Keep Your Head in the Game

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

It’s confession time. After the amazing SCBWI Midsouth Revision Retreat, in April, I didn’t write for a month.

“A whole month?” you ask. “But didn’t you say the retreat was inspirational?”

Yes, yes, the retreat was fantastic. The writing lapse is entirely my fault. I got so much good feedback that I wasn’t sure where to start, and instead of picking a place and diving in, I decided to let it rest for a few days. Bad idea. Because then I was out of the habit of writing, and life got in the way. You don’t need the details. Just know that I stayed busy, and I didn’t write. Then, the real problem came. I had a few minutes to write, and I actually sat down to do it. “Good job, Megan,” I congratulated myself. “Way to get back in the groove.” But wait. Where was I going with this scene? I didn’t know. What were those suggestions from my critique partners at the retreat again? Let me thumb back through those pages. And then my fifteen minutes were up, and life was calling again, and since I didn’t know what I was doing anyway, I got up and got on with other things.

Finally, on my daughter’s last day of preschool before summer vacation—the last day for two months when I would have a guaranteed three hours to myself—I sat down at my computer and dug back into the story. I’d lost all sense of flow. I didn’t even remember which scene I’d been revising. I reread the critique I’d gotten from an agent on my first ten pages and then exported the entire manuscript to a Kindle document (another handy feature that makes me love Scrivener. I spent the rest of preschool time on the couch with my dog and my Kindle, rereading enough of the manuscript to rediscover my rhythm, remember why I love these characters, and see the flaws still in my manuscript that I need to revise away.

Then, a miracle occurred, and my daughter took a two-hour nap that afternoon, which meant that I was finally ready to (drumroll, please) . . . write!

My long hiatus from my story caused a lot of problems and became a self-reinforcing habit because the longer I stayed away, the harder it was to jump back in. I just talked to Stacey about a crazy week she’d been having. She hadn’t gotten to write much, but she’d managed to squeeze in fifteen minutes a day. Just that little bit of work was adding up, and—just as important—she had maintained the flow of her story in her head.

My conversation with Stacey, along with Naomi’s post “66 Days,” have reminded me of the importance of keeping my head in the game. Apparently it’ll take me at least 66 days to create the habit, but I’m going to try spending at least a few minutes on my story first thing in the morning to prime my creativity. That way, when I sit down for a regular, full-length writing session, I will already have the story in mind and know where I need to start. Maybe I’ll keep my computer by my bed at night so I won’t even have to get up to do it—I am so not a morning person. (Naomi, how do you get up at 5 a.m. and keep your eyes from crossing? Or do you just type with your eyes closed? Hmm. There’s an idea.)

Have you ever spent so long away from your story that you lost your flow? How did you get it back? How do you stay out of that predicament in the first place?

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