How to Pursue Your Writing Dreams, Even When You Feel They’re Slipping Away
We've all been there—you had a period of time where you were on a writing roll, knocking out drafts, brainstorming tons of ideas, and then one day it just stops. You don't know why or how, but suddenly one day becomes a week and then a week becomes a month and then like that it's been three years since you've written anything at all.
Such a realization is shocking. You had it all together, and yet now you've stopped writing. What happened?
The short answer is that you stopped writing because life happened. (And that's fine!)
But even though you could have been experiencing great things while life happened and you weren't writing, it's hard not to feel like your writing dreams were sacrificed all those years, like they've slipped away and you've forgotten who you are.
While this feeling is downright terrifying, it actually is quite common. However once you've realized your writing dreams are slipping away, you're now in the optimal place to pursue your writing dreams again, even if you're so certain you've forgotten how to be a writer.
Below are five ways to get back on track to pursue your writing dreams, no matter how derailed they may feel!
1. Let go of the guilt
If you feel that your writing dreams are slipping away from you, it's more than likely that you're not writing anything right now, and as a result feel very guilty. While guilt can be effective in some circumstances, for every day you don't write and feel more guilt, the harder it will be to actually pursue your writing dreams. So, in order to get back to pursuing your writing these dreams, you'll have to let go of the guilt.
Remember that it's okay to let your passions flit elsewhere and to neglect storytelling for a while. Those things will always bring you back to writing. They will always teach you things about writing, even if it's a new skill you can use in a story.
As I've said in newsletters—feeling guilty doesn't make you want to write more.
In fact, it will come to make you resent the work altogether.
It's like when people are trying to be healthy and they have that extra cookie or third slice of pizza. If they let that lapse from their lifestyle get to them, they can spiral out of control, making it hard to return to the health changes they were trying to make. Suddenly they go from that extra cookie to giving up the health change altogether, when really if they just forgave themselves, it would be much easier to keep making healthy choices—and forgive yourself for the moments when you're human.
So, if you are currently in a place when it's been months, years, or even decades since you last wrote, I want you to take time to remind yourself that it's okay. You haven't given up your writing dreams. Those years you didn't write were still filled with wonderful moments, moments you can now use in your writing. Whether they were good or bad, you were present and aware of them. You were maybe in love, or you'd lost someone dear to you, or maybe you were just doing the same thing every day.
But whatever you were doing, it's not wasted time or a lost writing dream. Because maybe if you hadn't been busy "not writing" you wouldn't have encountered the stories and characters in real life to inspire your work.
2. Stop hiding your dreams away
After you've let go of the guilt and forgiven yourself for that day, month, or year you didn't write a thing, it's time to look at your lifestyle and assess whether you've been hiding your dreams away.
I mean this in the most literal sense. Humans focus on what is near them and what they see. Take time to look around your room, your house, your desk at work, and ask yourself if you've been hiding your dreams away from your peripheral.
Signs you might have hidden your dreams include putting away your favorite book for the sake of "cleanliness" or even something less obvious, like neglecting to surround yourself with inspiring quotes from your favorite authors.
Or maybe it's that you've stopped reading or seeing movies or playing video games. Out of sight out of mind, right?
However you've been hiding your writing dreams, it's time to take them back out. This simple act of putting your dreams right in front of you can be highly inspirational and help remind you to prioritize your writing dreams. Even if you haven't even returned to the blank page!
3. Create a realistic action plan
A realistic action plan accepts that you have a life you're currently used to living. This could mean with kids, long hours in the office, social obligations, or even other aspirational dreams. (Yes—you can have other dreams besides being a writer!) It means you honestly assess your life and your regular needs, and then see how much time you have left and build an action plan for that.
Assess how much time you really have after cooking, working, cleaning, sleeping, doing chores, socializing, and everything else.
Then give yourself an hour of time to do nothing once a week (including writing!), or more if you can.
Then look at how much time you have left in a week (or even a month!) and use that time to create a realistic action plan. This plan could be a weekly word count, a deadline for a short story—you name it. Just be honest with yourself and how much time you can reasonably give. It will help avoid disappointment and a return to your guilt-ridden days that make it impossible to write.
4. Write S.M.A.R.T. goals based on your realistic action plan
So far, most of this advice has been very abstract, which is why incorporating S.M.A.R.T. goals are so essential. You can rid yourself of guilt, surround yourself with inspiration, and be realistic all you want, but without concrete goals to work towards, it will be very hard to pursue your writing dreams.
In short, S.M.A.R.T. goals stand for:
You can learn more about S.M.A.R.T. goals and how to create them here.
5. Surround yourself with people who inspire you
Surrounding yourself with people who inspire you is another way of keeping your writing dreams in front of you. However, sometimes the people who inspire you aren't storytellers, and that's okay!
People can inspire you for various reasons, be it their work ethic, creativity, or organization. Assess the people who are a part of your life and write down how they inspire you. It will create a natural support system for you when you feel your writing dreams are slipping away.
In addition to surrounding yourself with those who inspire you, make sure they are also people who want you to do well in life too. I cannot stress this enough because you need people who want to lift you up, even if it means being a stepping stone for a bit.
The number one sign you have a friend that lifts you up? They check in on your dreams often, they ask "how is the writing going?" or ask questions about what you want to do as a writer. They're invested in your success, and as a result, you're likely pretty invested in theirs.
Writing may be a solitary passion and dream, but the journey isn't meant to be lonely! If you find your dreams slipping away, don't hesitate to ask people who inspire you for a boost. It's what they're there for and they can help with everything else related to pursuing your dreams, from letting go of guilt to creating an action plan. All you have to do is ask!