Writing After a Long Break

Studying writing in college forced me to write on a weekly basis. I was so used to writing that I wrote over summer breaks and tried starting my own writing group. During my senior year I wrote so much, though, that I suppose I…burned out. The following summer was a recovery period. I wrote every so often but nothing progressed further than a rough partial draft. Then I grew restless and bored with my unstructured days and found a job. The recovery period grew into a year-plus dead period. I tried to write but I wasn’t inspired. Here I was, not writing, barely even reading, on the cusp of beginning graduate school, while classmates were working on novels and plays and short stories. It was embarrassing.

This presented me with one heck of a dilemma. Writing had been my go-to hobby since fourth grade, and being unwilling to write frustrated me. Earlier this month, I finally decided I needed to do something about it instead of wait passively for inspiration to strike. I had to make myself want it.

One of my classes had used a textbook: Method and Madness by Alice LaPlante. We didn’t read all of it, probably less than half. It was on my bookshelf between a box of paints and my hardcover Mistborn books. If it helped me in the past, then why not use it again?

I pulled it out one night and started on chapter 1. I took notes. I did the exercises. And while I haven’t started writing my own, unprompted material, it’s helped get the words flowing again.

In short, today’s writing tip: If you’re having a hard time writing, pull out an old writing textbook and start reading. Think the prompts are boring and too amateur-y? Try them anyway. Here’s a prompt for you in case you want to skip the textbook part.

Exercise: Observe your surroundings. Write about them in excruciating detail. Mention the single unmade corner of your bed. Describe the shape of the leaves on the tree outside. Capture the taste of your favorite drink on the page. Walk to a street corner and transcribe a conversation between a family waiting for the bus. Don’t expect many, or even any, of these details to become launching points for stories or poetry. Instead, use this as a way to work on your craft and revive (or start cultivating!) your writing instincts.

Is there a writing prompt you’ve had good experience with in the past? A favorite textbook you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments!

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