"To survive, you must tell stories." ~ Umberto Eco
When I was younger, it seemed as though I was always writing. In elementary school, I'd write at recess, during reading time, when I finished a test early, in the bus line waiting to be picked up, in the car, slyly beneath tables at restaurants... you get the point. But even in high school, I'd write during lunch, on my phone while on break at work (Fun fact: about 1/4 of Forsaken was written via typing on my phone!), and after school, I'd brew myself some coffee, pry open my laptop, and disappear for hours and hours until dinnertime. When I wasn't at school or reading, I was writing. And not for the sake of publishing, but just because I wanted to write--I enjoyed creating, exploring new worlds and characters. It was sincerely my hobby, my favorite thing to do.
Then, college happened. I had just completed my second novel and allowed myself a break from writing since I was incredibly busy with school. But, that break kept stretching. Whenever I sat down to write, I'd find I had no ideas, and the words no longer poured out of me, easily and fluid, as they had before. I was consumed with doubt, the opinions of others, the pressure to write a new and even better novel, and the negative thoughts weighing heavily on me. My writing felt dry, stagnant, and was no longer enjoyable to me. Therefore, I stopped writing, for 2 years.
As you may or may not have seen on Instagram, I am releasing "Hummingbird Tales", a short story and creative nonfiction collection with 45 pieces on September 1st of this year. (At least, this is the goal! I work best with deadlines.) Not that it came as a huge surprise that I was still writing behind the scenes, but because I hadn't really posted about writing in so long, people freaked out on that post. My, it was such a wonderful feeling to see all the excitement around this collection, and I'm so grateful for all the support I receive in this online community. But, because of "Hummingbird Tales"'s hype, I decided I'd sit down and write this post, sharing what I learned over this 2-year hiatus and how I not only dove back into writing but rediscovered my flow and profound admiration for it.
In the past year, I've taken some creative writing classes in order to force myself back into writing (also because I wanted to learn and strengthen my skills). Because of this, I wrote about four short stories and five creative nonfiction pieces, all incredibly edited and ready to be released into the world. I'm also the president of my university's creative writing club, which pushed me to write a new flash fiction piece weekly. Over the past year, I realized I now had about 60 completed pieces, and so my friends urged me to push them out in the world. And so, after a long time of heavy consideration, I did. Well, almost. Soon!
However, it was more than this, more than the compilement of a large number of pieces; my long-lost love for writing returned, blooming bright and bold in my chest. I even have ideas; characters that demand to be heard, stories that urge to be written. It's been years since ideas have come naturally to me.
With some self-reflection, and as I've been editing my pieces, finalizing them for publication, I've come to realize why I believe I was able to write so much after having not written in so long (other than the fact that I was encouraged to write my classes in clubs, because, many of my pieces were written outside of those), and how I was able to re-ignite my love and passion for writing. Without further ado, here are my tips, so that you, too, can dive back into writing!
1. Don't write for publication
This was my problem from the very start. When I'd write, I'd fixate on the word count, the plot, the character arcs, and I'd set a date to publish, an end goal, without really focusing on the story nor allowing myself to feel engrossed in the worlds. I'd focus on whether my book was good enough for publication, whether the story would be picked up by a publisher, whether the story was better or worse than my previous books, or whether my writing was too odd, not good, too choppy, and I'd feel quite intimidated by it all. Oh, and I'd compare myself rather heavily. I'd start to write a new book, but after a few chapters, I'd crumble, and give up. Therefore, I would push writing to the side because it was no longer a hobby, but a job that seemingly did more harm than genuine good.
However, once I stopped writing for others, for publication, and instead wrote for myself, I was able to relax, and simply have fun with writing, creating peculiar worlds and even more peculiar characters for the first time in much too long.
2. Release expectations, doubt, and the opinions of others
This ties into the tip above, but is also just as important on its own. When readers of Forsaken and Fifty Days said the books were too weird, too confusing, too "out there", with not enough world-building, I decided to stop writing such "weird" books. I forced myself to write romance, murder mysteries, dystopian, and fantasy, steering from my normal writing style. The opinions of others constantly weighed on me, taunted me. No one would read my next book, because my style of writing was too niche, and as I got older, it seemed to get increasingly more "dark". No one would like my stories. Right?
