Jan 24, 2014

5 Tips for Getting Back on the Wagon After You've Stopped Writing

I'm in a long distant friendship. Luckily we're the types of friends that don't need constant communication to maintain our bond. Every time we get back together after some lapse, we usually fall right back into lockstep. That's both a gift and a curse.

There are times when other things have taken my attention and before I know it, a couple of weeks have passed since I communicated with my friend. At that point something strange can happen - I start to feel guilty for not communicating.

You would think that would be a push for me to pick up the phone or drop an email. Human nature being what it is, I'm now aware that that feeling can cause me to do the exact opposite.

I put it off longer. Sometimes that's because I'm still in the throws of things. I know I don't have time to write the lengthy communication that's in my head and writing something short seems "less than". Sometimes I just feel bad about not having done it and rather than dealing with that feeling I avoid it.

When this occurs, the more time passes, the more intense the feeling becomes and the more I avoid it.

Of course, this experience can apply to lots of things in life. Like working on a novel. Or, in my case, keeping up with social media.

You would think that the answer is simple  - duh, get going!

But I've found that to be easier said than done. Starting again is hard. I'm sure a psych major in the group could lend something scientific to the conversation to corroborate the feeling I have that keeps me avoiding my task. I so wish I could just get going.

But here I am. So If you are like me, and find that you have fallen off the wagon of doing something you very much would like to do, but are struggling to get past your feelings for neglecting your task to get started again, I offer the following tips.

  1. Recognize out loud that this is where you are -
    You have to get honest with yourself that you are in avoidance mode. You have to admit that you are in this place because you feel ashamed that you let your goal go or that you feel like a failure or that your mad at yourself for your poor time management skills or whatever personal demon is tied up in this for you. For many people, it's not as simple as "I got busy and then it got hard". From my experience, if your procrastinating restarting, there is usually something bigger tied to it.
  2. Review how you got there and look for ways to keep it from happening again -
    In September I had a death in my family. This was my derailing event. I spent October in mourning. By November I was off to the Nano races. Then came the holidays and the need to edit my nano book while my day job was light during said holidays.

    But looking at closer, those things just exasperated the fact that I didn't have a good social media plan in place to start with. I stopped writing my blog because every post required a lot of thought as to what it was going to be. I didn't have any articles in reserve and I wasn't all too sure what I wanted my blog to be when it grew up. So when derailers happened, I was eager to use them to avoid dealing with bigger underlying issues.

    I was going to recommend this as a last step. But as I was working my way back on my own wagon, this step was important in helping me to get through the next steps. I now have a plan to deal with the above. And having that plan makes starting again easier because I know I'm more likely to be successful this time. Sometimes the answer is just "stuff happens" but often times there are bigger lessons to learn if you go looking.
  3. Work up to it -
    Of course the obvious solution to fixing this dilemma is to just dive back in. But I've found for me I can't do that. My internal systems recoil at the thought of it. Whether it's getting back on to the diet train or the writing wagon, if you've been struggling to make the leap, I highly recommend that you set a date in the future. Everyday think about it happening. Roll over in your head what you need to do to prepare. It will still feel awkward on the day you are supposed to start. But it won't feel as awkward as it would have. You'll have regained some of the momentum you lost from stopping even though you haven't done the deed.
  4. Ask for help -
    Find a friend or loved one who you can share your shame with and your plan for overcoming it. You need to let yourself off the hook and it's easier to do when someone else tells you it's not the end of the world. The understanding you get will also help you want to stick to your plan for relaunch.
  5. Dive in -
    In the end, you still just have to man up. It will feel awkward (this does for sure). But you will stumble your way through. I promise. It will not end in disaster. And in fact, you will feel a sense of accomplishment once you are a few days, posts, chapters, friend communication exchanges (or whatever fits for progress in the wagon you are trying to climb back on) into it.
For me, I'm hoping this marks a more thoughtful return to my social media adventure. I'm coming back armed with a better plan for success.

How about you? Have you ever quit something you didn't want to and then had a hard time starting again? If so, what tricks worked for you to get going?

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