Blogger: Wendy Lawton
The Christmas and New Years holidays are always a good break. If you are like me you planned to get tons of work done over the break but with meals, guests, gatherings, more meals, decorating, and even more meals you find that you hardly touched the computer over the break. Those of you with young families and children on school vacation may find yourself exhausted on top of it all.
So how do we get back at it?
Let me give you a few things I’ve done to get back into the swing of things after a hiatus, but for the real wisdom I’m going to leave it up to our blog community to share back-at-it hints and tips in the comments.
Tip #1 Begin your first full-fledged back-at-it workday with a significant quiet time. Talk to the Lord about all you had hoped to accomplish and didn’t and then release it to him. Ask him to bless the work of your hands. Get rid of any misplaced guilt you may feel by focusing on the good things, the godly things, that ate up your work time.
Tip #2 Rather than hitting the keyboard immediately, immerse yourself in the subject of your nonfiction by rereading some of what you’ve written and digging into your research again. Novelists may want to set the scene with appropriate music, digging into the setting with research or deepening your character profiles. The trick is to get excited all over again.
Tip #3 Instead of just continuing where you left off, why not just write a fun scene that may or may not be used in your novel? Or for nonfiction writers, come up with a sidebar or special feature to enhance a chapter already written.
Tip #4 Don’t try to put in a full writing schedule on your first day back at it. Write a little, research a little, dream a little and put in a load of wash or two. Or have the oil changed on the car. As you work to get back in the swing, cut yourself a little slack.
Tip #5 I find it easiest to face the mountain of work that built up after a hiatus if I clean and polish my office, update my list of things to do, re-prioritize tasks, clean out my email, file the tons of paper that has accumulated in my “buckets,” and generally try to get a head start. There’s nothing quite as nice as getting back at it in a clean and organized space.
We’ll see how well these things work for me this year since I head out on my first long trip of the year in two days. Not to mention that the last of my out-of-state family leaves six hours after I fly to Texas. Eek! What was I thinking?
Now it’s your turn. Tell us some of the tricks you use to get back at it after a break.
Welcome, all, to 2017!
*To me, Wendy, the Christmas / New Year stretch was one long quiet time. Not that we didn’t gather together, eat and worship. We did. But I had many long conversations with God, and long entries in my journal.
*I had time to read my Bible study lessons on Acts (Church Under Construction) thus far, one after another–I made a few changes to the lessons posted on my website (what I taught to real women in real time is done and over). It was good to see the forest instead of the tree of an individual lesson. It rearranged the sequence of future lessons. The book of Acts is a good place to be as one year ends and another starts.
*I left the office with a to-do list for today by my computer. In a couple hours, I’ll find out if those items have been replaced by some new crisis. At least, I won’t have to think from scratch.
*I am not the keeper of a neat desk. But I brushed all the crumbs out of the keyboard. That’s my fresh start!
Wendy L Macdonald
Shirlee, I’m thinking God enjoyed your “long conversations” with Him. I found myself savoring my journal writing time too. 🙂
What a great post with wonderful ideas to ease back into the writing life. 🙂
I love this post because it affirms that all my plans for today (my first day back) are good ideas! We’re having company for dinner this evening, so my day will be balanced between catching up on work that fell through the cracks during my “break” and preparing food and cleaning the house for our guests. Easing in is my plan, and you’ve affirmed that’s a good idea! WHEW!
Beginning the year organized is a must for me, Wendy, at least this year. In fact I’m taking an extended period of time to spend being, reflecting, refocusing, praying, and preparing before I jump back into merely doing. I want to write with purpose, not write simply to do it. Blessed 2017!
Great ideas, Wendy. I’m sure many will find them useful.
* I’ll add these suggestions, if I may:
– Before the hiatus, write extensive notes as to where you are, where you’re going, and your thoughts about ‘getting there’. This letter to ‘you in the future’ may help dispel the changes in internal weather that can come with the Christmas season.
– Take the time to read what you’ve written so far, to get back into the story. You may be pleasantly surprised at how good it really is.
– If you have a dedicated writing space, consider NOT tidying up, but leaving is as you finish work on the day before the break (covered with a dust-sheet, of course). Muscle memory, having things still ready to hand in expected places, can help a lot, and the ‘unveiling’ aspect of pulling back the dust-cover can be fun. (This may not work if you have an inquisitive cat.)
* I just hope I will be able to get back at it. It may be difficult.
Sorry for the typos and awkward phrasing above. Had a bad fall recently, hit my head hard, and typing’s a bit of a challenge.
So sorry to hear about your fall! I hope you’re on the mend soon! These are really great ideas. I love the “note to your future self.” With a full time day job, a part time side job and a husband and 3 young kids, my WIP often sits longer than I’d like at various times throughout the year. It always takes me awhile to remember where I was, and I often end up editing the last thing I wrote (because I started reading it to remember where I left off and get back into the atmosphere of the scene) more than writing new material. A note might help stave some of that off.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
STOP DOING THAT!!
