“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”
—Catherine Drinker Bowen

3 Keys to Regain Your Writing Habits

You know what has momentum? A train. Those things don’t stop easily, not even when someone applies the brakes.

It’s my pleasure to tell you writing is much the same way.

writing habits

Is that the Chattanooga choo choo?

Have you ever seen a train start rolling from a complete standstill? (Just in case you haven’t, here’s a video). Yowza. Trains are heavy. It takes a while to get that much mass in motion, but once it does, it’s almost impossible to stop.

This applies to us directly. For all writers, there will be a time you find yourself not writing. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, believe me, it will.

Life does that. It swamps you, trips you, chokes you, slows you down, and before you know what happened, your writing habits have died.

Like a train on the tracks going nowhere, your poor writing habits sit—powerful, but unproductive.

You need to start writing again. And just like a locomotive, your writing may take some real effort to get going.

How to Regain Your Writing Habits

So how do you do it? How do you regain momentum when you’ve come to a dead halt? It comes down to just a few simple things. Here are three keys to help you regain your writing habits:

1. Forgiveness

The first key toward regaining your lost momentum is forgiving yourself.

  • Forgive  the days you didn’t write. They happen. They happen to all of us. Know that you’re not alone, and those empty days do not define you as a writer.
  • Forgive the writing you produced that isn’t what you wanted. As I’m fond of saying, we all struggle because we almost never manage to create things good enough to satisfy our very refined taste. Ira Glass says it like this:

    “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. […] It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

  • In other words, keep going. Keep writing, and what you create will match your taste in time. Ah, but how do you keep writing? With courage.

2. Courage

The second key toward regaining your momentum is courage.

  • Write even when it’s like pulling teeth. Don’t skip it because you’re tired, or have fallen out of the habit. Especially don’t skip it when you hate what you’re writing. This can be really hard if your confidence has taken a hit, but you must write. I confess this is hard for me; I struggle with perfectionism, and there’s very little that kills momentum as quickly as perfectionism can.
  • By the way, this means forgiving yourself again. Sometimes, what you write won’t be as good as you want it to be. Don’t let that stop you. Want to get better? Write more!
  • Write. Write. Write. Make it a daily habit if you can, and as you do, you’ll find writing grows easier. You will gain momentum.

It’ll run right over pennies of doubt on your tracks, and if you do it long enough, it will even survive dynamite tossed by any resident crazy-makers. Start writing, and don’t give up.

3. Claim 2016 as Your Year!

2016 is your year to create that writing momentum.

Let me repeat that: 2016 is your year to create that writing momentum. If I can do it, so can you. There’s no better day than today to get started.

Are you ready to declare 2016 your year of momentum? Let us know in the comments.


Gaining momentum is about forgiving yourself and about courage. Head down to the comments section and forgive yourself for any disappointments in your writing life, then stand up boldy and claim “momentum” for 2016. No matter if your train is already chugging along or currently still on the tracks, it’s time to declare this as your year. Don’t forget to comment on three other declarations of self-forgiveness and courage, too!

About Ruthanne Reid

Sci-fi/fantasy author Ruthanne Reid currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona, though some say she really lives in her head. They'd be right. To see what she's all about (and snag free books), visit RuthanneReid.com or follow her on Twitter (@RuthanneReid).

  • Debbie

    Just bought my one-way ticket on the 2016 Express. Thanks for the encouragement, Ruthanne.

    • ruthannereid

      Glad to hear it, Debbie! 2016 is our year!

      • Debbie

        Ruthanne – I’m planning on getting back to the I Was a Stolen Mummy story. I might need your help.

    • Elizabeth

      Ruthanne, I plan to do all 3 of your points. I’m on board for this year 2016 is my year!

  • Sarkis Antikajian

    Often ideas that seem to have potential as stories when put on the page seem bland and nowhere to go. That’s disheartening and an excuse to feel inadequate as a writer. But everyone says, the thing to do is to write something daily and not get stuck mulling a problem and getting nowhere. To do this, I may write about whatever it was that I have done the day before even if it is narrating my daylong activity, and once I start putting sentences on my computer I regain the feeling that I am at least accomplishing something.

    • Elizabeth

      I will try, as you say Sarkis, to write everyday even if a log of what I have been doing.

      • Sarkis Antikajian

        Yes, Elizabeth, in doing so there is a chance that one thing may lead to another.

    • retrogeegee

      I know what you talking about. I have now committed to writing 500 words a day in a journal meant for my eyes only, and then 500 words on some form of creative writing. This practice helps keep me grounded and gets rid of mental obstacles.

      • Elizabeth

        Thank you retrogeegee for the idea of a journal.

