Resetting your writing after a break


Even when there are still aftershocks to contend with, and the normal has skittered sideways a bit, there is a time when you can’t keep reacting to interruptions constantly with the fight or flight response – and you have to settle down and figure out where you are and what has changed and what has not.

And, in my case, get back to writing.

I labelled a file ‘REDEFINING my life at URC >5/24/19’ and set to work.

Where was I? What was I doing? What was next? These are questions which I’ve been attempting to answer on the fly just to get some writing done in the interim.

But I promised myself I’d do something more organized an more formal asap.

The time is now – if you can

Otherwise the trial will fail – and you’ll get endless opportunities to try again.

But eventually it happens.

You start to realize you’d forgotten many of your own notes. But there they are. And you forgot your own plotting decisions – which will have to be redone, except… here is the file.

I do this periodically.

From October 2012:

Jamming the creative process: RESET to break the jam

Sometimes what keeps me from writing is not procrastination nor ego nor fear.

It is simply that ‘things’ – writing, life, house, … – have become so disorganized (and behind) that I can’t think, much less be creative.

Time gets spent, not in getting things done, but in thinking about getting things done. Thoughts go round and round, never settling long enough in one area to get that area started, much less finished.

How is the creative process affected?

By its main requirement: creating requires a free and nimble mind.

No further writing or editing on the WIP was getting any attention of QUALITY. Scheduling time for writing, blocking the internet by using Freedom, and all other methods aimed at the symptoms, rather than at the root cause – logjam – FAILED. Quite miserably.

The problem is analogous to computer mainframe usage in the good old days, when, to avoid a single user glutting the machine, the computer would ‘roll out’ an image of the core with a particular user’s program and all the user’s data, and ‘roll in’ someone else’s program and data. (Rolling in and out used a small amount of CPU time.)

Then it would compute for a while, and repeat the process with the next user in the priority list. If the algorithm wasn’t managed carefully, or there were too many users being allowed into the queue, the machine could get stuck in a place where all that was happening was sequential ‘roll out’, ‘roll in’ – but no actual work got done before it was time for the next. All the CPU’s time was being used to manage sequencing of jobs, none to doing the actual jobs.

No one’s job got done – and the CPU was busy all the time.

That is how my brain feels when things get too messy.

I can’t actually roll a job in and get a significant part of it done – the competing jobs are clamoring for brain/CPU time.

At this point the only thing to do is declare a reset – everything stops. Then only the top job or two are allowed any traction (typically one of these jobs is ‘TAXES’), everything else is blocked out, and, after clearing the logjam (i.e., ‘Filing taxes’), work is evaluated, rescheduled, cleaned up, dejunked, and otherwise processed before resetting the queue.

Something innocuous can start the jam: a visitor blows into town and occupies prime time space for a day or two (with, for us CFS folk, the several-day recovery that is non-negotiable). Or a new, shiny program beckons, promising to solve some long-standing problem and make future workflow more efficient. Or tax planning requires that all charitable contributions to be charged to the current fiscal year be RECEIVED by the intended organization by Dec. 31, not just MAILED (as it used to be), moving the paperwork time into the Christmas time-frame with a vengeance (instead of being done in that nice post-Christmas lull before New Year’s Eve).

Or [fill in here the life events that, by themselves, could have been handled, but collided with… to create the felt-like effect of a logjam, interlocked fibers].

It doesn’t matter what caused mine this time.

If you’re really curious – ask. And be prepared for long tale of woe…!

Ahem! The solution is to RESET – and that is what I’m doing.

So: I absolve myself of guilt (no one would do this to herself ON PURPOSE), and RESET. I put the editing on hold for as long as this one takes, get extra rest, do the top project or two.

And: we’re back in the writing business (I’m assuming this post – except for the mixed metaphors – shows coherent thought).

Editing sounds positively enticing – I can’t wait to see the final version of the current scene.

And how does that connect to what I’m doing in 2019?

Current editing is Scene 26.2 in NETHERWORLD.

Current writing is Scene 26.3.

And I would say the current tale of woe is the continuing saga of replacing things we had in New Jersey that worked fine (such as doctors and driver’s licenses) but we still don’t have here. One by one.

And I no longer do taxes since hubby retired!!!

But I’m writing. And reconnected with most of my research and organization files. And stuff I didn’t even remember was there. Phew – it would have been a lot of work to re-do some of that!

What do YOU do when you need to reset YOUR life?


7 thoughts on “Resetting your writing after a break

  1. naleta

    I have been enjoying these blast from the past posts. I’m still trying to catch up, but I’m getting there. My problem is that I want to “read ALL the things” and of course life does not allow that. Your blog, and Sarah Hoyt’s blog are in my email as well as my Feedly and so I can still read them even when I have dumped everything older than a week from Feedly.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Sometimes, when I find a new and fascinating blog, I will spend a couple of days going through the archives – but it’s a rare occurrence because of time.

      I’m enjoying reading the oldies myself – and adding what, if anything, has changed since. The heavy documenting I do comes in handy – I remember the circumstances of the posts, where I would forget these little details if I hadn’t written them down. An accidental autobiography.

      So good to hear from you always, and I’m hoping against logic your life is a little smoother.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. marianallen

    #4 Daughter just called in ecstasy because she found some notes she’d stashed in an unexpected place that moved her light-years ahead in her wip.

    When I need to reset–I take a nap. Usually does the trick. 🙂


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Your daughter is very lucky – sometimes those notes were taken for a reason. I’ve used mine to provide color, and have been glad I observed when I had the chance, and had the sense to take notes (my memory is iffy for details).

      A few of my own notes, and it’s like looking at a photograph: I’m back in that place. I remember notes from a day I had a few extra minutes, and sat next to the reflecting pool by the Woodrow Wilson building on the Princeton campus – while the line of magnolia trees were in bloom. Ahhh!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Widdershins

    I took May off from writing on my new novel, health stuff and general ennui … it was a good thing to do because now I can feel the urge to write slowly rise again. 😀


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      That was sensible of you – and had good results. Yay!

      However, I’ve been at this, because it was necessary, for over a year now – and my mental health depends on it, because there’s so little left of ‘me’ without my writing.

      Plus, you have no idea how many people here have heard I’m writing! They’re not all buying, which would be even more encouragement, and one lovely woman has recommended me to her book club, but it does hold my feet to my own fire.

      Liked by 1 person


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