Getting back in the Groove: Reading your Favorite Writer

So it’s been awhile.

You had a good end of the year writing rush. You got your edits done and off to your writing group, your first readers, your second readers, your volunteer editing harem, maybe even your agent. You started a new project and lo and behold, THAT went well too.

Then the holidays snuck up behind you and kicked you in the spine.

Maybe there was travel. Gifts. Food. Possibly drink. More travel. A nasty head cold, some vomiting, and body aches topped off the festivities. Yet more travel.

Then you’re back home, and your day job would like very much if you could make up the time you just spent on the holiday break, without actually clocking any additional hours. Tax paperwork starts coming in. Your cold won’t go away. All those shows that conveniently went on break before the end of the year are back and broadcasting what feels like two new episodes a week and all your friends are talking about them and spoiling everything. The driver’s side windshield wiper starts tearing, your fifty thousand mile checkup is ten thousand miles overdue, and your kid wants to join ballet and karate.

You’re carefully sculpted writing groove caves in like a badly dug trench.

The situation grows more complicated.
The situation grows more complicated.

Now, please understand, when I mention a Groove, I’m not talking about a muse. I don’t believe in The Muse. A Muse. Whatever. Eff that nonsense right in the ear. Clinging to the ‘inspiration of the muse’ is some delicate, lacey bullshit (there’s a mental image) and I have no patience for it.

But there is such a thing as a groove, it is possible to get knocked out of it, and it can be a fucking drag to get back in there. Without some serious effort, it could take…

Well, honestly, it might never happen on its own.

This will not stand.

The mind-dulling blankness of January has gone by, and it’s time to dig your way back in there. Let the mud fly, people, and don’t worry about who else it hits.

What’s that? No shovel? Must you use your bare hands?


No. No you don’t. There are tools.


It’s a simple thing to say, but one very pleasant way to make the mud fly is to read. If nothing else, it helps you remember the various cool ways those word things get strung together. Some of what you read will inspire you, some will amaze you, and some of it will, to put it bluntly, make you really really mad that you aren’t making a living as an author right now, because goddamn if you aren’t a hell of a lot better than this guy.

But I don’t need to tell you to read. You’re doing that already.

Right. It’s not the activity that I’m specifically talking about, it’s the author; what I need you to do right now is start reading your very very favorite author of all time.


Now, I know what you’re thinking.

Man you're hard on yourself.
Man you're hard on yourself.

Why waste precious reading time on boring old you? Pay attention: you’ve been out of your groove for awhile, and while it’s great to read other fantastic and not-so-fantastic authors, it’s more important right now to remember your own voice.

Cuz you’ve kind of forgotten.

Which makes it really hard to jump back in and pick up where you left off.

So find something of yours. Doesn’t have to be super-polished. Doesn’t even have to be good. Probably shouldn’t really be that long, either.

Read it. Listen to that writer. See how they string the word things together. Get inspired by it, get amazed by it, and get angry at how much better you can do.

Let all the good and bad of the story soak into your winter-dry brain sponge. Let it percolate.

Tomorrow, you’re going to fix it.

5 Replies to “Getting back in the Groove: Reading your Favorite Writer”

  1. Good advice, although I would say it might be better to read outside your sub-genre unless you’re confident in your own voice. It becomes easy to slide into someone else’s patterns if they’re writing similar stories. I write romantic suspense, and when I’m in a writing rut, I read straight mystery. Or a romance in a totally different sub-genre.

  2. (Here from Chuck.)

    Timely for me, so thanks for this. Also, anything that tells me to focus more on myself is always good with me.

    No, there’s a lot of truth in reading something again to see how you work, to start those thoughts again.

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