Oh, Andrew, I’m so sorry about your fall. I’m praying for you.
Wendy L Macdonald
Great advice, Andrew. I like the “letter to ‘you in the future’ “.
Sorry about your fall; be kind to yourself.
Praying you are “back at it” sooner than you anticipated.
No earth shattering advice here. I feel a pull in my spirit in many areas of life this winter to listen and learn more than speak and teach. Loving all the ideas I’ve read here so far!
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
This past week, I tidied up Book 1, and then re-read Book 2, and tidied it up a bit as well. I hadn’t opened Book 2’s file in a very long time, so it was fun to re-read it. Book 3 sits 1/3 done, and I’ve got most of it outlined.
It was good to go through #2 as #3 starts 2 weeks after the end of #2.
Was that confusing? No? Gooood.
The roller-coaster in the first half of #3 is draining to write, but the whole “full circle” thing in #3 will be exhausting.
In Book 3, two brothers will be reunited after a 30 year separation. So many unanswered questions and misunderstandings plague and infect both brothers. It will be rather HARD bringing them back together and weeding through the mire to get to the truth.
And yet, what has God done to help me with that?
As I said earlier in the month, things were draining for me personally. Something caused me to to pull back and circle my own wagons and basically shut myself off from most social media.I poked my head in here and there, but for the most part, as my BFF says “I had no bandwidth for anything else”.
What was that?
In early December, my mom let me know that my estranged (for good reason) grandfather was dying. So, I had to contact my sister. I haven’t spoken to her in 8 years. Toxic behaviour is strong in that one.
Add to that?
Well, after 51 years of never knowing the 3 half siblings that my siblings and I knew were out there?
Yes, fifty one years.
My half brother made contact on December 8th.
Right on the heels of the commotion in my immediate family.
It has been a whirlwind.
To say that God’s timing is unpredictable is putting it mildly.
Yes, I can use the feelings of “tell me who you are, oh brother of mine”.
But the most heart-wrenching thing? To hear from a grown man whose father lied and connived for 5 decades, who hid the truth when it was just as easy to tell it, and who robbed his parents of 3 grandchildren, 2 women of happy lives, and 6 children of each other?
To hear that new brother and one of the news sisters say “we’ve been waiting for this day for almost our whole lives!”?
That, my friends, is living proof that God can and will restore what the locusts destroyed.
But, please pray for my mom, who could easily be the angel in the eye of the hurricane, the one most wronged. Thank you.
And happy 2017, friends!!
Wow, I’m tired just reading all that! I love seeing how God restores – it’s what He does best, isn’t it?
Janet Ann Collins
Jennifer, you certainly have enough new material for a novel – or maybe a soap opera. I hope you can establish good relationships with everyone.
Dear dear Jennifer, my story is not nearly as dramatic, but I will add to your conviction: Yes! God is amazing at restoring in the midst of a hurricane. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.
Goodness, Jennifer. Saying a prayer for you now … and trusting God to do His glorious thing.
I get it. You had to live the story, Jennifer, before you could write it.
*God is good.
After a writing break, I usually:
– Re-read the last chapter or two that I wrote before the break, to see where I was. Lightly edit as I go along.
– Read something for research in another project.
– About the third day back jump in feet first.
During this break, which began Dec 23 and ends when I get home tonight, I brainstormed the next plot-line conflicts in my novel-in-progress, and read a couple of hours for research. This morning, in my quiet time at my office (after devotions), I resumed work on a labor of love project that will probably never earn me a dime. I give that about 1/2 hour every workday morning, and it’s beginning to flesh out nicely.
Wendy L Macdonald
Happy New Year, dear Wendy. Thank you for these motivating tips–especially the first one. This morning I told myself, “Just do it.” I’ve realized I shouldn’t wait for my feelings to feel perfect before diving back into work. Waiting for perfection doesn’t give us anything to work with. I’m thankful for the delete key, spellcheck, and all the wonderful editing devices a writer has in her toolbox. I’ve finally figured out how to edit my podcasts, so now I can record without fearing errors there too. One of my favorite quotes is: You can’t edit a blank page.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
I love your podcasts, Wendy. That’s awesome that you can edit them. I’ve never tinkered with podcasts. But I’m enjoying hearing all about them from you. And I love your sweet voice. I’m behind on listening to them … I’ve got some catching up to do. (My head tilts heavenward) 🙂
Wendy L Macdonald
You’re so sweet, Shelli. Thank you. I feel like I’m digging into a Christmas stocking each time I check what you’ve posted on Instagram–I love your elegant style. 🙂
Thank you for this post, Wendy, I am saving it! I had to comment and let you know how I started my year off after a break. I re-read through all of my retreat notes and I ordered a great big wall calendar for my office and planned all of my novel goals for the entire year. I was inspired by you and Lauraine and Robin during our time management brainstorming! I am going to apply all of these tips you shared, just reading them got me excited!
