• Getting Back into a Groove

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 21 comments

    TL;DR version: Help! I’ve fallen (out of my writing groove) and I can’t get up! After months of writing nearly every morning, and establishing a routine, I took two weeks off. Now that I’m trying to restart my routine, I’m finding that the words won’t come. When you fall off your routine, how do you get your groove back? Let me know in the comments below.


    For a number of reasons I shan’t bore you with, I haven’t written a word since August 1.

    For some of May and all of June and July, I’d been writing nearly every morning. I was in a groove and loving it. I established a pattern and stuck with it: roll out of bed, make coffee, go to the park, write by hand until satisfied (return home, pass out). I was beginning to see the finish line — far away on the horizon, but taking shape.

    Then I stopped.

    It wasn’t laziness or writer’s block or anything like that. I don’t feel bad that I stopped — I had good reason.

    But then yesterday I had the chance to get going again and begin re-establishing my routine. So I rolled out of bed, made coffee, went to the park, and… well, nothin’. No words came. I didn’t know where to begin.

    Actually, scratch that. I knew where to begin. I didn’t know how to begin.

    I held my pencil in my right hand, hovering over the open notebook in my left. And there I sat, like a statue of a writer. For nearly an hour.

    This morning? Same pose.

    I’m out of my groove.

    This week’s open question for you wonderful writers is: How do you get your groove back?

    Do you have a writing routine? What are some of the things that have knocked you out of that routine in the past? What are your strategies for getting back into it?

    Let me know in the comments below.


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and writes about literature for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Joe Giordano

    I re-read the written draft and by the time I’m finished, I’ve jotted some notes and know what comes next. Good luck. Joe

    David Duhr

    Thanks, Joe. That’s a good idea; I haven’t reread any pages from this book in a couple of months, so maybe that’s just the thing I need to pick up some new momentum.

    Eleanor Gamarsh

    I don’t have a writing routine. I wish I had a system I could adhere to but my life with my husband pretty much happens hit or miss. Outside of three meals a day and getting proper sleep to be ready for the next day’s challenges, I have to ignore “To-Do Lists” to get any writing done. This Summer while my husband health took a turn for the worse, stopped me for a month. As things became less stressful I began reading some of my old short stories. I do relatively the same as Joe G. I don’t have a… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Hi Eleanor, it’s good to hear from you.

    Not all writers need a routine, that’s for sure. You’ve said you’ve always been able to write outside of a schedule, which is something I envy. So even if you don’t find a system, I think you’re doing a great job.

    You and Joe could be onto something. Since I haven’t read any pages from this book in a long time, maybe I should give that a shot and see what happens. Maybe it’ll reinvigorate me. Only one way to find out!

    Eleanor Gamarsh

    Like in that old cereal add, ” Try it. Mikey like it. ” [haha :-)]

    John Liebling

    I am my most creative in the early morning – before work. And after work – now a little drowsy – I’ve found I can edit better – delete, oh what the hell, guess that’s an inside joke – thought I’d bring David a laugh or two…he knows my novel has grown exponentially each time I edit. What do i do when I’ve disrupted my routine, by choice or by life interfering? Think long and hard about the reason why I am writing that book in the first place. What was my original inspiration? Once I latch onto that emotion,… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Hi pal. Thanks for the thoughts. I like this idea a lot: “Think long and hard about the reason why I am writing that book in the first place. What was my original inspiration? Once I latch onto that emotion, or intellectual motivation – I am good to go.” That is definitely worth thinking about. Have my reasons changed, and that’s what’s slowing me down? Or do I just need to get back in touch with those reasons in order to move forward? I’ll give that a shot. You know, I have been reading books similar to mine (i.e., “comps”),… Read more »

    Eleanor Gamarsh

    Can I butt in my 2 cents worth? I like that idea of having Justine interview you, David. I think John Leibling has a good one there. [pardon, John, if I mess up your name.”

    Michelle Reid

    Hi, David. If you are at the park and all you can see is trees, start writing about the trees. It will surely lead to something and get you back on track. You are the master at telling us to write about what we know, so write about what you see. You know those trees because you see them in the park. Just get started. The rest will come. Best wishes.

