while, but Vocal+ writing challenges are not hugely hung up on perfect technique. Instead, the focus is on compelling writing or storytelling. The quirky and competition briefs have helped me to overcome writer's block more than once - the foggy waters competition helped me to write one of my most-read stories, for example!

There are other benefits, of course, including the chance to win money, but when it comes to getting your writing brain in gear, a solid writing brief can act like a problem-solving puzzle that makes you think in new ways! If you join Vocal+ you will not only get access to these competitions, but you will earn an increased rate per read/view (which is a nice bonus).

9) Write an Absurd Story

While 'just write' is not the advice anyone wants to hear, it really can help. Writing an absurd story can help shake cobwebs off and oil those proverbial hinges by taking away the need to make everything perfect or plausible. Children write with abandon and simply force their imaginary world to comply without thinking about things like foreshadowing and suspension of disbelief - I suggest you do the same.

Write a story about anything that takes your fancy - a murderer who saves the world, a flying ballerina who acts as a superhero, anything. Give yourself permission to write like a child for a while - it's freeing, I promise.

10) List Words and Phrases That Appeal to You

While this is the simplest tip on the list, it's often the most effective for me. Simply list words, phrases, sentences that you like the sound or meaning of. Let the list grow as much as possible, don't stop until you're ready to - it may spark a small idea.

I like to do this exercise with pen and paper - something about the feeling of writing by hand connects me to the creative side of my brain more intimately. Try it - it could work for you!

advice

S. A. Crawford

Writer, reader, life-long student - being brave and finally taking the plunge by publishing some fiction.

Read next: 'Love Monsters'

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