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?

New design for hellomelissa.net

I did a little redecorating around here this weekend. (If you’re reading via an RSS reader, click over and have a peek.)

This redesign is actually a bit of a big deal. I actually purchased a theme and modified the CSS myself to make it look more like me. I learned the basics of CSS years ago, but my skills got rusty as websites got more automated. I’ve been taking lessons at Codecademy to catch up to how things are done today, and it’s coming back to me bit by bit.

(I designed the new logo and background too, but I usually do that so that’s not really news.)

For me, blogging is writing, design, and technical skills coming together to create something interesting and usable. Since I’m a hobbyist, anything I pay for comes out of my pocket. I don’t have the money to hire a pro to do it right the first time.

I’m doing this for love people. Like a sucker.

I’ve learned a lot about patience and have built my skill set by doing my own website for the last 13 years*.  To be clear: I’m not a pro developer at all. To say otherwise would insult so many talented craftspeople and I don’t want to do that. I’m a print designer by trade so I understand the importance of making content visually appealing. I’m always surprised at how much easier it is to create websites that look like real websites – not the Geocities-style stuff of the late 90s and early 2000s I produced. It’s honestly getting easier and easier in a lot of ways. It’s more complicated in other ways, but I love learning how to uncomplicate it.

I got this site completely redone in less than 24 hours. I did a lot of other things in those 24 hours too – I wasn’t completely glued to the computer. It’s the fastest revamp I’ve had in years, if ever. The future really is amazing.

* There was a period between 2007-2009 where I was on a web service that provided pre-made templates that didn’t allow for much deviation. Whenever a customization feature was introduced, I always tried it out. I discovered I liked having more control over the output.

What I read in 2012

Just for kicks, here are all the books I read and rated with Goodreads in 2012. My reviews are included if I wrote one.

What did you read in 2012? Any favourites?

Melissa’s bookshelf: read-in-2012

Heaping Spoonful
3 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
The Midwife's Confession
4 of 5 stars true
This is the first book by Diane Chamberlain that I’ve read. I was drawn in from the start but I agree with the Jodi Picoult comparisons I’ve seen here. I figured out some stuff long before the characters did and was waiting for the One B…
tagged:
read-in-2012
Elephant Girl: A Human Story
5 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
The Virgin Cure
5 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
Left Neglected
4 of 5 stars true
I read this book quickly and enjoyed it. As I read, I got angrier and angrier about modern work culture and the constant pressure we have put on us, and put on ourselves.What are we doing to ourselves as a society?

tagged:
read-in-2012
The Almost Archer Sisters
4 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
Prep
5 of 5 stars true
I really enjoyed this book. I agree that the main character was unpleasant but I understood why. She put up so many walls to protect herself that she cheated herself out of a better experience at her school.When certain things happene…

tagged:
read-in-2012
Girls in White Dresses
0 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
The Best Laid Plans
5 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
The High Road
5 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
Annabel
5 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
One Day
4 of 5 stars true
I enjoyed this book but the ending was a major letdown.
tagged:
read-in-2012
Bared to You
0 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
5 of 5 stars true
I found this book fascinating. It was well-researched but written with a very engaging voice.
tagged:
read-in-2012
Reflected in You
0 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
Everybody Has Everything
4 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
The Red House: A Novel
3 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
A Visit from the Goon Squad
4 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
How to Be a Woman
4 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
The Antagonist
3 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
Lady Oracle
4 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012
Seating Arrangements
3 of 5 stars true
tagged:
read-in-2012




goodreads.com