      • ruthannereid


    • ruthannereid

      Yes, Sarkis! We have to keep going, even when we feel it isn’t “right.” It will get there. It just needs practice – just like any art. Nobody starts out dancing ballet; we all have to learn one wobble at a time! 🙂

  • LilianGardner

    Ruthanne, I like your entire post, but #2 is worth reading again and again.
    Forgiving myself? That’s super!
    I do feel that 2016 is a positive year, and I hope it’s not only because I’m an incurable optimist. Honest, I DO feel as if it will turn out to be a special year.
    Cheer’s, Ruthanne, may you have a special year, too, and thanks so much for your post.

    • ruthannereid

      I’m so glad to hear this, Lilian! My heart’s with you, and I just KNOW you’ll create wonderful things this year!

  • Ruthanne,

    This is the most timely post I’ve read today. This week! Maybe even this year (Yeah. Okay. It’s only January 13, but you know what I mean. It’s. Good!)

    It’s been over a year since I last worked on a new manuscript for a variety of reasons. Now I’m back at it again and I’ll tell you, last week was tough!

    The last time I wrote fresh fiction, I was writing two or three thousand words a day. Sure some of them were poor, but they were on paper so they counted. I could write for an hour or two with only minor breaks.

    Now it’s tough to sit still for 30 minutes and my word count is way below what I’m used to.

    Just last week, I realized it’s a lot like running. Get out of the habit of running long enough and even if you could run a four-minute mile when you stopped, you’re going to have retrain all those muscles and build up your stamina again.

    So I’d add one more point to your list. Be patient and realize you will have to get yourself back into writing condition.

    By the way, watching a train start from a standstill is even more impressive if you’re near the middle of the train. You hear nothing. The cars just start rolling. That’s why it’s such a dangerous place.

    • retrogeegee

      Carrie, I too think this is the best post I’ve read in a while. So glad you added the bit about the slow starting of a train before it reaches peak momentum. I need to forgive myself the slow sometimes stuttering start before momentum is notable. I have the image of myself going full steam ahead before I get there and tend to get discouraged.

      • Likewise! Full steam ahead and from the start! Sometimes writing is like that, but not always.

    • ruthannereid

      Carrie, this is a great response. I’m right there with you! It IS just like running… and we can get back into it if we try. I look forward to your word count getting back up to where you need it to be! 🙂

      • Ruthanne,


        I’m trying 15-minute timed writings today. Sort of like sprints. We’ll see how it goes.

  • FritziGal

    When you find you can’t write, try writing about why you can’t write. That should be enough to get you going again.

    • GS Seda

      Oh, I so like that advice…write about why you can’t write. I agree that once I started thinking along these lines, somehow I felt motivated to write again. Thanks a lot for your observation.

    • ruthannereid

      Yes! Stream-of-consciousness is often a good way to unplug the writer’s brain.

    • George McNeese

      That’s a good suggestion. I need to follow that advice.

  • Mariposa

    I forgive myself for not writing consistently. I do need the courage to re- read and finish my 2014 nanowrimo novel even though I’m stuck.

    • ruthannereid

      You can do it, Mariposa! Even if it means writing something new, or taking your novel from a completely different point of view. You can absolutely do this.

  • KathyW

    It’s been three months since I have worked on my manuscript. I was in the process of doing the 2nd draft and stopped. A we say, life happens and things get in the way. I am so glad I read this as it has encouraged me to start a new class on Writers Village University and begin working again. Thanks everyone for the words of wisdom you so generously give.

    • ruthannereid

      I’m so glad to hear this, Kathy! You can absolutely do this. Don’t give up!

  • ziggyboo

    I need to print out number two and stick it to my monitor!

    • ruthannereid

      I hope it helps, Ziggyboo!! 🙂

  • Terry Lynn Tuttle

    OK! Like Debbie I am buying the one-way Express Ticket. 2016 is the year I stop hiding my writing in the bottom dresser drawer and stop burying it so far in my laptop that it would take McGee from NCIS maybe 30 seconds to find it. That T-Rex of Doubt is gonna be tussling on the tracks with the 2016 Express to Success. Maybe. Sort of. Did I really post this?

    • ruthannereid

      Fantastic, Terry! You can absolutely do this. That stupid T-Rex is gonna be after you anyway – so you might as well write in spite of him and his useless little arms. 😀

  • Christine

    Thanks for your inspiring post, Ruthanne. For writers, too, the old saying applies, “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” (Oh, how I hate to see those sensible old idioms abandoned as cliché!)

    In December I went through a down time both physically and emotionally. By the end of the year I was disenchanted with my blogs, my writing, my life. The one bright spot was my children’s book, The Rescuing Day; it was finally in print and I was selling copies. So why was I so down?

    Last month I was doing a lot of writing short poems (haiku) and blog posts, but nothing that felt like an accomplishment. No job satisfaction, you could say. The train was running close to empty. Then several blogging friends got into writing 100-word challenges and i did a couple of these myself. Even that little bit sent a fresh shot of fuel through the line.

