Battling Inertia

I bared my soul about writing just the other day.  Writing is something that I’m trying to build back into my life, for many many reasons, but it’s feeling very hard.  I sit down here, and think “What do I have to say today? Nothing.”  I feel the same blankness that I feel when someone first asks me for a good book recommendation – as though I’ve never read a good book in my life.  But because I get asked all the time for book recommendations, I’ve learned to push past that blank brain and start making connections between the person in front of me and our collection.

I recently read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which was absolutely fascinating, and a must-read if you like having interesting things to tell people that take 10 seconds or less to explain.  One of the (many many many) things that surprised me is that food diaries work in part because they change a habit.  They make a critical change that creates room for new habits, and it’s not necessarily even about not wanting to eat something because you’ll have to write it down and admit to eating it.  It’s about creating a new habit, which creates room for more new habits.  Sometimes the habit change process needs to be sneaky, rather than obvious.

So I’m posting here every day, and it’s a little like that food diary.  What I’m putting in this space is less relevant than that I’m putting that space in my day for writing.  Making room for a new habit that I’d like to stick.  How do you change habits, get out of ruts, and make time in your day for the things that really matter?

How I Got My Writing Groove Back

I used to do a lot of writing – I wrote short stories, papers for school, and I wrote a ton of letters to my friends.  If I’d been more aware, I would have been a great early blogger.  I wrote long and possibly interesting letters, often with elaborately decorated envelopes.  I wrote to my friends, i sought out penpals around the country, and I kept a journal.  Somehow I did this in addition to a heavy courseload, plenty of time spent on the phone and with my friends, and time spent with my family.  In fact, I was such a whiz at time management that I kind of wish I could go back in time and visit my amazing teenaged self.

I loved writing when I was younger.  I didn’t worry too much about what other people thought about it – I just enjoyed it, so I did it.  Occasionally other people would really enjoy the things I wrote, and the positive feedback just bolstered my confidence in my ability to write, which made me enjoy it even more.  In college, I stopped writing fiction entirely.  Writing science papers and scientific articles is a very different skill set, and my creatively wandering brain was reined in.  I was busy with other activities as well, and found myself with very little time for writing that wasn’t tied to coursework.  But that might not have been enough to kill my creative writing bug – the real problem was that  I completely lost confidence in myself.

I’m not going to rehash my college woes with any details – I was in with a crowd that wasn’t very healthy for me, and lots of emotional drama and sabotage happened.  It took me a long time to extricate myself, but by the time I got out, the damage was done – my self worth was in the gutter, and I was so unsure of any of my choices and thoughts and feelings that I was pretty sure that nothing I thought was worth writing down, and nothing I wrote was worth reading. I completely stopped writing for a long time.

I doubt I’m unique in having these feelings, and I think most people feel them from time to time.  At this point in my life, I would like to move past them and reconnect with the side of me that loves to write.  The part of me that doesn’t care what other people think (unless it’s good!), the part of me that just expresses myself on paper because it feels good to put your thoughts and feelings and experiences into words.  The part of me that knows that when you write things down you think about them differently and more thoroughly, and start to refine your own thought process.  Writing makes me think more clearly.

Now, most of my correspondence is thank-you notes and the occasional birthday card when I remember to send one.  I got the itch to write a good real letter just the other day, and then decided to get back on the blog I started years ago, and give myself a blogtoberfest challenge.  Can I write something here every day this month?  I’m going to try…and I’m going to not care whether you like it!