Thursday, November 6, 2014

Alumni Voices with Jamie A. Swenson: Easing Back In...

Okay. I will admit it – but just to you. I haven’t been writing lately.
But this post is not about the guilt we all feel when we’re not actively working on a manuscript. It’s also not about my almost fanatical avoidance of anything beginning with NaNo or PiBo … No, it’s not about that. In fact, these days I try to not allow the guilt in when my writing career (or life) takes me away from the writing itself. It happens. We all have LIFE happening.
This entry is about how to get your butt BACK in that chair.

I’ve been away from creative writing for weeks now and it’s high time I return to the page. I’ve promised stuff to people. These people are aging at about the normal rate, so I imagine I should get something submitted to them within the next five to ten years. I think they gave me until December. So, back to it.
Easier said than done.
If you’ve ever stepped away from the computer for a while – you know – it can be a struggle to return. I feel a little like that addict who says something like, “Of course I can quit – I’ve done it a hundred times.” Still, of course I can get back into my writing routine – I’ve done it a hundred times before!
Here’s my list of HOW I’ll dive back in after a writing break. Some of these steps take a bit of time and advance planning to complete … so if you’re currently in the midst of a break … give yourself a break as you plan to break your break. (Wow. I’ve clearly been away longer than I thought. Hmmm….)

1.     Critique something by another writer. Nothing gets the creative energy flowing better than getting back into the conversation. Critiquing gets the brain thinking about writing craft instead of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese (Don’t tell me you’ve never been distracted by mac-n-cheese. Liar.) So, find a writing friend who needs a critique. And then, don’t phone it in. Do a spectacular critique.

2.     Schedule time for writing and only writing. If you haven’t been writing, that likely means that other tasks have seeped into your schedule. Time to reclaim your time. Even if you’ve overscheduled yourself this week – start blocking off days/hours/minutes next week for writing. (No, you cannot organize the Musical Pasta Dinner, attend every volunteer meeting that pops up, and make twenty-course gourmet meals every day – you need to spend some serious time writing. Just say NO. Trust me on this.)

3.     Read something. ANYTHING. If you haven’t been reading – that might be why you haven’t been writing.

(This next one might seem counter-productive, but it does work).

4.     Take a walk. Take a drive. Sit and watch the wind blow leaves around. But while you’re doing this – start actively thinking about the project that you’re ready to start – or resume writing. If you’re in the middle of a project – think about the voice, the characters, the reason you started writing. Fall back in love with your project.

5.     Announce your writing intentions to the world. Post it on FB, chat about it with family, let the neighbors know. “Yup, I’m heading home to write. See you later.” They will watch you walk away and think, “There goes a writer.” (hee hee). And you will start believing again too.

6.     Sign-up for a blog entry with Marsha Qualey. She will gently remind you that you promised her a blog entry. Then you will write it. Yes, you will.

7.     Remove all leftover Halloween candy from the surrounding vicinity.

8.     Write.
So, that’s about it. Good luck easing back into your work – and stop feeling guilty about the occasional writing break. We all need to step away from the computer every now and again … just don’t forget to return!

Jamie A. Swenson is a 2009 graduate of the MFAC program. To learn more about Jamie and her writing visit her website.

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