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You know those nightmares you have about being back in high school and walking the halls naked while everyone laughs at you? (Admit it, you’ve had that dream.)
Writing again after a long hiatus is kinda like that. Or like riding a bike. Or re-entering the dating scene and having s- nevermind. You get the point. It’s not going to feel the same.
AND THAT’S OKAY.
Yes, there’s a 50% chance that it’s going to suck, but there’s also a 50% chance that you’re going to be amazing. The good news is that there’s a 100% chance that you get to fix whatever sucks when you edit. Which brings us to the process of actually writing.
We all the know the steps:
Google it and you’ll find a million versions and methods. It’s been my experience that we usually get stuck somewhere in the first three steps. When the Muse cooperates and life is grand, we push through and eventually produce something presentable. But our Muse? That broad took off to Tijuana with her girlfriend and a hundred bucks.
So forget her – she was too needy anyway. We have to get down to brass tacks, like, yesterday. So here’s the super-simple but super-difficult truth:
You must decide that you are going to write again and that you’re willing to put in the time and effort, no matter how scary that seems.
That’s it. Now let’s unpack it a bit, starting with what I think is the crux of the matter: fear. Conquer the fear and the rest will come back like muscle memory.
Ask yourself some serious questions:
- What exactly are you afraid of?
- What does a worst-case scenario look like?
- What is the end goal?
- What can you do right now to move closer to being a productive writer again?
- What is your time-frame? Do you even want the pressure of a deadline? Maybe you need that pressure.
- How will you handle failure?
- This may seem counter-intuitive, but how will you handle success? Are you ready for it? Can you handle the attention that comes with being in the public eye?
- How much time can you devote to the process each day/week/month?
- Are you going to write solo or return to/find a new writers’ community?
These are general questions, but undoubtedly there are more that fit your specific situation. I’m going to be really honest here and give some personal examples of the questions I ask myself and some of my fears (OMG) to give you for-instances:
- I’m now divorced but still using my married name as my author name. Is that going to be weird? Is it going to piss some people off? How do I feel about that?
- Over the last couple years, I lost friends who were family and big-time supporters. Are they going to read my new stuff and laugh at me? Are they going to TROLL me?
- Were my author days just a phase? Have I moved on? Am I that fickle?
- What if I’m just not excited about my ideas and characters anymore? Do I give up? Reinvent myself? Start writing smut under a pen name?
- I hardly have time to pee these days. How on earth am I going to find time to devote to writing?
I’m sure you can superimpose your own fears onto some of the ones I listed. I wish there was a magic balm to sooth them, but it doesn’t exist. (Unless you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy?) It all circles back to the decision I mentioned earlier. Do a deep dive (<—O GAWD, CORPORATE SPEAK) and first identify your fears, and then address them one by one. No, really. Use your time in the shower or driving, or right before you fall asleep to have frank conversations with yourself about your fears. Write them down if that helps. Maybe seeing them on paper will take away their power. Talk to writer friends. Here’s an idea: start a conversation on Facebook or Twitter. (Two birds, once stone – know what I’m sayin’?)
After that, come back so we can talk about Part IV: When the Muse Goes AWOL: Finding Your raison d’être
In the meantime, talk to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.