Is chickenscratch really helpful?

Oh hey! It’s the first post to this site in nearly a year!

I started to write about why I don’t keep this site updated (OMG, yawn!) but then realized I was writing an even-whinier version of this post from 2015. So not only boring, but repetitively boring. So enough of that.

Just before my birthday this year, I told myself that I was going to make more of an effort to write. Online, offline, whatever. Just needed to write more. I have so much I want to say and I need to get it out. But first I need to get it untangled. Or I need to emotionally un-constipate myself. Or something. My birthday was at the end of August and it’s taken me nearly six weeks to get to a place where I feel like I can express myself. So here I am.

In mid-September, I signed myself up for some daily writing prompts. Just random topics for free-writing for a minimum of ten minutes a day. To build a writing practice. To loosen up. To play. And I’ve used exactly one of those prompts. They’re interesting prompts, so that’s not the problem. I just put them aside and think ‘when I have the time, I will write’. Then I never make the time. These prompts recommend longhand writing in a journal and I hate it. I found a nice journal and carried it in my work backpack to sneak in some time during my day: whether on my commute or during the work day itself (during lunch of course). And that has been a huge fail. I don’t feel right taking that time while I’m at work, and I can’t get physically comfortable enough during my commute. Then there’s  the longhand writing itself. I write fast and hard, and it either becomes tiresome on my hand or completely illegible. Often both at the same time. I know the point of these free-writing exercises isn’t to read or even remember the writing, but just to write. The one day I did do it (at the end of my lunch break at work, I wrote like I was on fire, and things devolved so quickly into worse-than-chickenscratch that I felt ashamed. Then the cycle of Not Writing began again.

So longhand evangelists: why is completing writing exercises in longhand so beneficial? Does it really help a writer’s growth? Is there any hope for me if I’m so terrible at it?

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.

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.