I wish I could say returning to writing after almost a year and a half of barely writing at all, aside from business correspondence, has been a breeze. Well, I suppose I could, technically speaking, but it would be a lie.
Truth be told, returning to writing and soaping has been difficult and rather frustrating. It isn't for lack of trying or a lack of desire to begin creating again. I'm just horribly rusty, so it's a bit like returning to a sport after sitting on the sidelines for a season or two.
Creativity, much like any other mental skill, has been compared to a muscle so much it has become a bit cliche. The thing about cliches though is they come to be because they contain an element of truth. "Use it or lose it" applies to mental skills the same way it applies to physical dexterity and strength.
"No pain, no gain," can also be applied.
You have to expect it will take you a while to get back into creating with the ease and skill you once had when you come back to anything after a break. The longer the break, the longer it will likely take you to get back to your original level, but it is doable.
The thing is though, you have to be willing to work through the lack of ideas, stop and go writing, and clunky sentences in order to improve. I mean, you wouldn't go to the gym after a year of being completely sedentary and expect to run five miles and bench 200 lbs. without breaking a sweat. Why would sitting down to knock out a few thousand words after not writing at all for months be any different?
Conscious or not, many of us have this notion anything creative, or just based in mentality, is innate. You either have it or you don't, and it will always be there unless you develop a degenerative disease later in life. But this is a fallacy. We aren't born knowing how to read or write or work even simple mathematics. Those are skills we learn in childhood, and how well we are able to continue using them into adulthood is more dependent on how often we continue to use those skills than anything else.
Writing is a craft. It is a form of skilled labor that takes years of practice, experimentation, and failures to learn to do well. These skills must be maintained, or the neural connections responsible for allowing you to use them will atrophy, the same as a muscle that isn't used. But, conversely, they can be built back and recovered the same way muscle can be rebuilt. It just takes time and a lot of work.
When I first started looking for another job, I attempted to find one as a writer, of course. The first several attempts ended in utter failure as I took far too long to complete the assigned writing samples after so long not writing at all. Or only writing emails and the occasional radio commercial script, but those are a far cry from churning out articles or short stories.
Eventually, I got on with a couple freelance sites. You can make decent money with them, if you can write fast and clean and have a wealth of market specific knowledge. I can write clean, but I am still much slower than I was before. Additionally, aside from my special interests, which are rather esoteric, I do not have a wealth of detailed knowledge. So, I usually have to do a fair bit of research for any of the articles I do. This increases the amount of time it takes to write each article, and when you are paid by the word instead of by the hour, that cuts into how much you can make.
However, working through these sites helped stop the financial bleeding for a bit and helped me ease back into writing, at least for non-fiction. As such, I do plan to keep writing a few articles a week on the weekend.
Once I was able to write an article with relative ease again, no matter how long it might take to finish the thing, I decided to try and get back to drafting Icarus. Funny how much you forget about a work-in-progress (WIP) when you don't work on it for months at a time.
To be quite frank, I am still going back through the rough just trying to remember what I have written and what needs to be done. My one saving grace this past year has been the fact I did notice a structural problem with the rough, and I have found a way to fix it. This has been the source of pretty much all work on the manuscript this past year and why I have changed it from being labeled the Icarus trilogy to the Icarus series.
If you follow me on Twitter, you might recall a few instances of me mentioning two main characters and "dueling plotlines" in a few different #WritingCommunity conversations. These are references to the fact I realized the story wasn't working because I was leaving out half of it. Adding in a surface story line added enough content to justify breaking the first book into two. The same may hold true for what I had originally planned the second book to entail, but I am not certain yet.
At least for me, writing fiction takes a different mindset than writing non-fiction. I am unsure if this is the same for other authors or if it is a facet of autism and the difficulty with theory of mind that can come with it. But that is essentially where I keep having trouble.
The settings are simple. Once I have built them, I can access them again just fine, but characters are a different matter entirely. While I can manage to write a scene without "connecting" with the point-of-view character, the quality just isn't there unless I manage to get in their head. When I have been away from a set of characters for any sort of time, it is difficult to think from their point-of-view until I can get to know them all over again.
It hasn't been easy trying to get back into writing thus far, but I am making progress. In the end, I suppose that's all I can ask. I certainly do not have any choice but to keep on writing or give up altogether, and I have no intention of doing that.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
Yekara Series Book 2
The Icarus Project
Rough Draft Progress
77384 / 75000
Myth & Science Collection
Icarus Series Book 2
Sketched w/ Some Drafting
Yekara Series Book 3
Myth & Science Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Icarus Trilogy Book 3
Supers Collection 2
Intent Only at this Time
Yekara Series Book 4