Rock and Roll Never Forgets: Coming Back To Writing After A Long Fucking Break

I Fucking Believe

The Necessary Equipment. Image by Steph Snow

Taking a long break from writing, whether because you have to or because you want to, is hard.

But coming back doesn’t have to be.

Writing, like an ex who doesn’t know she’s too good for you, will always be waiting. Sure, there’s probably going to be some awkward moments over the coffee, and, hey, the first time isn’t going to be fireworks, but you can work things out. If you do it right.

1. Be Honest. Why did you take a break? Was it because you had to, or because you wanted to? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to–writing can be a bloody grind–but if you say you had to when you really wanted to, then you’re just setting yourself up for more frustration. Address what pushed you away. Maybe you need to take more time for self-care. Maybe you’re holding yourself to someone else’s word count and not your own. Or maybe it’s just not a priority for you anymore. That’s fine, too. Life’s too short to torture yourself if writing’s not your thing anymore. People change.

And if you had to stop, if some thing going on in your life made it impossible, then has that thing changed? Or have you learned to work around it?

In my case, it was a little of both. At first, I was in too much pain/too stoned on painkillers to even think about writing. After that, the depression set in and I didn’t want to write.* Both reasons were valid. But I had to deal with them before I could come back.

2. Start With The Good Shit. You’ve finally dragged yourself back to your desk after weeks/months/years/geological ages away. You’ve cleared away the dusty coffee mugs and severed heads that always pile up there. You’ve shoved the cat out of your chair and now she’s biting your feet. What’s the first thing you’re going to write?

Two options: something exciting or something easy.

If you’ve got an idea burning its way through your brain-meat, the kind that sits up there behind your eyes and pushes your buttons and steers your thoughts like a parasitic infection from that street taco you knew you shouldn’t have eaten….then write that. I don’t give a pair of rat farts what it is. If something’s got you excited, that’s your golden ticket back into the circus.

If you don’t have that–and the imagination, being a fickle dominatrix who alternates between kicking you in the balls and ignoring you entirely–then go with something that’s easy. I did this. Long time readers probably remember that I both run and play tabletop role-playing games. I take notes during these games, because game masters are cruel beasts who cannot be trusted.** When I dragged myself back to the writing desk, I started by transcribing and elaborating on these notes. I figured if I fucked it up, then it wasn’t a big deal.

It was enough. It got me back into the habit of sitting down to write. Of making time for it. Of imagining. And eventually I moved on to other things. And got back here, blogging and swearing for your entertainment.

So, exciting or easy. Take your pick.

3. Don’t Listen To Anyone Else’s Shitty Advice. Other people’s writing advice is just like other people’s relationship advice: they mean well***, but it’s about 50% bullshit. At least. Including mine. I write about my writing experience. If I was writing about my marriage, would you take all that advice, too? Of course not. You’d probably cherry pick what you liked and let the rest go hang. Same thing here. It’s up to you to winnow through all that crap to find things worth holding on to.

Writing five days a week works for me. Doesn’t mean it does for you. It’s almost like we’re individuals or some shit.

Try these, and maybe, just maybe, you and writing can work it out this time. You’ve got another chance. Because, like rock and roll, writing never forgets.

*If you ever wanted proof that depression changes you, there it is. I used to get detention in high school for writing when I was supposed to be doing math proofs. Then guess what I did in detention? NERD.

**Hahaha, just kidding, Dave, don’t kill my character.

***Most of ’em, anyway. There’s always the occasional asshole who just likes to see people miserable.

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