It's Okay to Lose Momentum
getting your writing groove back after a break
You can listen to an audio version of this newsletter above. Please note that this is unedited and I’m recording in my home office, so you may hear some meows, raindrops, or traffic in the background.
As a productivity scholar, I’m intrigued by long-term writing projects.
How do we break down a project to make it more accessible? How do we balance our progress with writing when dozens of other responsibilities nip at our ankles? How do we “get back on the horse” when life pulls us away from our routines?
I’m no stranger to big writing projects, both in school and on my own.
During my MFA in Creative Writing, I wrote and edited a thesis called I Came to in Conflagration and a separate manuscript that became my book of poems, Ghosty Boo.
When I shifted my studies to Rhetoric and Composition for my MA and PhD, I started publishing about Lisa Ben, the woman who wrote the first lesbian magazine in the U.S. in 1947. I wrote an article for The Journal of Lesbian Studies, a whole dissertation, and I’m developing a website to share my Lisa Ben research freely and publicly.
As an independent scholar, I published my book Tend to It: A Holistic Guide to Intentional Productivity in 2021, and this year I shifted my newsletter to Substack, where I write a few times a month.
When I was working on these overlapping, long-term projects, I regularly took breaks to prioritize paid work, deal with chronic illness flares, address my burnout, or enjoy a vacation. Each time I returned to writing, I needed to build up my momentum once again.
Whether the break is intentional or unexpected, it can be hard to dive back into a project when you’ve taken time away.
We might feel lost and shameful for forgetting where we left off. We may feel overwhelmed by reacclimating ourselves, or resentful that it’s taking us so long. My go-to feeling was hopelessness: how will I ever finish this project, maybe I should just give up, drop out, start over.
It can be difficult to derail these trains of thought, especially if we find ourselves stopping and starting often. But I invite you to give yourself permission to hold space for the following ideas:
Even when you temporarily lose momentum, you are not starting from zero.
You are not alone in whatever feelings this process brings up for you.
Especially with long-term projects, your writing practice will naturally ebb and flow.
Needing to “get back on the horse” more than once says nothing about your character or skills as a writer.
Part of my reason for starting “The Tending Year” (a year-long blog project where I practiced a productivity tool and wrote about it each week) was to build momentum for working on my dissertation. My momentum grew along with my skillsets of time management, productivity, and goal setting. Taking breaks finally felt enjoyable because I knew I could get back on the horse more easily when I returned.
Six years later, my writing project toolbox is bursting with self-compassionate and repeatable methods for making my process more doable, and I’m excited to share them with you!
Do you want to create a more flexible and streamlined approach to your writing projects? I invite you to join Dr. Katy Peplin (Thrive PhD) and me for our workshop, “Structure as a Path to Sustainability” on May 10, 2023 from 10am-2pm EDT (it will be recorded for folks who can’t attend live).
We can’t wait to guide you through this self-reflection and project-planning process so you, too, can experience increased clarity, direction, and momentum in your own writing. Registration is now open!
If you’re local to Western Massachusetts, check it out:
On Wednesday May 17th 6-7:30pm EDT I'll be doing a reading and leading a discussion at the Queer Valley Leadership Group at The Bloomery Art Gallery and Meeting Place. The Queer Valley Leadership Group provides an opportunity for LGBTQ+-identifying entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, and independent creatives based in the Valley and surrounding areas to network with a small group, and share experiences in queering systems and approaches to leadership.
The next day on May 18th 10-11:30am EDT I'm running a workshop at Forbes Library called "Work Slower, Not Harder: Accomplish Your Goals with Slow Productivity." I'll be guiding folks through writing prompts, small/large group discussions, and there will be a Q&A.
Covid Safety: Rapid tests are encouraged in advance of the workshop, and masks are required during this workshop for the safety and comfort of all.
Both events are sliding scale (no one turned away for lack of funds) and you can learn more and sign up via https://www.bloomlocal.live/events.
This section of my letters is for things that made me say “hmmm” or “wow!” recently.
Over the years I’ve learned that it’s not always great to announce a new project when I just started it just in case I decide I don’t want to finish it. So instead of saying “I’m learning Spanish” I’ll just say that I’ve been using Duolingo recently and the gamification makes it feel doable. I hope I stick with it.
Our sweet dog wasn’t doing too hot for a week and we spend a lot of time hanging with her on the couch, which is right by our TV. We watched Somebody Somewhere, some of High Maintenance, and just finished Season 1 of Dark (from the people who made 1899, which I loved).
I got a pair of Crocs and I’m now a Crocs person. They are very comfortable! The ones I have are for inside slipper purposes and I’m now on the hunt for a cute pair I can wear outside.
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