Life happens. Sometimes it happens a little, sometimes it happens a lot. Sometimes it's the goods stuff, sometimes it's the bad stuff, and sometimes it's utter shit. But no, you can't just simply be interrupted, your writing is sacred. So you struggle against it, you keep writing. You don't sleep, you don't eat, you keep doing it. You keep doing it until your body turns around and says: "You know what? Fuck you. I quit." And then you have to stop. You have to interrupt your writing, in order to attend to life, because it demands you. Unfortunately, it has no schedule, it likes to drop on your head without warning and then gleefully declare stuff that you wish didn't happen. It kicks you out of your routine, and you let it. What choice do you have? People get sick, people die, things blow up. You get into this stuff that demanded your attention, and sometimes it sucks you in to the point of creating a new routine, even if it's the absence of any routine, as in, pure chaos. It can go on for a long time. In my case, I was interrupted twice this fall, first time for 1 week, second time for 2 weeks. The first time I flew out to Russia to get my son (long story short, because of a missing document authorities wouldn't let him board the plane). The second time I flew out to Russia to attend to my sick mother, with the help of my readers and friends who donated for this trip. I just got back this Monday and am dying to get back to reading 2nd draft of ROSEHEAD, so I can start on the 3rd draft, but this week I'm taking care of my boyfriend who got into a motorcycle accident and recently had surgery (well, I hope I'm able to take care of him, because I feel like it's mostly him taking care of me, since I'm very cranky without my daily writing). Did I mention we are supposed to be moving in several weeks? Packing, unpacking? Yeah. I was lucky that my interruptions lasted only this long. But what if you had to stop for a year, or two, or ten? I did have a break of about 1 year between SIREN SUICIDES drafts. Here is what helped me get back into groove.
Read your own work. This is one thing that does it for me. Reading. When I pick up anything I have written, be it a published book or a draft, I start seeing things I want to fix, to change, or I imagine how I could've written it better. And I don't mean just sitting down with a cup of coffee for 30 minutes or so, to skim through a few pages. No. I mean blocking out a whole day and diving in, without any interruptions, if possible. If not possible, I try to block out at least 4 hours, which is usually enough for me to read several chapters and get into the story. I also use this rule - I don't write anything down, don't take any notes, as tempted as I am. All I want is a feeling, an emotion, and, miraculously, at some point at the end of this day, I get an itch. I want to write. I want to either go back and fix things (if I was reading a draft), or I want to write something new. In any case, usually I don't have enough time to write anything, because the day is over, but the itch stays. I read some more the next day, feed it, until the itch spills into this mad desire to write. At this point, I usually can't wait any longer and start. This is the trick. Even if I typed a couple sentences, the next day I want to continue. My brain started working, it can't stop now. This is the hardest part for me, to start. It might be different for you. I heard people tell me, starting is easy for them. I envy you, if you're among them. Starting after a break is the hardest thing for me to do. Once I'm over the hump, things start flowing.
Read the work of your favorite author. Read something genius. Not because the critics said it's genius, read because YOU say it's genius. Read your favorite author, read your favorite book, read the book that gets you on fire, that makes you want to create. Again, try to block out a whole day. For me the equivalent was the 10 hour flight from Moscow to New York, and the 6 hour flight from New York to Seattle (if my damn Kindle's battery didn't die in the middle, I would've scored nearly 15 hours of uninterrupted reading). I'm reading DOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King, because King is one of my favorite authors, and because I just finished reading THE SHINING for the first time, and was dying to read the sequel. I wanted to see what King's writing was like, after years and years of experience, wanted to compare. And I love it, absolutely love it. It's so dark and bloody and yet deep, that it gives me courage to start writing IRKADURA, which is going to be a very dark literary novel based on my experiences growing up in Soviet Union and being abused as a child by various family members, as well as jerked around by my country and its bureaucracy. Literally, when my Kindle died on me, my first impulse was to dive into 1st draft, only I couldn't, because I know that once I start, I can't stop. So I saved this itch, saved it for later, but I will continue reading, to keep it alive, and I can't wait to block out a whole weekend to read 2nd draft of ROSEHEAD, prior to starting on the 3rd. This is why I'm picky about what I read. Some books are simply not mine, and instead of inspiring me to write, they get me frustrated.
Create a bubble around you. Those of us who have a nice writing corner and a nice writing routine are lucky. Not everyone has it. Not everybody can afford to have a whole room dedicated only to writing, not everyone can afford to write full time, or even every weekend. Not everyone has a stable relationship that allows to focus on writing, instead of being constantly interrupted by family drama. So how do you deal with that? How do you still block everything out, to be able to write? (And you HAVE to block everything out, to gather your wits and have enough presence of mind to be creative). Here is how. Create a bubble around you. It doesn't have to be physical. I mean, ideally, you will write in a room that has a door, a door that you can close on the world, even if it's just a closet or a bathroom. But you can do without it. Headphones and loud music blasting in them can work as a door, or a blank vacant look. The trick is, to get there. And to get there, you have to have a rigid schedule, something that can put your body into writing mood even when everything else around you goes to hell. Maybe it's staring out the window at 5am in the morning for 10 minutes, before anyone wakes up, and writing for the remaining 50 minutes, but WRITING EVERY DAY. Maybe it's taking a walk to a coffee shop at random times, on random days, but always going to the same coffee shop, and maybe even sitting at the same table. Maybe it's watching a TV show with a completely dumb look on your face, to tune out your brain from daily drama and empty it, watching something totally stupid. Or polishing your shoes, or dancing in a tutu, or eating one chocolate chip cookie, always the same. What I'm talking here is routine that will help you establish the discipline of writing through no matter what shit life throws at you, because you will learn to flip life a finger. You will be able to hold on to something, to not lose your sanity. Something that is the same. At first you might need to force yourself, but soon it will become habit. Once you build the habit, you become golden. Confession: for me one of those quirky things to start writing is playing a few Words with Friends games. I know, I know!
Anyone has any more stories or tricks up your sleeve, on how you get yourself into writing after a break, be it short or long? Come on, share, we're all curious.