PEN MONKEYS: 3 WORRIES WHEN TAKING A BREAK FROM WRITING

Years ago at Clarion Writers Workshop, one of my instructors talked about there coming a time when a writer stops writing. For years! Hah, I immediately decided that none of this could possibly be applicable to me. Though he was trying to be reassuring, I tuned him out. I was so wrong. Due to a massively demanding job, I ended up not writing any fiction for about ten years. Now that I’ve taken up the fiction gig once more, I’ve been thinking about my own experience as word comes of several other writers I know who are setting aside their own writing due to work and family commitments and competing priorities.

If you’re thinking about taking a break, it can be scary. Here’s what went through my head during my own writing hiatus.

  1. Will I ever go back to it?

The answer was yes. Once I left the demanding job and had recovered from a bit of burn-out, I began gradually by pulling out a couple of stories abandoned in progress. After ten years, they didn’t look all that bad. In fact, I could see ways to work with them, which is a compelling reason to never toss any work in progress. This led to my second fear.

2. Will I forget how to write fiction?

Nope. In fact, my demanding job had required much writing and editing. That made the resumption of fiction writing easier than ever. Those half-finished stories were a great starting point, as I  could see immediately how to improve them starting with the title. In fact, I’ve sold a couple of them.

3. What can I do to help myself get back into writing fiction?

First, I resolved to write only what really interested me, like dinosaurs, and not what I thought was trendy. Second, I resolved to write about cool stuff even though I hadn’t spent decades researching a particular topic. Fact is, there will always be someone who knows more about paleontology, or many other subjects, than I do. So what? Even if I spent time learning a ton more, that would still be the case.

Second, I decided to attend a terrific writers workshop–Taos Toolbox–to get back into the swing of things. I recommend it highly.

Third, I wrote down my specific, measurable objectives in terms of words written, completed stories, etc. I started a spreadsheet to track my output on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.

Now I’ve received word in the last month that no fewer than THREE other writers who had taken lengthy hiatuses have returned to the pen monkey gig. What’s more, they are all older than me. Truly, there’s no time like the present.

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