    Last week I realized again that I am first of all a fiction writer and I NEED to write fiction. Constantly. So what if it’s not another book! I’ll keep on track even if I write 100-word stories. I don’t know what gives with me, but if I stop writing fiction I lose my momentum, my “job satisfaction”, my sense of purpose — and the wheels stop turning.

    Maybe I just have to forgive myself for being such a nut and get on with it?

    • Elizabeth

      I find sometimes Christine when we have had success” the wind is taken out of our sails.” Those are the times I find I read for inspiration. I then can re-focus and write something.

    • ruthannereid

      YES!! You’re not alone in this. We lose more than just momentum; it redefines us.
      I’m so glad you’ve realized this. You can forgive yourself; you can. You’re not crazy or a nut. 🙂 You ARE a writer, and this is your year!

  • I second everyone who likes this post! I did pretty well with my writing routine in 2015. I finished a couple of manuscripts. They may not be the best manuscripts, but they were finished ones, which is more than I can say for previous years. However, the holidays really derailed me. I was off work, spending time with family, etc. I’m trying to get back on track this year and this post is really helpful!

    • ruthannereid

      You and me both, Natalie. 🙂 We can do this! 2016 is our year!!

  • Terence Verma

    When you lose writing momentum and come to a stop, there has to have been a cause. That cause may have nothing to do with what you love writing about. But, the unproductive thoughts that the cause created have simply pushed your productive thoughts onto the proverbial back-burner. So, to rid your mind-space of those unproductive usurper thoughts, just write them down. A clarity of thinking emerges, and your pet topic once again becomes top of mind.

    • Elizabeth

      Terence Verma thank you for your idea of …usurper of thoughts being put on the back burner.

    • ruthannereid

      Definitely, Terence! It can really help to put these things down on paper. It can even help us to cope with those struggles as we see unused opportunities!

  • S.Ramalingam

    This articles helps anyone to renew his habit of writing regularly, if he has lost his momemntum elsewhere.But in my humble opinion, writing being creative in nature will have its gaps depending upon the nature and mood of the person who writes.But what is required is the will to persist as a writer.It should have been ingrained in your blood by this time regardless of the quality of your writing.

    • ruthannereid

      Yes! Inspiration is good, but persistence is essential. And the way we reach that level of persistence is practice. 🙂 You can do this!

  • DiyaSaini

    Inspiration is an important ingredient for any writer, whether his train is on the track or chugging towards it’s journey. A year back, caught up on a movie, which still has entangled me though. An aspiring musician finds music everywhere, in the wind, chattering & whispering of people, closing & opening of things, the walks & halts, peddling or driving everything in the environment has a music to lend. It’s the way you look & feel about things.
    To be inspired is more important than to inspire others. Perfection always comes second to Inspiration.
    Attune your senses to the given environment, there is always a story to tell.

    • ruthannereid

      Absolutely, Diya! It’s up to use then to take the inspiration we’ve been given and turn it into motivation.

  • ruthannereid

    Awesome, LaCresha! This is your year!

  • I am trusting you are right, that 2016 is the year I do AGAIN! It took me a long time to gain the momentum to finish my debut novel. Now I am working on the prequel “Crimes & Impunity in New Orleans” and I am finding that same lack of belief in myself and my ability to see the holes that need filled in. I have the beginning and end, as well as some of the middle, but I have a long way to go to make this ms ready for an editor.
    I told the editor I would have it to him in March or April so I really need to get crackin’!
    Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

    • Oh, wow, Sherrie! I’m so, so happy for you that you’re getting momentum back.
      You can do this. You absolutely can.
      It’s awesome that your husband wrote this for you! What fantastic support. 🙂

  • George McNeese

    I tend to be a perfectionist, too. Last year, I made a goal to write every day for a month. Every month, I fell short a day or two. The last few months of the year, I was off six or seven days spread out over the month. This year, I made a new goal to not so much write every day, but to write for fifteen minutes. I think that’s a bit more realistic with the schedule I have. Last year’s goal and this year’s goal are all about developing those good writing habits and forgiving myself if I don’t write every day.

    • That’s a great idea, George! And it’s good to forgive yourself. That’s a wonderful step toward being a writer.

  • Jose

    I proudly showed my debut pieces of writing to my close friend. I was really thrilled about it only to be completely demotivated by the friend’s comments. Haven’t started for over an year now. Reading your suggestions to gain my confidence back.

    • Keep writing! You can absolutely do this. I know what it feels like to lose momentum because of that kind of thing; comments can be really hurtful, even when folks don’t mean them to be.

      Keep writing. The only way to get better is to keep going – and you WILL get better. It’s just like learning an instrument!

  • Jose

    This post is very helpful and motivating