Getting back into writing after going through any kind of mental health trouble or emotional crisis is going to be different from just returning to writing after being too busy for a few months. Writing can be a very emotional art form. Don’t think it’s not. While telling a story, we as writers are constantly reflecting and attempting to articulate or create various emotions in our characters or for our readers. After having come through an emotionally trying experience, it may be difficult to come back to a story or even start imagining a new story without still feeling some of the effects of what you’ve recently gone through.
While this question is directed at mental health, the advice I have to share is just as applicable to anyone who has gone through a difficult emotional time. I’ll be sharing some tips for how to make yourself emotionally ready to return to writing and help ease some challenges.
Do some no-pressure writing.
First, you can’t expect that you will be able to just sit down and begin writing the way you had before. Think of this moment as a new start. If you were planning to continue to write an old project, it may be a good idea to put that aside for a little while until you’re ready again. Start with a no-pressure goal.
What is a no-pressure goal? It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s writing something where you can write confidently and not feel like it’s going to stress you out. What that goal looks like will be different for everyone. The goal I pick is a pretty good one to start with. 250 words (one page) inspired by a writing prompt. It doesn’t need to be a complete story, or even most of a story. It can be part of a scene. The important thing is that it gets you writing in a way that you’re comfortable and not stressed out.
Sometimes people will write by hand at first on a piece of paper too. This is also something I recommend. You might want to stick to having this no-pressure goal for a few days, before tackling something bigger.
Make a schedule.
Part of “getting back into writing” is reestablishing a routine. You need to make writing a part of your week again. Find a regular, reliable time that you can devote to writing. It doesn’t need to be a huge chunk of time at first but you may want to extend that once you’re back in your habit. Additionally, if it’s in your schedule, you can look forward to it. You can plan ahead. You can think about what you want to write later on. It’s a good strategy.
Ideally, you’ll want to find a time that is not going to be overwhelming. If you have just gone through some intense emotional experience, you might still find that there are times of the day that still make you feel really emotional, like the morning or late at night. Try instead to find a time that you are reliably content and not emotionally exhausted. It might be in the middle of the day or on a lunch break, before dinner, and so on. It’ll be a matter of knowing your habits and planning ahead.
Be “writing” when you’re not writing.
If you are in recovery-mode, you might want to treat yourself to an extra hour of TV or a long bubblebath, or just the kind of self-care that you might not normally do. That might cut into writing time, but that’s not a bad thing. If you need to do those things to help yourself get better, then do those things. What might help you with writing later on is if while you’re doing those things – like watching TV – keep a notebook nearby. If you’re feeling up to it, jot down some ideas. If not, it’s still just right there. You might be doing something else, but if you happen to be thinking about writing and what you want to be writing, take some notes.
Those notes can slowly develop into an outline, if you let them. Don’t rush to create an outline, just take it easy. Don’t let it stress you out. Try to have some fun with it. The more it’s on your mind, the more you might figure out on your own without trying to force it.