Tuesday, April 12, 2016

3 Steps to Reinvigorating Your Writing

I have a confession to make.

I am a writer.

Well, I was before life stepped in.

Well, I was before I let life step into my home and make itself comfortable while my writing wilted in the back of a stuffed closet.

And, yes, I write here for Blood-Red Pencil, I write in preparation for teaching, I write in my journal, but you all know what I mean, write, er, right? I'm talking about the writing that transports you into a new world that you create, a world full of angsty characters and obstacles and drama and love and hate …and all the other wonderful components that go into making a story.

THAT's the writing I HAVEN'T been doing.

And when you are a creative at heart, this is painful. When you have characters and ideas taking up space in your mind, but your heart isn't moved to write, this can be extraordinarily painful.

Right now, I'm at an impasse. There has been NO progress in my writing life, and there will be no progress until I stand and make a choice to reinvigorate my writing life.

My most favorite quote is "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." The brilliant athlete and person Arthur Ashe definitely knew what he was talking about when he said this.

As a writer, I'm in a place of non-movement. I think all people have been there before. You feel you know what you need to do, but for whatever reason, you are catatonic.

When in this state, the answer is not to remain stagnant—but to move. You don't have to move fast, but you have to move forward to get yourself out of the thoughts, feelings, inaction that keep you immobilized.

I want to act in my writing life, so I am slowly putting Ashe's thought into practice by doing three things.

Finding an Accountability Partner. I used to be good at keeping myself honest with work, but then life came and made me focus more on my circumstances than on what I could do while in those circumstances. My best friend, who also happens to be an excellent writer, Samara King has stepped into the role as my accountability partner (AP). As such, every month, we are telling each other our overall monthly goals and our smaller weekly goals, and we are e-mailing, calling, texting—whatever we can do to make sure we do the work…and to have the whip at the ready if we don't do the work.

Setting Goals. Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that I'm a girl who loves to set a goal. I'm excellent at it. One problem I have, however, is focusing too much on the BIG picture and becoming so frightened by that picture that I stall and complete few things. To help combat this issue, I'm using the app todoist. I'm using it on the web, my phone, and my tablet. There, I am able to set those BIG picture goals, and I then set the small stepping stone goals that will eventually get me across the finish line. I have even connected my AP with this objective as she and I share a project to-do list so that we can cheer each other on and shake a ruler when our progress slows or stops.

Taking Little Steps. Go Hard or Go Home. Rise and Grind. Good Things Come to Those Who Hustle. We live in a world that suggests that if you're not living and doing at Red Bull Addiction speed, then you're not going for what you want. And that's simply not true. If you have the ability to go hard, to grind, to hustle, do so. But some of us who are unsure of where to step next should not feel the need to go for leaps and bounds moves—or to feel bad about ourselves if we can't make those lightning-fast moves. This is why setting big picture and small step goals is so important. This is where Ashe's quote definitely comes into play for me.

  • Start where you are. Where are you right now in your writing life? What are your big goals? 
  • Use what you have. What do you have in your world right now that you can use to achieve these goals? 
  • Do what you can. What can you do—right now—to achieve these goals? That "what can you do—right now"? That's the little step that you need to think about—the little step that moves you closer to your big goal, that ultimately makes you want to take more steps.

Finding an accountability partner, setting goals, taking little steps—these three things are all connected by one more aspect: habit.

I'm not saying it will be easy. In fact, I have done these three things before and not lived up to my own hype.

But with habit—with actually taking the calls, texts, e-mails from my AP; with looking at my calendar and happily checking off work completed; with taking those small steps toward an ultimate goal—I can learn to make these things as normal as breathing.

Like they used to be.

What's on your mind? How does it relate to writing? How can you use it to further develop your writing?

Creative Passionista Shon Bacon is an author, a crafter, an editor, and an educator whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website.


  1. Understand your situation, Shon ... but don't be too hard on yourself ... sometimes you just have to wait for the muse to visit.

    1. I think I might have to put a BOLO on my muse. LOL

  2. I know what you mean! I was on a writing hiatus for a while, concentrating on getting the house in order, and all kinds of other things. All of a sudden, the writing urge returned, so now I'm trying to make the most of it, and finish Awake, a book I started years ago. I also created a cover for it yesterday to keep me focused on finishing that book!Still, I want it to be done already. I'm too impatient these days!

    1. That is AWESOME that you've gotten back into Awake, Morgan. Praying that the mojo continues to flow for you.

  3. It is easy to get out of the groove and very hard to find it again. Good advice.

  4. This resonates Shonell: "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." I sometimes joke, "Despite my best efforts to fail, it appears I'm going to finish." The joke is about me not meeting my standards but pressing on anyway.

    Three things in my life have helped with that: 1) Early in college, I fell into a nonfunctioning funk for a month or three, and it scared me so much I promised myself I'd never spend more than a day there again before I moved forward on something-anything. 2) When I was a reporter, writer's block was grounds for termination, so although I sometimes wrote tripe, I kept going even when it felt impossible, and 3) I did a trek in the Himalayas that pushed me to the limits of endurance, and found that the trite was also true: I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, however painful, until I finished.

    Those events liberated me. I've been "starting where I am" ever since. Thank you for the reminder - the inspiration helps. :)

    1. Your story is an awesome one, Cara! Great motivation to keep on keepin' on. :-D

  5. I do so know where you're coming from. Late last year, I had a writing block. Living up to books I'd previously written and liked seemed impossible. I just wasn't getting anywhere. I had two books in mind I wanted to write. Started one and knew it wasn't where I wanted to go, so I started another, both follow-ups. How can I make them as good? Not only was I in self-doubt, I didn't have the motivation I'd always had. It just wasn't there. I worked on one, then when I didn't know where to go, I worked on the other. Changing made each book seem fresh when I went back to it. I thought it would be confusing, but it wasn't. I was surprised. I go on as long as I can--then start on the other one. I see Ashe's quote coming into play. I start wherever I am, use what I have, and do what I can. Then I switch.

    I hope your mojo returns, Shonell. Do something fresh to get the excitement back.

    1. Thanks, Polly, and that's really great advice, too. Sometimes, we get stuck thinking that there is just ONE thing we are to do, but it's possible to have two things, and probably helps a great deal for when or if a block occurs.

  6. This is great food for thought, Shon -- especially since I've had to temporarily (I hope!) go back to work. No energy left for writing. So what did I glean from your article? "Do what you can." Baby steps do work when life injects itself into what you want to do. Thank you for that huge reminder.

  7. Great post, Shon. I have been mentally and physically limited for almost three months, and now that I can do a little bit of exercise and a bit of writing, I find it hard to get back to my former Red Bull status. I appreciate your reminder that we can take much smaller steps. Hope yours go well.

  8. Wonderful advice, Shon. We too often get busy being busy and not taking time for what is important for us as creative people. My critique partner has kept me on a dual-critique schedule for more than two years. So far, he's learned how to write better and I've finished two books, both of which will be out next year.

    I like your advice about doing what we can. I'm a huge believer in baby steps. From 250 words a day comes a novel at year's end.

    You'll get through this and come out a more motivated writer. I know you will.


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