How to Start Writing Again

Help in getting back to writing - from people who've been there.

by Adam G. Fleming

So you wanted to be a writer but you got knocked off course?

We get it. There are a variety of reasons why you might have been writing and stopped. We’ve seen them all:

  • A harsh critique from a respected writer friend; or any old jerk or troll; a simple, unintended comment that got under your skin. Rejection in the publishing industry. 
  • A job that consumed every waking moment or sucked all your creative energy.
  • An injury or illness, divorce, death in the family, grief or depression or other major interruption in your personal life.
  • Things within your control: perhaps you procrastinated, or allowed fear of failure, addiction to social media, or other substances to control you for a time.
  • A family member or close friend told you it wasn’t a valuable thing to do, not worth your time. You believed them for a while. 

Step One: Adjust your expectations 

It’s not about making money. 

Don’t take it from me. I’m no Kurt Vonnegut. I’m not famous or rich (or dead). I am from Indiana and I’m a writer, so Kurt and I have those two things in common. I respect what Kurt said: 

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

Taking a note from Vonnegut: it’s not a way to make a living. If you’ve been discouraged from writing because someone said you’ll never make money at it, fine. Get a job as a greeter at a big box store if you must, but start writing again. It’s good for your soul. 

Define yourself as a writer.

I’m a writer because I write, because writing is a worthy journey for my soul to take. Not because I’m good at it, or because I get paid for it. Even when I’m not writing at any given moment, or even for a week or two, I’m still a writer because writing is in my blood. Come up with your own statement about how you are a writer regardless of whether you wrote something good or important or decent or anything at all. 

Focus on what you can control

In Step Two and Step Three (below), I have highlighted several areas of your life that you can control, so keep reading! 

Step Two: Create and defend safe spaces; safe time; safe mind

Credit to my friend Michael Lee of the Innotivity Institute, who loves to talk about the need for safety when we begin to do innovative and creative work. Michael is currently editing my most important work, an alternative history novel I’ve been working on for about ten years. The only way I’ve gotten this far on my seminal book is creating (and recreating) safe space, safe time, and a safe mind. 

Safe Spaces: 

Find a place to write where it’s okay to make mistakes, to explore without needing to be perfect, to relax and have fun. The place where I do my coaching and budgeting and editing and all the things which require me to make decisions quickly and accurately is not the place where I write novels. For you, this might be a recliner, a desk in your attic, or a coffee shop where you don’t know anybody (or where you can politely decline to engage in conversation).

Safe time: 

One of the biggest questions you’ll have to answer is, “What will you give up in order to write?” And that means something that consumes your time, especially high-energy time when you can be at your most creative. When I’ve coached people around this question I often find that they say they need to get up earlier, and when I probe deeper, that means they’ll have to give up watching a favorite show in the evening so they can go to bed earlier. But your highest-energy time might be noon, or the evening, so there’s no one-size-fits-all remedy. Put your writing time on your calendar and keep your appointment. This is safe time.

Safe mind:

  • Protect your mind from naysayers. You may have heard it said,  “Don’t throw your pearls before swine.” Most people don’t really understand these words of Jesus, but they quote it all the time; basically, it’s just a way of saying: don’t entrust your work to those who can’t, or won’t, value your goals and heart. Nobody’s allowed to tell you it isn’t important. 
  • Nobody’s allowed to tell you it isn’t good enough. Let’s just agree together that it isn’t good enough, and that’s not the point. I start with the assumption that it won’t be good enough until well after I’ve finished drafting it, when it’s been edited again and again, and proofread, too.
  • You’re not allowed negative self-talk, either. If you notice that popping up, remember that you have defined yourself as a writer. Read the written affirmations you have created for yourself; say them in a mirror; do whatever works for you to counter the voices in your head.

Step Three: Set an attainable goal.

  • Keep it simple. A certain number of words per day, or per week. A certain number of pages per week. A certain number of minutes per day or week. 
  • Don’t make it too big: finishing the book or publishing it is not the goal. I recently saw Katie Ledecky talk about winning her sixteenth individual gold as a world champion swimmer. She called the race a “stepping stone” and said that her goals all revolved around training times and improving technique, not on the accolades she might achieve. Writing is the goal. Do the work and the gold medals will take care of themselves. And who would be disappointed with a bronze if their focus was on the training? Okay, maybe a little disappointed . . . but a pretty awesome stepping-stone, none-the-less.
  • Give yourself grace if you mess up. One day off doesn’t define you.
  • Work with a coach or coaching group to help you make sure the goal is attainable, to help you stay accountable to your goal and celebrate you as you take the necessary steps to get going. Can you get a writer’s coaching group at Victory Vision Publishing? Yes! We have that!

We believe that each person has a voice that deserves to be heard, a story that can impact humanity. We believe that you are responsible to take good care of that voice, and we are here to support you as you get back on track as a writer. Want to start writing again? Let us know about it. We want to cheer you on! 

Adam G. Fleming, PCC, is an ICF certified coach and trainer. He has trained people in coaching skills around the world and has also led other seminars as speaker and facilitator. Using both traditional and DIY methods, Adam has published 13 books in a variety of genres, and serves as the CEO and lead ghostwriter for Victory Vision Publishing, Inc. He lives in Goshen, Indiana, with his wife Megan and their four children. Contact:

Interested in getting to the next step? Click here for a free discovery meeting with Adam.

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