Inching Along

Today began the first full workweek of 2020. It’s only six days into the new year. Last week was split perfectly in half by New Year’s Day, which here in West Michigan was surprisingly sunny and warm, and I got out to the park to go cross country skiing in the afternoon just as the sun was starting to slant, long and golden, through the pine trees.

I’ve only written here and there, in fits and starts, since the turn of the year. Fifteen minutes on break at work. An hour over the weekend when no one was looking. The holidays stretched long in my family, starting days before Christmas and just finishing this weekend, because one sibling was sick over New Year’s and so they came later instead.

Having just written up my writing goals for 2020, I feel itchy. I want to get back into my daily word count. I want to build some momentum. I want to stop feeling like my characters are old friends I’ve lost track of, like I don’t remember what they’re into anymore and don’t remember how to talk to them. When I do make time to write, I read and reread my sentences, wondering if they sound right, feeling vaguely that something is wrong, self-conscious that I’m not working more quickly.

I’ve been here before. Many, many times. I’ve gotten bored with projects, or too busy with work or school, or been really sick, or gone on vacation without my laptop. Whether for a few days or for whole months at a time, I’ve taken breaks from my writing before and managed to get back into it with time.

I used to get a lot more scared when I lost my writing momentum. I’d worry I’d lost it for good, or that working on my manuscript would always feel this slow and painful.

Over the years, I’ve mostly given up that fear. I can’t seem to actually stop writing, and I’ve learned from experience—over years and years—that the momentum does come back eventually, even if the process is long and slow and often requires patience. There are ebbs and flows with writing, as with pretty much everything else, and instead of worrying about my natural writing rhythms, I can spend that time much better by just sitting down and writing.

So I’m trying to be generous with myself with what I am getting done. I did edit a few paragraphs today. Maybe they aren’t amazing, but they’re done, and I’m moving forward. I am refamiliarizing myself with the characters and plot of my novel. I am getting back into a more normal routine after the holidays even if Monday doesn’t always feel great. And even if I don’t get my momentum back right this minute because other things come up, I know myself well enough to know I will keep writing anyway.

I’ve been writing stories for over twenty years, so I doubt the 2019–2020 holiday season is going to be the thing that stops me cold in my tracks.

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