I can’t tell you what I do to get back at it because I never stop completely. Being forced to stop writing is punishment, not reward. I do have an easy way to stay involved with my WIPs when I don’t have access to my laptop, even if I can only spend a few minutes a day.
*I make a pdf of the latest daily version of what I’m working on and email it to myself so I can download it into my Kindle Fire. Then I can pop it open and read anywhere in the manuscript wherever I am. I do a lot of my final tight editing this way. The pdf looks like a real book, which makes it easier to spot things I miss when it’s a Word document. I carry a 3×5 notebook to log anything I want to change so I can edit the original next time I’m on the computer.
*This also makes it easy to read what is “finished” enough times that you fine-tune it to where you can’t find a single thing crying out to be changed.
*The worst thing about being in the hospital after the accident was that I didn’t have my laptop and my Kindle Fire screen got broken in the crash. I spent two whole days separated from my characters!
Carol, I pray you are continuing to improve. Things are improving in my home, too. Thank you for praying. And I love reading and editing my works on my tablet … it saves me a ton of paper and ink … I find I don’t need to print it out like I had before.
I can almost walk normal now if I really concentrate on it, and the rib mostly doesn’t hurt. Still a bit of a waddle if I’ve been sitting too long (occupational hazard for authors). Still praying for you until you tell me to stop.
At least I got to use my smartphone to order my replacement Fire from my hospital bed at the Cyber Monday price of $33! I wrote my Ph.D. thesis with pen and paper and made the final copy with typewriter, white-out, and wax rub-ons for the math symbols. We are SO spoiled by our technological tools! I sure don’t want to go back!
I tried to stop by earlier this morning, but life as a boymom got in the way. 🙂 Kids are home for two more days.
*Wendy, I love your tips and your suggestion to ease back into writing. As much as I want to hard-charge back into my story, other things are calling for my attention. I’ll need to ease into a healthy writing routine as this new year (and new responsibilities) shake themselves out in my schedule.
*And the reminder to bring all of this before God is the best advice ever.
*I hope your trip goes well!
Bring it all before God … yes. 🙂
Yes, I agree on cutting ourselves some slack. This year I’m definitely taking small steps back into the swing of things. A family illness, friends visiting, an much loved aunt slowly trying to pass into heaven have all halted our normal routine–feels like we have just been released from a whirlwind and I’m on the ground trying to figure out where to begin–but I think baby steps will get us back where we need to be. This morning was the first day for just one daughter and me to be home alone … where to start? I allowed myself to sleep in late. 🙂 I definitely need to spend some time de-cluttering and cleaning up from Christmas. I spent some time taking pictures this morning and playing with the settings, very enjoyable and relaxing for me. Have a wonderful time in Texas, Wendy!
Thank you for these tips, Wendy. I love your point, “the trick is to get excited all over again.” That’s definitely the challenge for me when trying to get back into work after the holiday break. Tip #5 is one I follow every year at this time. So many papers and such accumulate on my desk over the holidays, and I just have to get my physical work space in order before I can get my mind and creativity in order. Blessings on your trip and happy New Year!
Janet Ann Collins
Jerusha, my messy office is certainly holding my writing back. I think I’ll follow you and clean it up before I try writing anything.
Thanks for this, Wendy! My situation was a little different since, despite the busyness of the season, as a teacher I actually had a bit more time FOR writing once finals were over and Christmas commenced. 🙂 And I was at last able to finish the rough draft of the novel I’ve been trying to speed through writing since May…and realizing that it really does take me 6-8 months for a full draft, however hard I might try to push it faster. Sigh! Anyway, now I am trying to take a brief break from that manuscript and work on other things while I wait for feedback from my critique partners and sister. Even though I really want to jump right back into revising. 🙂 But there are other writing projects and ideas calling my name, so…
Anyway, thank you for the ever-wise reminder to be intentional about how we start fresh this new year. And to remember to look toward the Lord and listen to His voice and plans and vision for this year, not just our own.
A blessed New Year, everyone!
I started “back at it” today by reading the One Year Bible with a daily devotional by Larry Stockstill. Yes, I was already a couple days behind, but hopefully that spell of tardiness won’t set the pace for the rest of my year.
It’s a one-year Bible, Lara, but who says those 365 days have to start on Jan 1?
You’re right, Carol. Thank you.
Thank you for this! Cleaning my office was the single best thing I did for myself and getting back to work. And forgiving myself for the clutter, which can’t be helped at the holidays. (My office always ends up the catch-all of unwrapped presents that the grandkids can’t see, projects for when the grandkids are here for their overnights during vacation, etc.) I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who needed to ease back into a full day at the computer or re-read some research get myself pumped up again for the novel. It’s so encouraging to know we’re not in this alone. 🙂
Terrific tips! Thanks a bunch! Happy New Year and happy writing!
As I ran through our house this morning tidying up, so many of your thoughts were answers to my prayers! Thank you so much for the great tips and clear focus.