As you might imagine, because of all this, I was no longer writing what I wanted to write but was writing what I thought others expected of me to write. Also, I got strangely in my head about how odd writing was, the act of writing imaginary characters in imaginary places and caring for them. To be honest, I'd get embarrassed telling people I had written fiction books.
However, when writing my short stories and creative nonfiction pieces, I didn't care what anyone else thought of me. I leaned into the weirdness, the uniqueness, the darkness of my writing, and from there blossomed works that I couldn't be more proud of. Once I released expectations and allowed my mind to create whatever it felt called to, some great works formed on the pages. Works that soon, will be out in the world.
3. Try out several different genres and writing styles until you find one that sticks, and excites you
This may sound counterintuitive to the tip above, but trying out several different genres helped me realize what I truly wanted to write. I suppose it's sort of similar to dating many different people--you can then figure out which type of person you want to end up with! By going outside of my comfort zone to write those romances and murder mysteries, I came to realize that those genres weren't for me, and I did indeed feel truly called to write those deep, dark, odd stories. So, I leaned into them, into what I was good at and what I enjoyed.
Also, I experimented with new writing techniques, inspired by some of my favorite authors, and my writing style carefully morphed into something that feels the most comfortable and fun. I played with ellipses, long and short sentences, italicization, and most recently, commas and backward sentences structure. Writing this way, I suppose, intrigues me, encourages me to continue to write, to explore. Using commas where one might least expect them, and writing sentences that are, perhaps, a bit too long but still crafted in ways that make some amount of sense, well, it feels the most right, to use commas this way. (See what I did there?)
4. Read books that genuinely intrigue you, not just because they are popular
Since being on Bookstagram, I've noticed that I have a tendency to read books solely because they are popular, or should be read according to Person A, rather than read them because they are appealing to me. I've done a lot of different things to help with this, such as avoid posting about books I read as much, using Goodreads over Instagram, not using books solely for content purposes, and truly seeking out books I'm interested in reading.
Over the past few weeks, I've gotten back into reading after a bit of a slump, and I've really been going out of my way to read books I genuinely want to read. (It sounds rather silly as I write about it now, but sometimes the online world can really steer you away from your authentic self!) I've gotten into gothic horror, murder mysteries, and YA romances, reading them for pleasure rather than for content--something that's easy to slip into on Bookstagram. And since doing this, I've been flooded with new book and story ideas, have felt more creative and inspired, and have seemed to reconnect with my childhood self, who was always nose-deep in a book. That is, whenever she wasn't writing. Reading books I enjoy, too, helps me visualize my books, wildly popular and well-loved, and I am able to decipher what kind of book I want to put out into the world next based on the books I most enjoy.
5. Set writing goals, and make writing a priority
One thing that really helped me dive back into writing was setting daily and weekly writing goals. I'd aim to write 500-1,000 words a day, or finish a chapter a week, and in doing so, as well as having discipline, I was able to easily and quickly churn out the (rather crappy) words. It sounds harder than it sounds, but I suggest finding a daily word count goal or writing time goal that works for you, and just having fun with it! And of course, after the first few weeks of doing this, my word count didn't matter as much anymore, and instead, I'd just look forward to writing, to creating, looking at it as my personal time to release. As someone who needs goals and structure, having goals helped me start writing again, but in time, writing returned to being a hobby I enjoyed greatly.
Also, I tried making writing a priority over other things. It's so much easier to say "yes" to hanging out with people or binging a show over writing. But, to solve this, I'd simply reframe my thinking by looking at writing as a time for fun, a time for play, a time for myself. Writing every day, also, assisted with my mental health, making me feel happier, more at peace, and more playful in my daily life.
Wowza, that was a beast of a post! But, I suppose I had a lot to say! :)
I do plan on writing much more on the topic of writing in the next few posts as I prepare for the release of "Hummingbird Tales", as well as start on my new novel. I hope these tips also assist you in getting back into writing if you fell out of it as well, and I hope to see you in the later posts! If you have any post requests on the topic of writing, feel free to let me know!
Before I go! Speaking of "Hummingbird Tales", I will be emailing out a newsletter with a sneak peek at one of the short stories in my collection very soon. I will also be emailing updates and some more behind the scenes of the publishing process. So, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for some goodies, sneak peeks, and updates!