How do I pick up a story after a break?

by Robin

Question: I have the beginning of a great story in my head, and I've written 4 draft pages. But when I stop writing for the day, I can't find the energy or rhythm of where I'd left off. I can't write an entire book in one setting! How do I find that rhythm or energy again?

Answer: It's a common problem. Some writers are marathoners or tortoises who can write a small amount each day. As long as it's every day, they can stay on track.

Other writers are sprinters or hares. They write on a burst of energy and inspiration and must write as much as possible while that state of mind lasts, and then wait for the next one to strike.

Either way, I've come to believe that writing is very much about being able to enter a particular state of mind. It's similar to a hypnotic trance in that your focus is very strong but you are also relaxed and engaged in the activity.

So, how do you get yourself into that state of mind after a break?

One simple approach is to take a little time at the start of each writing session to read over what you wrote last time (at least the last few pages). That can reconnect you with what you were thinking and feeling before.

You might also remind yourself of the core idea of your project--read over your premise perhaps or a one paragraph synopsis. Or perhaps look at a visual representation of your plot. You want a clear idea (or perhaps feeling) of what your objective for this writing session will be.

It also helps to have a little focusing ritual. Perhaps a some stretching or a few deep breaths or Chi Kung exercises to help you set aside everything in your life that isn't writing.

Maybe you can add a little signal to tell yourself the moment when you're ready to begin. This could be an affirmation, a gesture, or some other ritual (taking the phone off the hook, cracking your knuckles, turning off the internet, putting on your favourite hat, etc.). Anything that, like Pavlov's bell, signals your subconscious that the writing session has begun. Some people set a timer.

Whatever ritual you choose, it will gain power the more you practise it. You have to train your subconscious a little until it knows to enter the right state of mind automatically.

Best of luck.

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