On Writing

Writing is therapeutic.

I poured my hormonal teenage heart out on the pages of my Creative Writing notebook in high school. I voiced my complaints in my Comp I journal in college. And in my forties, I expressed my fears and resentments, as well as my gratitude, by blogging. Although my blog has been essentially dark the past year or so, I have been getting my therapy. Last November, I completed the first draft of a book, which I am in the process of editing.

The transitions I have made in the past year astound me. I have taken back my maiden name (again, and for the last time). I am fully self-employed for the first time in my life (after being out of work on worker’s comp for two years). I now edit a newsletter for a professional organization, coordinate a group of volunteers at a spiritual center, and sing regularly (at a coffeehouse where I also MC). And throughout all of this, I wrote.

I wrote essays for classes I took. I wrote copy for a personal growth organization. I wrote affirmative prayers. I wrote 750 words (Morning Pages) of daily brain drain. I wrote poetry. I wrote handwritten notes and cards to friends and family. I wrote lyrics. I wrote personal inventories as part of a 12-step program. I wrote gratitude lists. I wrote letters to God. I wrote “to do” lists. I wrote a book.

All of it therapeutic.

Sorting out my thoughts and feelings on paper is healing… choosing the words with just the right tone… creating a certain mood… poring over the subtle nuances of each synonym… hearing the ring of a well-chosen phrase. These are the things that have helped me create order in chaotic times, make sense of (or peace with) the events that make up my life, and simply get things off my chest.

Regardless of the reams of paper I have filled, I have only recently accepted the title, Writer. Now that the dust has settled (for the time being anyway), the latest catharsis complete, I have come to the realization that I am a writer — not because I have a certain number of words under my belt, not because I have been paid to write, nor because I have something unique to say.

I am a writer because I write.

Blocks

As I stare at the blinking cursor,

Wondering what to say,

My writer’s block is thick,

And keeping thoughts at bay.

 

As void of thought in meditation,

I wish that I  could be,

But endless thoughts come crashing in,

Blocking my serenity.

Daily Notes: Watch Your Mailbox!

StationeryLast year, I made an agreement to write every day. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that the time I allotted was a mere 15 minutes (just long enough to begin formulating coherent thoughts). Fortunately, that rapidly grew into much more time spent at the keyboard and putting pen to paper. I planned to blog every day, not as an agreement to which I held myself accountable, but more as a goal I strived to achieve. I did well with this until late summer when I began taking an anti-anxiety medication for my PTSD. So, although I was writing, I stopped blogging.  I just stopped.

Late in 2014, I wanted to get back on track and made a couple of attempts that each resulted in one day in a row of blogging. As 2015 began, I wanted to begin blogging regularly again (the key word here – wanted). Now here it is the 9th, and up until now, I have completed 2 posts in January, for a grand total of one two-day stint. So I’ve decided to use another writing agreement I’ve made to push me toward my blogging goal.  (I have not made a blogging agreement because the primary goal is to be writing. I have other endeavors besides this blog and I don’t want to be bogged down by a committment to post when I may deadlines to meet on other projects.)

So this year, I made a committment to write a handwritten note to someone daily.  Part of the agreement is that I will mail or hand deliver the note within a week of writing it.  My purpose in bring this up is that I have decided to post weekly about this process.  The results of this agreement have been gratifying, even in this first week.  I thought long and hard about to whom I would write first.  After long consideration, it seemed the most person to begin with was my mother. After all, without her, I would not be here.  Of course I would have loved to do double duty and write to my dad, and he is no longer on this plane.  I know I can write to him anyway, so I plan to do that for his birthday in February.

In addition to deciding  who would get my first note, I made preparations for the process. I purchased a couple of books of stamps, I rounded up all my address labels that were in various baskets and drawers around the house, and I scoured the attic for forgotten stationery and cards. I even asked for stationery and notecards for Christmas.  My sister bought me two boxes of beautiful stationery, some boxed notecards, and some unique handmade cards.  I also received a coupon to create some free photo notecards. I used it to create three different styles of notecards made from photos I had used in blog posts. I purchased a caddy to keep everything in sight and at the ready. I received a pocket planner for Christmas, which I am using to record birthdays and other special occasions.  I have also written the names of the people to whom I will write each day. When I have completed my agreement for the day, I tick off the name of the recipient.

Early the first week, I received a letter from a friend who knew I had made tBirds Cardhis agreement.  She was writing because she said that my agreement had inspired her to begin writing more. Today I received a text message from another friend who congratulated me on the progress  I have made and thanked me for the photo card I sent her.  She has enriched my life to a degree that I do not think she is aware and I simply wanted to thank her. . My step-father is in the hospital and I have been under the weather. Instead of bringing germs into his environment, I mailed him a get well card, inside which I wrote him a note. He’s been in and out of the hospital a lot and I don’t remember the last time I sent him a card. The engagement with other people, which has resulted from my note writing, has been a pleasant side-effect

So, as I reflect on the past week, I am finding great joy in my latest writing endeavor.  I am also hoping that my desire to share this experience will help me reestablish my blogging habit.  In the meantime, keep an eye on your mailbox. You might be next!

Tool: 750 Words

toolanything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose:  Education is a tool for success.

One way we help others along the path is by sharing tools that have been useful to us on our own journeys.  One tool that was recently shared with me is a technology that has helped me better utilize a simpler tool I discovered previously.  Both have helped me become a better writer and more creative in general.

