Monday, September 5, 2022

Getting Through The Writer’s Drought

Remember back on Memorial Day when I wrote a post about The Great Summer Writing Season? I said that in the 97 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2022, if you keep up a decent writing habit, you can get a book written or a number of short stories.

How’d you do?

Better than me, I hope, because I failed. Badly.

And the thing is, I’m not sure why, but there were a number of factors, the primary one is the change in the house. My son moved out of the house in July, heading out for his junior year in college. I was not prepared for the emotional wallop that event delivered. In the days and weeks before he moved out in late July, our family centered on being together and a series of Lasts. In the days and weeks since, we’ve experienced a series of Firsts. All of those things churned through the emotions and the end result was a shift of focus.

Then there was the reading (and listening) of books, comics (and audiobooks). I don’t know about you but I have seasons (not the best word but I’ll go with it) with my reading. I’m always reading something but sometimes, the desire to read more and more things consumes my attention. Couple that with the limited amount of time I have to write and/or read and as the summer progressed, I found myself opting to open a book a read in those precious minutes before work rather than writing. The thing was, I didn’t mind.

The reading material was not all fiction or comics either. I ended up on a run of self-help, creativity books. Having read the first Steven Pressfield creativity book, The War of Art, I kept going with Turning Pro and Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants To Be. Both short volumes had great nuggets that subtly began to shift some of the ground beneath my feet and started edging me to getting back into a writing habit. I mean, the title of that third book pretty much says it, right?

But it was the concepts and philosophy behind James Clear’s Atomic Habits that really did the trick. I’m a latecomer to Clear’s book but I picked it up in July and began reading it, annotating it, and compiling my own set of notes and takeaways from this excellent book. I highly recommend it (a couple of folks in my office are now reading it). It’s kind of put some guidelines around this new life my wife and I find ourselves in: empty nesters. It’s a big change, to be sure.

One of the crucial ideas Clear makes, um, clear, is that to start a habit, you have to make it easy. If you leave the dental floss out on the counter next to your toothbrush, then you’ll be more likely to floss when you brush. If you have a desire to become more physically fit, start with something so easy—like one push up—that the barrier is basically nonexistent.

This applies to writing as well. And, truth be told, I pretty much wrote the same thing back in May, but somewhere along the summer of 2022, I forgot it. That is write whatever you can in the time you have per day. Don’t get hung up on striving for a certain word count—at least if you are getting back into the habit.

That’s where I am now: getting back into the habit. I have a project I’m actively working so that’s a nice on ramp to the writer’s superhighway and I’m taking it.

I hope your summer writing season was productive, but here’s an important thing to understand: if it wasn’t, that’s okay. We can’t always be on all the time. Droughts happen. I’ve been through a few myself and I’ve come to learn that they will pass. It’s better to just get through them—enjoying whatever it is that’s taking you away from writing—so you can be supercharged on the other side and hit the writing with a renewed sense of optimism and excitement.

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