Guest Post: I Almost Stopped Writing

 

About the Author:
Alex is a freelance writer, poet, and consultant for individuals and companies looking to blog or improve their social media skills. She taught The Art of Blogging in Richmond, Virginia, created a moms’ support group for the non-profit organization, Commonwealth Parenting, and has spoken to various social media groups on her experiences as a blogger. Alex is also the author of the blog, Late Enough.

IKeptWriting

For years, my blog, Late Enough, was my outlet for all the stories in my head and my life. From the issues I was passionate about to the awkward moments in life, parenting and pethood, I had too much to write and not enough time to write it.

Even when I didn’t feel like writing, I wasn’t afraid to post a bad piece in order to just keep going. I viewed writing as a muscle that must be exercised and most of the time I feel great after a workout even if the workout was uncomfortable or seemed endless. But even when a workout ended and I still felt bad, I knew the act of writing was an important part of being a healthy writer.

That is until a few months ago when I stopped wanting to tell stories — good or bad. I wasn’t sure why and worried it was because of the common railings against blogging.

Was I putting too much information out there? I’ve wrestled with that idea, but I have strong privacy lines and much of my life wasn’t on my site.

Was it because writing creates a lens where everything and everyone is a possible story? But I often am left without a photo for a story precisely because I forget to stop and take it. I stay in the moment and take a note later and am okay with losing stories to life.

Had I merely burned out on too many nights of writing and not enough sleep? I had surgery, we moved, and my kids seemed to need me more even with them in school for more hours. Negotiating their homework and friends and activities and a new house and my friends and family and life. There weren’t enough hours in the day and perhaps I was tired. Just plain tired.

I nearly quit creating. I, who had never wrote less than 5 times per week and never went less than a few days between posts, barely felt like writing once a week. And even when that one time went okay, I wanted to spend the rest of my writing time watching television. I even missed a freelance deadline for the first time in years. I freaked out that everything I’d worked for was falling apart.

Except it wasn’t. I took a breath and reminded myself that I’ve written for most of my life, and I would regret losing all I had worked for online. I stopped thinking of writing as all or nothing and made changes.

  1. FEEL GRATEFUL. I reminded myself to feel grateful that I had been so inspired for so long. Most people burn out much quicker especially when writing finished pieces as often as I was for as many years I kept up with 30 pieces a month.
  2. LESS WRITING TIME. I shortened my writing time. Instead of every weekday plus Sunday evenings, I gave myself every other weekday off to focus on friends and family, to do non-writing work and to watch television.
  3. SLEEP. I stopped writing at night because it was affecting my sleep and sleep makes me a better person. I don’t want to write angst-filled teenage piece stemming from 2 a.m. epiphanies. And honestly, no one wants to read those beyond WOW WHAT A TRAIN WRECK. I didn’t want that title.
  4. EMBRACE CHANGE. I chose to not be afraid of I WILL NEVER WRITE AGAIN through embracing the changes. I latched onto the Heraclitus’ quote: “Nothing is permanent except change” whenever fearful thoughts appeared. But sometimes my brain would override me and yell: THE READERS AND OPPORTUNITIES WILL STOP COMING IF I CHANGE ANYTHING. So I wrote and published an off-schedule post because nothing quiets my brain like taking concrete action.
  5. DON’T LET LESS BE NONE. Beyond quieting my brain, I made myself write once a week no matter what. I’ve watched the two week break of great writers, bloggers and other creatives become months and years. I regretted the times that happened to me in my 20s. I made it easier by paying attention to my patterns. I almost always feel inspired on Mondays (thanks weekends!) so I made sure to set that day aside. This realization also reinforced that downtime was important for me so I didn’t do more than Mondays for 4 weeks.
  6. READ BOOKS. I began reading again. My poetry teacher often reminded me that the great writers are even greater readers. Between writing and social media and consulting and my family and my friends and my volunteer work and my pets, I barely opened a book in the months leading up to my creative burnout. My writing cannot succeed without reading the fun, funny, sad and seriously wonderful novels coming out every day. If reading better-than-me writing isn’t inspiring, I need a vacation.
  7. TAKE A TRUE VACATION. I took a vacation, but not out of jealousy. Writing and working online can be 24/7 if I let it, and I had only once taken a break from my freelance jobs. I had actually never taken time off from my personal blog. This year, I didn’t write from Christmas through my kids going back to school on January 6. I actually got to the point where I missed writing —a place I hadn’t been to in a long time.

Now, I’m writing every other weekday on my personal blog and keeping up with my freelance work just fine. I get enough rest in between to be comfortable pushing myself if the next piece won’t easily come. I’ve accepted that I don’t need to write daily to be the best writer I can be, but next month, I may be writing daily. Creativity is odd but not un-catchable once I remembered to be grateful for its challenges and to embrace how it changes.

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