It has been, perhaps, two months since I’ve held a pen. Roughly the same amount of time can be applied to my retreat from writing. And my, have I suffered for it. I’ve come to realize writing is a muscle. Use it too much, and it can become overexerted and empty of creativity. Neglect to use it, and, well, you've found yourself staring at a blank page with the cursor blinking mockingly at you.
Ideas used to flow so easily from my brain into the ink of the pen during the year. But as soon as summer hit, it was as if I had been left with an empty bucket of confusion and dread. Even this article seems a little rusty. Words have become jumbled, formats have become messier and I am left uninspired.
And so this is a reminder to myself, and others, to never let your writing become rusty. You will struggle, creatively and physically (the hand cramps after two months without a pen in your fingers is no joke). Maybe you won’t have a drop of self-esteem, as I did, since going from priding your writing to abhorring every word is painful, but a certain sense of foreboding will ensue.
But fear not, as long as you exercise your writing, you won’t struggle. I’ve taken to writing down a paragraph each day; it’s nothing substantial. Sometimes they're comments about the pretty leaf I saw dancing to the ground, other times it may be a great rant over some frustration life has handed me (those paragraphs are particularly long), but as long as I’m writing continually, I am ensuring that dreaded mental block never emerges.
I have also come to realize that exercising writing can come in many different forms. On days when I simply do not want words to flow, reading is a more effective form of exercise. See, that way, at least ideas and words are flowing into your brain, even if they’re not coming out. Reading is incredibly important to the writer, for it allows us to explore more forms of words, format and creativity. Discovering new contexts for words I already know were my favorites. I would also suggest focusing on sentences—notably the beginning sentences—especially if fiction is in your hands. Taking a single sentence from the beginning of a book, pausing, and thinking about how I would tell the story has allowed my creativity to grow. I become overcome with ideas about stories I’m about to read but with my own alternative endings. I obsess over them, and in turn, find my creativity functioning once again.
These two months have allowed me to conclude that writing habitually, and reading habitually, are essential for successful writers, and for creativity to feel like a solid source that never drains. Trust me, you don't want to take a break (and definitely not one that lasts two months).