In my last post I mentioned getting back into writing again (Passion lost, passion regained), and also referred to the potentially excruciating experience of revisiting an old draft.
I selected something I composed, very roughly, several years ago, about 25,000 words of it. Well, a few passages were more ‘refined’, those that had been redrafted for a writing course I was taking at the time. Predominantly, though, it was akin to what I’ve seen called ‘junk draft’, the first rough attempt to get the ideas down on the page, with only a rudimentary structure to the piece over all. It’s commonly accepted these drafts may be utter cr*p and, much like the first pancake, tend to get thrown away (cue some more pancake analogies – too flat? Firmly stuck? Coming out lumpy?)
So was this draft headed for the bin? Not necessarily. Having persuaded myself this early writing attempt would be worthless junk’, the reality wasn’t too dreadful. No extensive text of any worth, certainly, but maybe some plot and character ideas, with much more work and extension, a phrase here and there containing some recognisable truth… But not something I choose to work on right now. It may be symbolic, but I don’t want the sense of going backwards at the present time.
So if an attempt to revisit an old draft didn’t help, how to get into writing something new, after a break? As mentioned earlier, apart from this blog, plus the sporadic book review, all I have been doing is the occasional scribble in a notebook, nothing sustained or cohesive, certainly nothing like my earlier daily habit.
1. Set goals? This has worked in the past; however, it’s not the right time to put the pressure on. When you’re getting back into a routine, awakening a near-dormant activity, any progress is good. So it may not be helpful to start off by measuring it. Instead of pre-setting goals, I have found it more motivating to make a brief note of what I have done or completed, afterwards.
2. Try some freewriting. That is, switching off any ‘inner critic’ or filter and taking a few minutes to put pen to paper, no stopping, no consideration to accuracy—a sort of extensive brainstorming, if you like, probably best done with paper and pen than on your computer. In theory, this can be like warming up before a full exercise session. Except, like any other strategy, this isn’t the pass key for everyone. Perhaps I just don’t let myself go with the flow sufficiently, but freewriting doesn’t help me.
3. Record something factual. I guess I already do this, in a way, through a blog. I find this more helpful that freewriting, personally. There’s something tangible to hook into. I can make it a doodle, rough sketch, a satirical caricature, or detailed miniature, depending on my mood and on the amount of time available. It’s surprising how something that starts off as fact writing can veer into fiction.
4. Start with some background research. Okay, maybe a bit of a cheat’s way in. After all, it’s not straightforward, capital W (capital R?), ‘writing’, as such. But, in the end, this is the one that’s helping me most. A trigger to visualising, a time, a place. Details start to come forward.
How have you managed to get back into an activity after a break?