    David Duhr

    Hi Michelle. Thanks so much for the advice. I should definitely do this, maybe in a Julia Cameron “Morning Pages” kind of way; start writing about the trees, or whatever catches my eye, and just keep writing without letting myself pause. Even if I get stuck, I’ll just keep writing “I’m stuck, I’m stuck, I can’t think of anything to write, I’m stuck,” etc. Because more often than not, just keeping the pencil moving in such a way can get one unstuck.

    John Liebling

    You can also stare at the trees, use your imagination and turn the leaves different colors…now turn each leaf into the faces of the people you are writing about. And if they get too critical, in your mind you can shout, “Damn it! Leaf me alone!” May your sarcastic wit flourish and all creative endeavors bring fifth grand enthusiasm. Because I know your sense of humor well – I am inflicted by the same malady. Now that I am teaching 12 year olds, my own silliness has reemerged. Imagine if you will a dog park, only the dongs speak, and… Read more »

    David Duhr

    So I think what we’re saying is, just write. Even if it’s nonsense.

    I can get behind that.

    Ellen Garfield

    It is quite possible you are affected by the intense energy of the two weeks between the lunar eclipse, August 7th and the upcoming solar eclipse, Monday August 21st. Very creative, intuitive people can be laid low during this time. Take a deep breath as you may find this passes and you are back better than ever by end of next week!

    David Duhr

    Huh, I never considered this. Interesting. So in theory, after Monday’s eclipse, creative folks will begin to feel revved up again. I hope that holds true!

    Thanks, Ellen. I like this answer.

    Barbara A Mealer

    Since I’m not longer a true panster, I don’t have much of a problem picking up where I left off in any WIP. I basically writing down what my book is about, the characters, and the issues they have to deal with. If I have to or want to take a break, I only need to look at my notes and get going again. Because I always have more than one project in progress (get burned out on one and need to change up), I have learned to jump from one project to another. Like currently, I’m going through the… Read more »

    David Duhr

    I’ve always liked to read multiple books at once, but have avoided working on more than one WIP at once. Maybe it’s worth a shot. I still have a novel in the oven, and then I also have a screenplay idea that I’ve never started. Who’s to say I can’t successfully work on two or three things at once, like you do? I could give it a shot.

    Thanks, Barbara, as always.

    But what’s an “f/u book”?!?!

    Emily Martin

    With advice from a book about fearless writing, I have done this a few times: purposely write something badly. When I set out with terrible writing as a goal, it gives me permission to stink and not care but still keep moving. I have several paragraphs or stories and even chapters that went absolutely nowhere or were just plain boring or didn’t make any sense, but it was good practice. I can usually find something I like about the exercise–even just finding a good adjective or quirky character trait to store for later.

    David Duhr

    Thanks, Emily. I got this advice over email too. What book is this from? It’s a really interesting idea, and I can see how it could be freeing.

    When you do this, do you do it as part of whatever WIP you’re involved in, or is it separate? In other (clearer, I hope) words: say I’m stuck on Chapter 8 of my book. If I do this exercise, am I purposely writing bad prose for Chapter 8, or am I just writing bad prose about what I had for lunch yesterday or whatever?

    Emily Martin

    Elizabeth Sims wrote a book titled, “You’ve Got a Book in You.” The advice is very liberating; it is helping me enjoy writing and not get caught up in rules and criticism. So far it has helped me both in working on a WIP or just messing around with a blog or something unrelated.

    Eleanor Gamarsh

    Talking about creative people and the energy around the eclipse, I spent this evening writing an email to a friend that became a short story about today. If nothing else, a super journal entry for today’s happenings. I save our nearly daily conversations, printed. Who knows…some parts may end up in a memoir someday. I have to add, too, that I read some of the suggestions for David. What a humorous, marvelously creative, imaginative group of writers here. I am closing for today with a bigger smile on my face than I’ve had in awhile. And David…I think you have… Read more »

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