How do you restart your writing practice?

I’ve lost confidence in myself as a writer and I need help.

I haven’t written anything of substance in months. Work-related emails don’t count no matter how detailed and thorough they are. I get an idea for this site and I quit before I’ve even started: my brain turns to mush and I can’t seem to string a sentence together. I haven’t been making – or taking – the time to write anything. I think about journaling and my eyes get so tired all I want to do is nap.

Is this normal writer’s procrastination, or is it a sign that I should just give up?

I don’t want to give up. I know I need to stretch myself to get going again. And stop listening to the defeated voice in my head that tells me that I’m just not Good Enough to share my thoughts with the world. Because everyone is Good Enough to share their thoughts and the web is the equalizer that allows all of us to do so.

What do you do when you’ve lost confidence in your skills and it’s time to build them back up? These tips could be for any skill: writing, running, chainsaw juggling. I’m very open to your suggestions.

On Not Writing

I spent a lot of time Not Writing this year and I am disappointed in myself.

The year started off strong and I even signed up for a month-long online writing course. (Alice Bradley’s The Practice of Writing, which appears to be offline for updating so I’ve linked to her blog’s homepage.) I really enjoyed the course, but struggled to find the time to do the daily exercises. When I got really behind I would go through rapid-fire catchup sessions while Sean would get Flora ready for bed. Then, when my colleague went on a two-week vacation, I was doing a lot more at work and was just too burned out to write at night. Truthfully, there were probably only a few tough days at work, but once you start on a Not Writing cycle, it’s hard to get back to Writing. I acknowledged that I didn’t give the class the attention that it deserved – or that I wanted to give it. I have the PDF of all the class notes in my email, and I haven’t had the guts to even look at it yet. The course ended more than six months ago. I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t just keep up and keep going.

I still feel ashamed, and I’ve wondered many times over the last few months if I should just give up writing and blogging altogether. I’m still here so I haven’t given up yet. but I haven’t figured out how to shut the negative voices up and just write anyway.

I’ve written a few blog posts and percolated ideas since then. I know logically that writing leads to more writing, which leads to better writing. I know I need to kick my own ass to actually make the time. I’m hoping the dark and bleakness of winter will encourage me to write. If not that, football season and Sean’s new Xbox will keep me away from the TV so that’s one distraction gone.

So many people/magazine articles/advice givers/general know-it-alls say ‘get up an hour earlier’. I already leave my house by 6:30am on weekday mornings. In a perfect world, I’d be leaving at 6:15 and getting out of bed at 5:45am at the latest. I just can’t get up any earlier. I stay up after Flora goes to bed so that I can have time to myself. Sometimes I even spend it with my husband. (Blasphemous, I know.) I’m usually in bed by 10pm, and I need that sleep. I need that time with my husband. I need that time with myself. I want to use more of that time to write, but lately, I’m just so burnt that I can’t do more than read or play The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Those hobbies are valuable to me too. (I started playing Tapped Out because Sean was playing it and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Now it’s one of the few video games we’ve ever played together, which is a nice bonding experience.)

I’m writing now, so I’m hoping that will open the floodgates a bit. Maybe that will lead to some actual Writing. Or just plain old ordinary writing. I’m willing to start small.

Hamster wheel

I’m writing this post on my phone while lying in bed. I didn’t want to have another month with no blog posts in it.

Isn’t technology grand?

I should really be asleep but I just got out of the shower and my hair always looks ridiculous after sleeping on it wet I need what little down time I can get.

If I write anymore, this is going to devolve into a “why I haven’t posted lately” post. We’re all busy so I won’t bore you with the details. I’m just hamster wheeling hard on the work-eat-parent-sleep cycle and trying to have some fun while running on that wheel.

How are you?

“It is what it is” Isn’t Good Enough

20130115-114519.jpgI hate the phrase “It is what it is”.

When someone uses that phrase while speaking with me, I interpret it as “I don’t think you’re worth it”:

  • Not worth the time to deal with the issue, or
  • Not worth fixing the issue for

I’m not so arrogant to assume that every issue I have is important to someone else. I try to solve my own problems, and come up with solutions myself before I ask for help. But after all that thinking and reasoning, if I come to you with an problem, issue, or challenge, don’t brush me off by saying “it is what it is”.

That is just not good enough.

It’s lazy. Disrespectful. Diminishing. I expect more of someone that I am placing my trust in to have a potentially difficult conversation with.

Sometimes there really isn’t anything that can be done. Tell me that. Tell me why. Educate me. I’m not stupid, and I won’t rip your head off if I don’t get my way. Most people won’t. Don’t just brush me off by telling me to go away in a slightly more polite fashion.

I read this article by Katrina Onstad in Chatelaine back in 2009, and it has stuck with me ever since (an eternity is the age of information overload). I knew I wasn’t the only one would couldn’t stand this neutralized version of “Whatever” or even “Meh”. Her theory that IIWII is an “anger snuffer” is an interesting one. It says “don’t get mad at this, you can’t change it”.

IIWII creates complacency and compliance. I keep hearing people say that isn’t good enough either. So why do we encourage it and such passivity in each other?

IIWII is meant to diffuse anger, but most of the time, it incites it.

When someone tells you “it is what it is”, what do you say back to them? How can we eliminate this phrase from our vocabulary?

Do you exercise at home? I need advice.

Sometimes I feel like my body is just something that carries my mind around for me. My mind-body connection is tenuous.

I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going to get more active. I have a sedentary lifestyle – my work and my hobbies are very computer- and technology-based. Except for reading, which exercises my mind. So my mind is reasonably sharp, but my body is…less than sharp.

I’m fat. Most of the time I’m okay with it. Well, maybe ‘okay’ isn’t the right word. I don’t beat myself up about it too much. Not openly anyway. I believe in buying clothes that fit me as I am, not buying clothes I’ll shrink into someday. I believe in small improvements, not complete short-term overhauls I cannot possibly maintain.

But sometimes, I wish I didn’t have to eat to stay alive. That makes me so angry. The act of eating is – and should be – a pleasurable one. A life-sustaining act shouldn’t be filled with such guilt and shame and neurosis.

I know I need to move more. I’ve spent the last few weeks (months? years?) figuring out what I’d like to do to be able to introduce more activity into my life. Everything I want to do seems to have barriers: too expensive, not enough time, worry that I will look stupid in front of people who I wouldn’t give a shit about if I wasn’t feeling so vulnerable in front of them.

I can’t sit at my desk and listen to my ass grow bigger without trying to do something about it. I need this body for a long time.

So for now, I’ve decided to go with streaming fitness videos at home. I don’t want to buy a pile of DVDs, do them a few times and never use them again. I also figure I can start exercising in my bare feet at home – I haven’t had a good pair of running shoes in years. I’ve found a few sites online that I can join to access full-length workout videos in a number of genres. I’m also considering a Fitbit – I’ve heard good things about them, and seeing the stats of how much I move (or don’t move) in a day may encourage me to move a little more. That can’t be a bad thing.

Flora recently discovered my yoga mat and she likes to “ex-ter-cise” on it. (I love how she says exercise, and I never correct it.) She got it out to do some yoga (her latest issue of Chirp magazine came in and it featured simple yoga poses). She’s pretty good. I asked her if she’d do exercises with me, and she said she would. We’ll see if that happens or if it turns into me exercising and her doing colour commentary on my technique.

If you’re a fitness video junkie, which ones do you like? I like yoga and am intrigued by Pilates, but I know I need to do more traditional cardio stuff too.

Any advice is welcome. This stuff is so new to me, and maybe just a bit intimidating.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.