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Headspace

6 May 2013

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I’ve probably advocated taking writing breaks here before — and if not here, then certainly on a Men in Gorilla Suits podcast. Sometimes, getting away from the story problems for an hour or seventeen can help you recharge, refresh, and refocus.

But sometimes, you leave a story on the shelf too long. There’s no set time limit — some writers can leave a story sitting for years and go right back to it without losing momentum (George R.R., I’m looking in your direction). For some writers, though, a week away totally gets them out of the universe they’d been playing in. When they come back, voices seem all wrong, tone has changed, and characters aren’t acting the way they should.

They’ve gotten out of the proper headspace.

Now, this isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, a realigned, new take on the story is exactly what it needs. Other times, though — like when you’re writing book three or four in a series — getting out of that headspace can feel like a disaster.

I’ve certainly done it before. I’ve left a story for a couple of months to focus on other deadlines, or meet day-job obligations, or just taken a break because I’m feeling run-down. When I come back and open up that Notepad file (yeah, I’m an old man and set in my ways), I feel like I’ve forgotten where I wanted to go with the story, forgotten how I wanted to develop a character. I feel like my perspective is gone, and finding it seems impossible.

It never is, though. Sometimes I just need to read through the last couple of chapters — or the entire story so far — to catch myself up on what I was thinking. Sometimes I need to sit down and just jot down notes until it comes back to me. And sometimes, I need to put the story away for another week, or another month, or however long it takes until my brain says Oh, yeah. That’s where I was going with that.

And sometimes, I just have to start over. I have to accept that the headspace is gone, and I won’t get back there. It doesn’t mean I stop writing the story; it just means a lot of rework. And that’s not always a bad thing.

So what’s your trick, folks? How do you get back in the right headspace for a story?

One Comment leave one →
  1. 6 May 2013 1739

    If I leave a story for too long, like a month, it usually ends up rewritten from get go. I tried taking notes and map the thing, but it’s not me.

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