How To Get Back To Writing Creative Nonfiction When You’ve Lost Your Way

by Kayla Dean
published in Writing

I admit it. The last few weeks I have been unfocused and out of it. I’ve avoided my writing for other activities. Maybe it’s the 100 degree weather or just navigating a return from the gratifying wanderlust of vacation, but it’s been all too easy to procrastinate instead of generate new writing or revise the essays I want to publish. If you’re in the same situation, now may be a good time to refocus your efforts and narrow in on the little distractions keeping you from your writing. While reading can be life-changing for your work, even this activity can keep you from creating in some situations.

Say it with me: let’s get back to the work we love. Here are some ideas to get you writing again this summer.

Set a Timer and Write Something

Whether you have thirty minutes or three hours, set a timer and see what you can write in a set amount of time. Close your social media. Shut down the video games. Silence your cell phone, and get to work. If you find this difficult to do, use Stay Focused to block apps of your choosing so you don’t feel tempted to bounce over to Facebook to see what’s going on with your friends. While you could also require yourself to write a set word count, it may be easier to write a vomit draft. In this scenario, whether you write a paragraph or an entire essay you’ve succeeded.

Another helpful method is the Pomodoro Technique that lets you break down your work into more manageable chunks. Write for 25 minutes and take a five minute break. This will make a longer piece of writing seem less intimidating because you can break up your work with space to breathe.

Stop Letting Your Paid Work Encroach On Your Writing Time

If you have paid content writing or feature writing piling up, by all means get it done. But don’t let it cost you time on your personal projects. Even if you can only give up 30 minutes a day for your writing, find a way to do so. Find a short block of time each day to free yourself from style guides and brand voice to write like yourself. If you’re not a freelancer, this won’t apply to you, but it’s always helpful to create a boundary between your work life and your writing life.

Write Something Short

Pretend that you have to write a micro-essay that can’t exceed 200 words. Can you do it? Challenge yourself to write about a true event in your life. Remember, it doesn’t have to be the most shocking situation, but you can make it interesting with your own perspective and experiences. For a great example of micro-essays, check out Elsie Road Magazine’s Instagram highlights and this Ploughshares essay about micro-forms.

Break Out the Pen and Paper

Writing on a Google Doc may be a lifesaver, but it can also be the problem. If you aren’t getting the work done that you hoped for, shut your laptop, hide your phone, and get writing in a notebook. This may feel old-fashioned, but you may find your inspiration returning after only a few paragraphs on paper. I use the material I generate on paper to begin writing on the computer.

Write Something For Yourself

When I’m obsessing over an assignment or an essay in progress, sometimes the best thing I can do is ignore it for a moment and write something for me. Don’t think about pitching it. Don’t think about publishing it. Just write something personal for yourself, even if it’s slightly terrible and only belongs in a diary. This may be just what you need to rebuild your confidence in writing and find that unique voice that only belongs to you.

Getting off track in our writing lives can be frustrating and even embarrassing, but there’s no reason our procrastination needs to be a permanent condition. With a little self control, dedication, and focus, it’s possible to shatter the hold you’ve placed around yourself and create the work you hope will come to life.

Kayla Dean has written for publications like Electric Literature, Ploughshares online, Darling, and Bella Grace. She has an MA and BA in English. You can find her on Twitter@kayladeanwrites.

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