goals · writing

Immersed In The World Of Writing

One of my goals is to become immersed in the world of writing. At least, as immersed as I can be in my current circumstances.

There’s a bulletin board that hangs on the wall beside my bed. Not much is pinned there – a few inspiring quotes, and then these three pieces of paper that I created during a group therapy session I led a few months ago. Three pieces of paper – three words, one written on each one. The words? Family, service, and writing.

When I zero in on what my priorities are, it’s these three things: my family, service to others, and writing. I am hopeful that, with my new job and my new schedule, it will be possible for every moment of my life to be in pursuit of these three priorities.

Now, my instinct, as always, is to write out a detailed plan for how I can stay immersed – how I can be connected to my writing pursuits at all times. 1. Listen to writing podcasts. 2. Read books about writing. 3. Use non-writing time – like time walking the dog – to think about specific pieces of writing. However – one thing that recovery has shown me is that things work out way better for me when I let go rather than when I tighten up and try to meticulously plan out every minute of my life.

So, my aim has been to let go a little. I now have more time to write than I’ve had in years, and that’s great. I don’t need to beat myself up for WHAT I decide to write at any given moment in time. Some days, I’ll show up to my computer, and I’ll start typing out blog posts; some days, I’ll want to visit my novel or a short story. If there’s ever a need for concentration in one area, it will arise naturally; for now, I have the freedom to write the thing that feels best in the present.

I only have a certain amount of time to write. But I want to devote as much of my non-writing time as possible to runway work – time to prep for the moments when I can finally sit down and put words on the blank page. I can feel it happening already – I’ll start pondering a potential blog post while I’m out on the trail running, or I’ll make a note when I’m reading of an interesting plot point an author has used.

Ever since my sabbatical started, I have a feeling of lightness in my heart that I haven’t had in years. I’m excited to see where the lightness takes me. For now – my butt’s in the chair, and I’ll be here, typing away.

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writing

Mornings

Today I am reflecting on the goals for my Summer Sabbatical. There were seven goals. A few of them will definitely be met, and a few of them are proving really challenging. For example – I have been pretty diligent about making time for writing, but that has meant that getting things on my to-do list done has been more challenging.

One of my intentions which was not on my list of goals is to form good routines with regard to everything I want to do and get done. This can be hard, because life is seasonal. What works in July won’t work in December. In my ideal world, I’d set up a regular weekly routine and I’d never have to change it unless I wanted to. It sounds exhausting to me, readjusting my schedule every time daylight or the work day changes.

I feel so grateful to have this break from work life to form good habits and to consider best practices. And, when possible, I really want to try to form habits NOW that I can carry with me once my new job starts.

The more I think about it, I zoom in on mornings as the time when I need to get up early to write. When I look at my days, there are chunks of time that can be devoted to writing, but the biggest periods of time available once work starts will be early in the morning or after Edgar’s bedtime. And I am NOT my best self in the evenings; I am, and I have always been, a morning person. If writing is important to me – and it really, really is – then I want to give writing my best and most reliable time of day.

My evenings can sometimes get lost amidst tidying and tiredness and outside events (meetings, dinner guests, etc). My mornings are mine – ESPECIALLY if I get up at four to make sure I have a significant amount of time to get writing done!

I gave this a try this morning – so this is my first Morning Pages-esque attempt at getting words on the page. My alarm went off at 4:30 A.M., and I didn’t sleep well last night, so snoozing and sleeping on sounded appealing – but I got up anyway, because this is important. And I’m grateful to have had this time to reflect and center before my day of adventures with my toddler begins.

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creativity · writing

Clearing The Cobwebs

Whenever I am away from my writing for a while, I find that it’s hard to return to fictional writing when I’m back at work. Before I’m able to dive back into fiction, I am usually drawn to writing a whole bunch of blog posts. I call this clearing the cobwebs, and I think it’s an important part of my writing process.

Sometimes, it’s been a few days or weeks since I’ve been able to sit down and write, the creative juices aren’t exactly flowing. And usually after that much time away, my thoughts are racing and crisscrossing and bumping into each other – to the point where I have to allow myself to focus on writing personal blog posts. Once I’ve gotten my multitude of thoughts somewhat formulated on the blank screen – only then can I turn to fiction and be both creative and productive.

I often wonder if this is true for other creators. Maybe painters who’ve been away for a while need to do some pencil sketches before they can run back to their easel. Maybe musicians need to jam a little, freestyle, before trying to compose after some time away. It could be true for others; it’s definitely true for me.

My instinct has been to chastise myself for this in the past. “You finally have time to write!  You should be writing the great American novel, not just scribbling about your trip to the beach and a little free library!” These past few weeks, though, I haven’t been beating myself up at all. I’ve accepted that this is part of my process, and I’ve enjoyed it. I think I’m able to enjoy this more because I’m not feeling as pressed for time as I usually am. When I look ahead, I know I will have time to write, even after I return to work in late August. I have a tentative plan, and some flexibility, and some faith.

With my new schedule and the intentions I’ve set, I’m hoping I’ll never be away from writing for too long or too often again. But I know it will happen from time to time, and I’m happy to have this playful, peaceful space where I can come to clear the cobwebs.

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balance · writing

Wow

For months, I’ve been dreaming about taking a break from work – having some time to rest, to recuperate, to reset, to recharge.