Several years ago, I was invited to participate in an Artist’s Way group, based on Julia Cameron’s book.  As part of the process, I began writing Morning Pages, a daily “brain drain” recommended by the author to clear the mind and allow the flow of creativity. Cameron calls for three handwritten pages to be done first thing in the morning.  I found the exercise stimulating and freeing.  Cameron refers to Morning Pages as one of her Basic Tools in the process of recovering creativity.

I have recently begun a new Artist’s Way group (my 4th now), and now draft my Morning Pages online on 750words.com.  The site notes that Cameron’s Morning Pages were meant to be done by hand, yet drafting them on a computer is valuable in many ways.

Once you have completed your 750 words (the approximate number of words in three longhand pages), you can immediately see statistics ranging from how much time it took to get 750 words on the page to what the weather was like when you were writing.  The site records your start and finish times, and notes any distractions (periods of more than 3 minutes when you are not writing). I especially like the fact that it stores my Morning Pages for me.

The site utilizes motivators such as badges for accomplishments (i.e, the number of days in a row that you complete your 750 words) and monthly challenges which result in a place on the Wall of Awesomeness (or the Wall of Shame, if you do not meet the challenge).  It is all in good fun and is helping me become consistent in completing my daily “stream of consciousness” mind dump.

Check out 750words.com and tell me what you think.

I’m Baa… aack!

It’s funny how quickly things can change.  August 21st I wrote my last blog post until tonight.  I had only missed a few days of posting in 8 months and then, one day, I stopped.

I don’t quite know why. I just did.

So here it is, more than 2 months later, and I begin… again.

A lot has happened since my last post, and I will get to all of it soon enough.  I have been doing a lot of writing, although it hasn’t been here.  I am writing a Newsletter, doing some copy writing, and am embarking on a creative writing endeavor as well.  In addition, I am journaling (partly for a book study I am leading, and partly as a component of my PTSD treatment).

I am not going back to my hard-core commitment to post every day, simply because I am doing so much writing.  Ironically, I may just become habituated to daily posting anyway.  I do miss the phoneography challenge in which I participated on Mondays, as well as my Wisdom Wednesday quotes.  So, who knows…?  I just know that I have missed my diary-gone-public.

And I’m baa… aack!

Not Too Shabby

Sometime today it dawned on me that I had broken my agreement to post every day this year. I did not post yesterday and didn’t even think about it. I thought this was strange since my blogging has become so habitual.

At first I was angry with myself for breaking my agreement. Then I remembered, I keep agreements to expand myself not to punish myself. Then I counted to see how many days in a row I had posted. I actually started a couple of days before the new year began, so I had a total of 213 posts in a row.

So the conversation has been going back and forth in my head periodically throughout the day.

“I can’t believe I didn’t even think about it!”

“It’s not the end of the world.”

“No matter what I do now, I can’t complete the agreement to post every day this year.”

“It’s not about perfection. It’s about pushing yourself.”

Then, as I observe the voices in my head, I laugh at how funny it all is. Me, arguing with myself… and all over something that is already done.

So now I am recommitting to my agreement to post every day for the rest of the year, accepting my imperfect record, and eager to see if I can complete the last 5 months of this year without missing a day. (If I was really interested in punishing myself, I would start all over again. Not happening!)

I am just going to keep reminding myself, 213 posts in a row… not too shabby.

Out of Hiding

My counselor gave me a journaling assignment today.  She asked me if I had ever journaled and I told her that I write every day.  Although it isn’t technically a journal, this blog often serves the same purpose.  It lets me get my thoughts out of my head where I can then look at them from another perspective.  

As I was driving home, I thought about all the writing I have been doing since I made my writing agreement for this year.  I committed to beginning a larger writing project as a result of a class I am taking at my church.  I am also doing some copywriting and have been asked to do some guest blogging.  

I have always loved writing and have done lots of it over the years.  The primary difference in the writing I did back then and the writing I am doing now, is that much of the writing I am doing now is out there for the world to see.  I would not let others read my writing even up until this year.  

On one hand, writing publicly is intimidating.  On the other hand, it is very freeing.  In a way, I feel like I have come out of hiding.  

Now I must go begin an outline that I committed to draft, work on my journal entry, and begin drafting a blog post for another site… and I’m happy about this!     

Keeping My Word in a Taco Bell Parking Lot

It is after 11:00 PM.  I have had a very full day and just got out of a seminar.  In order to complete my writing agreement before midnight, I am sitting in a parking lot at a Taco Bell, composing this post on my phone.  I have 15 minutes to complete my agreement for the day and was struggling to come up with an idea for a quick post after a long day.  It then occurred to me that when I am determined to keep my word, I can find a way to do just about anything.  So I will complete this post and then drive home… After I have a taco or two.

Because I Said I Would

Some days it is very easy to get my blog post done.  Everything goes as planned.  I’m not too busy.  The stars are aligned just right.  I am feeling creative and the words just flow into the text box.

Other days it seems nothing plays out the way I imagined it would.  I have way too many things on my plate.  My horoscope hints of impending doom.  My cursor blinks, like the patting of a foot, awaiting the formulation of a thought.

Although today isn’t quite the latter scenario, it certainly isn’t the former either.  But the bottom line is that I have made a commitment to myself.  And one of the things I am working on is honoring my word.  So tonight, at the end of a busy day, without a lot to say, I am writing this post… not because I have some wisdom to impart or because something bad will happen if I don’t, but because I said I would.