WFMAD Day 28 – Back in the Saddle

I received this terrific set of questions a few days ago: “How do you start again after stopping for a few years? In writing three novels, I built skill upon skill and felt pretty good about the third. Now I am petrified to write again. I start, the writing is horrible, I stop. I’m not even sure I can write a blog anymore. Could you address starting over after taking a long break?

Every writer can pose the same question. They just have to substitute the length of their own dry spell for “a few years.” For some it will be “while my kids were little” or “until we paid the house off” or “when school visits had to pay the bills and I traveled so much I forgot my home address.”

How long have you been off track? How long was your worst dry spell?

It’s different for everyone. Sometimes, the same person goes through years with no break in the flow of creativity or the flow of words, then – suddenly – whammo! Dry spell. Block. Or the constant intervention of real life that seems to sidetrack every attempt at getting back to writing.

Do not despair. You have more control over this situation than you realize.

Ready… If Aerosmith isn’t your cup of tea, select a piece of music that is and play it obscenely loud while you write today. Extra points if you find a way to throw in a couple of Steven Tyler screams.

Set… “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Stephen King

Today’s prompt: If you are having a hard time getting back in the saddle again, this prompt is for you. Write down all the nasty thoughts that go through your head when you think about writing, or you try to write. Everything. All of it. Then write down all the specific behaviors (i.e. sites you waste time on) you engage in when you start to hear the stream of negativity in your mind. Then sign up for web-blocking tools that will limit or eliminate your access to those sites.

And if you wind up with extra time today, write the list of things that you want to write about. Post that list where you will see it many times a day.

Scribble… Scribble… Scribble…

7 Replies to “WFMAD Day 28 – Back in the Saddle”

  1. I went through my twenties without writing much of anything–after writing a ms a year for four years. Marriage, jobs, kids, etc.
    Now, after about five years of sticking with it–most with help from WFMAD, I’m feeling better about my abilities. Thanks for all you do!

  2. Thanks so much for this post. I have been in a dry spell for three years myself when suddenly illustration commissions just dried up after I had worked for two years illustrating a book. The blow to my confidence sent me in a tailspin, and I’m still recovering. I’m trying to just work and not worry so much if I ever get paid for it again. It’s hard after being in the profession for 30 years, but I have to hope that in time I’ll get back on track. It’s comforting to know others have been in my position for whatever reasons.

  3. Thank you so much. Just reading this returns hope. It’s refreshing to know it’s not all in MY head and that others struggle as well.

  4. I hit reply too soon! I remember reading an interview with Nora Roberts, in which she explained how she wrote when her wee ones were small, no matter what, and that if you really want it, you’ll do it. In doing the exercise above, I realized that this is a main roadblock for me. With two kids under five, a full-time job, and all the rest, I haven’t yet found a way to fit the writing in. Maybe it’s another skill to learn. But your exercise taught me to not compare myself to others. I’ll get there in my own time. THANK YOU.

  5. Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and some others got me moving and painting, writing or whatever else needed doing. We all want to write bad enough. It’s just those who have learned to shut out that voice – tune to a different frequency – that have found their voice and groove. It’s good to know that you all, too, sometimes hit a brick wall, but it doesn’t keep you down. 🙂

    Time to go WILD!

  6. Thank you for your posts. I appreciate the way you are candid and genuine when it comes to writing. There seems to be so much trust involved with the writing process. I’m wondering how you keep trusting. Trusting the process and the story and knowing that in the end it will all work out…in the end there will be a story take shape that makes sense. It seems like my stories evolve as I collect snippets of the characters’ lives with a scene here and an image there. I’m wondering if I’ll ever catch the whole story and how in the world will I be able to make it into a cohesive whole? Do you know about this writing place? The characters are loud and I hear them telling me pieces of their stories…I’m just not sure how to make all the parts work together to make sense. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts.

  7. Hello there! I’m new with this website and all this stuff, so I’m sorry if my comment seems awkward right now. However I would like to ask you some things about your writing skills (that are very good!) but I don’t have any idea of where I could ask you more… you know… with more privacy? Please, I would really be thankful if you, Laurie Halse Anderson, help this 17 year old wannabe writer. My english teacher make us read some of your books and I LOVE THEM (last year: Speak, right now: Twisted). So sorry (again) if my comment seems awkward but is the only place I have found like a chance to speak to you Ms. Anderson. I may be a normal student who liked your book like thousand of people out there, but please, I would really like to ask you a few questions as a young writer.
    If you ever read this Ms. Anderson, thanks for your time,

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