How to Get Your Writing Groove Back

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How long have you been working on your masterpiece? Are you in the beginning stages, when all you want to do is lie around and stare into your characters’ eyes and learn all about every detail of their past? Or are you in the middle stages, when you’re getting to the really good stuff and the plot is thickening up like gooey cake batter?

Or are you in that after-the-middle-but-before-the-end part, when it seems like you can’t remember a time when you weren’t working on this project and frankly you’re a little…well…tired and….

Sick of it.

Writing a long book (or a series of books) is like running a marathon. Everyone experiences that moment when they hit the wall. You’ve been doing this one thing for a long time, putting all your energy into it, mile after mile after mile. It’s only natural that you come to a point when you’re feeling burned out and the project has become mostly work, and not so fun anymore.

To get the fun back, you need to take a break.

However, just like with running, you don’t want to stop exercising your muscles entirely. You just want to switch things up, do something different that you have no expectations about. Something completely low-key and no-pressure. But no worries, you got this. You are a writer worthy of marathons. You just have to pick yourself up and keep moving.

Here’s how:

Poetry
Writing poetry isn’t easy, but it can be flexible. You don’t have to write 200 pages to say your piece. You can find joy and inspiration in just a few stanzas, or 17 syllables if you’re writing haiku. You can also play around with a satirical or comic tone to lighten the mood, or concentrate on finding the perfect rhyme to revisit the way you used to truly relish the sound of words. For inspiration, ask your writer friends about their favorite poets and read some of their work to bring fresh new influence to your creative sphere.

Memoir
You don’t have to write down your entire life story to benefit from the practice of writing memoir. Pick one memory and stick to it. Write down every single detail you can pull from your brain about that day or event or person. Include sounds and smells, thoughts and fears, and everything in between. The focus isn’t about telling the whole story, or even developing that one memory to be part of a larger work. It’s about using your memory purely to exercise your writing muscle. Not only will you test your powers of recall, but you can also strengthen your ability to capture sensual details.

Pass-It-On
You can do this exercise with one other writer friend, or a whole group. One of you starts a story, writes a section of it (a few pages or less), and then passes it on to the next writer for continuation. When it comes back to you, you’ll have to build on the creative contributions of others to write your next little piece. This works particularly well as creative relief because group stories tend to drift toward the silly, and it’s harder for you to get attached to the end product. Since it’s not an individual expression of your work, it’s much less likely your ego will want to get involved.

Every writer has times when they know they have to slog it through until the end. That’s just part of the creative process. But even though you can’t magically finish your novel by snapping your fingers or wiggling your nose, you can push the reset button on your store of creative energy. Tapping into the whimsical, joyful space of playful experimentation goes a long toward renewing your inner creative vision.

If you want more on writing poetry and memoir, and rediscovering the deliciousness of writing, you might be interested in these posts:

The New Generation of Poets
Do You Know the Secret to Writing an Amazing Memoir?
Want to Be a Better Writer? Watch More Movies
Best Writing Prompts

If something feels good to you, you’re much more likely to stick with it over the long haul. But it’s up to you to feed your good feelings about writing. Nourish yourself creatively and watch your writing muscles grow.

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19 Comments

  • Reply Phillip McCollum 19 September, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Love all of these ideas. One thing I love to do is play with Story Dice. You can find them on Amazon, but they’re essentially dice with images on them. The idea is to form a story based on those images and you can do it a million different ways. Always fun among creative friends.

    Thanks for the inspiring article!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 19 September, 2013 at 9:09 am

      OMG I love storydice!!! I’ve met very few people who even know about them though, that’s so rad you brought them up. I used them with a group of friends at a beach house getaway and it was so awesome. Storydice totally rock.

      • Reply Phillip McCollum 19 September, 2013 at 9:33 am

        They do rock! You’re the only other person I know that has heard of them!

  • Reply Micah 19 September, 2013 at 10:42 am

    These are some really cool ideas. I’m actually in that pre-ending part of a story I’m working on. The wall is an ever growing energy-sucking gremlin right now, believe me. Thanks for the tips.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 19 September, 2013 at 10:54 am

      Oooh, I like that description. “An ever-growing energy-sucking gremlin.” Totally perfect way to describe it!

  • Reply Kassia 19 September, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Spot on Post. I think this concept translates well to most aspects of our lives–it’s all about reawakening our enthusiasm for living.

  • Reply Setsu 19 September, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    We’re way, WAY overdue for a pass-it-on.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 19 September, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      I know! That could be a really cool WC exercise!

  • Reply Jon 20 September, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I’ve seen story dice but never actually tried them – after the comments above, I’m in. They sound splendid.

    It’s pretty obvious, but I also find blog posts are a great way of re-kindling the writing love. It allows me to play free with my ‘voice’ without being tied down by the constraints of plot or character.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 20 September, 2013 at 8:30 am

      I go back and forth with blog posts. Some weeks I’m really into them, and some weeks they feel like work. I guess it depends overall on how much energy I have to go around.

      And yes, I HIGHLY recommend story dice. They are really fun with a group of friends and a good bottle of wine 😉

  • Reply Emily 20 September, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Great ideas. I’m looking for ways to motivate myself and maybe help others at the same time. Some of these sound like they might really be useful.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 20 September, 2013 at 8:31 am

      So glad to hear this post might be helpful to you. Good luck with the motivation, I know sometimes that can be the hardest part.

  • Reply Kimberly Hill 20 September, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I’m a fan of terrible haiku written about my cat. I also like meditation – writing is easy by comparison.
    Off to Amazon in search of Story Dice…

  • Reply Paul Sutton Reeves 21 September, 2013 at 2:33 am

    Some great tips there, Lauren.

    I’ve done something similar to a ‘pass-it-on’ with a group of writing friends where I set a scenario and each writer had to contribute a piece (I wrote about it on my blog). It was fun to do but the results were variable! It’s never seen the light of day…

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 23 September, 2013 at 8:28 am

      That’s so fun! I’m going to look for the post about it on your blog.

  • Reply loretta 21 September, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    I sooooooo needed this post! With all the shit that’s been going on in my life lately, writing has been put on the back burner. This past week at Write Club, I tried to dive in to these ongoing projects I’m STILL working on and it just felt daunting. What you wrote here just gave me the freedom to not feel guilty if I switch to writing some small temporary thing for a while to get my writing swing back again!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 23 September, 2013 at 8:29 am

      I hear you. I am in the same boat! No matter how much I cut out of my schedule, it seems like life stays busy. Now maybe I need to take my own advice and take a break from the novel I’ve been working on…

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