Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I love to watch the trees as their leaves turn into a painter’s pallet of red, orange, gold, and brown. I also love the wild and windy Seattle weather that brings those leaves to the ground. But I think what I love most about Fall is the return to a regular routine in my writing life.
Let’s face it. Summer writing schedules are different than during the rest of the year. For me the summer is filled with fits and starts–or lots of pages one day and nothing for the rest of the week. Fall brings consistency of daily writing back into the regime. Except there’s one little problem…how do you get fit again after a long break?
Running can give insight into this problem. In order to be a marathon runner, you must learn to train every day. To start with small goals for activity and slowly build to more. You have to get your muscles in shape and prepare for the ultimate test to your endurance.
Is preparing for writing any different? Not really.
So what’s a writer to do when their muscles are a bit out of shape? When the skills and abilities of achieving page goals each day are a bit…let’s be polite here…less than toned? It all goes back to the basics–those same principles marathon runners use.
• Retrain your discipline. This is a tough one. How to be disciplined enough to sit down in your writer’s chair after a long break from that habit. Two things that have always worked for me are a quote and a kitchen timer.
The quote: “Discipline is remembering what you want.” by David Campbell
The timer: gets set for 10 minutes the first day, 12 the second, 14 the third, and so on. When the timer is on, I write anything that comes to mind. It’s a great way to get back in the habit of writing.
• Start with a plan. What do you want to accomplish? You need a map, a guideline of where you are going. Do you want to complete a whole book by a certain date? Do you want to finish one chapter each week? Write one, three, seven, twenty pages a day?
• Set small goals at first, then build gradually over time to increase your endurance. One you have a plan you can break things down into smaller and realistic goals. Setting goals helps you feel like you are making progress forward. I might start my first week off writing three pages a day, then after the first week bump the total up by 2-3 pages a day until I hit my normal daily average.
• Track your progress. I’m a visual person and I really have to keep a log or a graph to show me what my goal was and then how I’m performing. Placing that chart near my computer desk can really keep me focused and inspired when things are going so well.
• Eat a healthy diet and get enough rest. Yes, you actually write better when you eat nutritious food and sleep eight hours a night.
• Celebrate the successes. When you hit your milestones, celebrate the moment. One of my favorite ways to celebrate is to go for a hike. I like to think about it as time off for good behavior. It’s also a great way to regroup and feed that writer’s well with new thoughts and ideas about what to write next.
What do you need to do to get yourself back in shape after a long break?