Even though I am two days into my Summer Sabbatical, I still can’t believe it’s really happened. I am on vacation. I’m resting. I’m recuperating.

The last four years of my life have been exhausting. Wonderful, at times – but exhausting. There were two years of the adoption wait, and then two years of caring for Edgar and learning how to be a parent. And, for the last two and a half years, my work life has been a source of stress – and I am not very good at compartmentalizing. When work is draining, life is draining; when work is stressful, I can feel myself experiencing a low level of stress all weekend long.

And then – today. Today was incredible. I dropped Edgar off at school – I went for a four-mile run – I ran several errands – and then I came home, and I have spent the entire afternoon focused on writing. I’ve written blog posts. I’ve organized some of my fiction writing in Google docs. I’ve sorted through drafts of short stories, figuring out what I want to work on first and next.

I haven’t had this kind of uninterrupted time in what feels like forever. I feel like I have time to get organized, to actually contemplate what I want to write about, and why, and when. I keep waiting for the stress of job hunting and work to creep back into my body, but then I remember that I am really, truly on vacation from my work life, and I say a little prayer of gratitude.

People keep asking me what I’m going to do with my time off. Sometimes I give them the small-talk-chit-chat version – “oh, this and that, nothing big” – and sometimes I share the honest truth: “I have wanted to be a writer for my entire life, and I’m hoping to use this break to set myself up so that this lifelong dream can come true.” (It’s not predictable which of these versions will come out. Really just depends on my mood, my state of mind, and my bravery at that particular moment.)

It’s definitely going to take practice. I can feel myself being pulled in different directions. Right now, I keep thinking that I should get up and do the dishes. And then my better self gently reminds me: You did not quit your job so you could be more prompt about doing the dishes. 

I am so grateful for this day, and for this summer. I am so happy to be taking care of myself and taking baby steps toward my creative goals.

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self-care · writing

On Writing About Self-Care

Why do we write about the things we write about?

I absolutely love writing about self-care. I love writing blog posts that talk about how I take care of myself and strategies for self-care that others can use.

The thing is – I suck at self-care. It’s not my strength. I am always setting new resolutions about practicing better self-care, and it’s because this is not something I do well naturally.

Now, this is interesting to me. I assumed that people would gravitate toward writing on topics about which they have some expertise. Maybe some writers do that.

Maybe other writers, like me, are drawn to writing about things that we’re trying to figure out. When I write, it helps me to figure out what I think and how I feel about a topic.

This lines up with something I’ve wondered about: the tendency for new parents to do a lot of writing/podcasting about parenting. Now that I’m a parent, I imagine that this instinct is often about new parents trying to figure out what they’re doing and wanting to explore this new (and veryveryvery important) frontier by writing and talking about it.

Recently, I went through all of my old blog posts (346 so far – yippee!), and I assigned each post to at least one ‘category.’ Many, many posts fell into the category of self-care.  It’s a subject that baffles me and inspires me.  It’s a topic I’ll continue to explore.

And, maybe, someday get better at it?

Sigh. We’ll see.

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blogging · writing

Prioritizing

I’ve been feeling really optimistic and strong about my writing goals.

I actually wrote them down today, and that felt simultaneously scary and awesome. My two big goals for 2018 are to post consistently on the blog, and to finish a draft of my novel.

I’m feeling optimistic – but the actual writing is not getting done to the extent I’d like at the moment, and that scares me.

The thing is that I have limited time in my week for everything I want and need to do, and I’m having trouble balancing the needs for family, friends, recovery work, writing, reading, farming, and mindfulness. And, you know – anything else that needs or wants to get done.

The blog posts have their own implicit deadline, so that’s easier. As long as I stay committed to posting twice weekly, that’ll get done.

But how do I make sure I’m getting novel time?  Especially when (like now) my fingers aren’t exactly itching to write it?

I don’t have any good answers right now. All I have is my optimism, and I’m just going to hang on to that and hope for the best.

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simplifying · writing

Love Affair With Looseleaf

Today I was at the grocery store and I found myself lovingly placing a discounted pack of loose leaf paper in my shopping cart.

It was 49 cents and that’s a small price to pay for the happiness I get from a fresh new pack of loose leaf paper.

There is something about a fresh, new package of looseleaf paper that makes me SO HAPPY. The paper is clean and white. When I write on the top sheet, with a good pen – Pilot Easy Touch Fine Point, for example – it feels so good.

I have always loved the physical act of handwriting. I, somewhat vainly, have always loved my own handwriting. I started journaling in elementary school, and then leveled up in college, when I started to carry a journal with me everywhere I went in case I had a thought I needed to chronicle on the spot.

Of course, times change. I don’t need a journal to chronicle my thoughts. My phone is always close by, usually actually in my pocket, and I can (and do) write an idea for a blog post quickly and easily at any moment.

In fact, I might be even more nostalgic for looseleaf these days because I recently abandoned my paper planner in favor of using a combination of my bullet journal and the Google calendar on my phone. I’ve always loved having a planner – picking out a new planner has always been a major treat to me – but it just doesn’t feel practical anymore. The bullet journal is way more flexible for my day-to-day planning needs, and for big picture things, like weddings/play dates/writing groups, using Google calendar makes so much more sense.

But it still makes me sad.

I will soothe my soul by drafting an essay on my new looseleaf paper.