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note to self: go outside

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." —  Henry David Thoreau credit My phone died recently. Not like died because of its charge — permanently died. I'm not the only one whom this has happened to, I'm sure, and this isn't a complaint. Rather, it's an observation on how different the landscape of my life has been without it. I've been reading more, watching more TV, doing less doomscrolling. I found that I've missed my phone a lot less and simultaneously a lot more than I expected. And I've been noticing a difference in my mental state. My mental health is, apparently, linked in part to the device I hold in my hand 99% of the time. Who knew? However, it's still been challenging lately, for more reasons than just my phone, and my sister invited me to go outside with her. Th

on the power of showing up

note: I wrote this post in April of 2019 (pre-COVID). It's been sitting in my drafts for quite a while, but I think it's time for it to see the light of day. It's been helpful for me to reread over the past few months, especially as I continue to try to make an effort to write, and I hope it can be helpful to you, too.


i got an invite to a writers' group a few months ago, and i had never felt like more of a fraud in my life. it had been months, if not years, since i'd felt like a writer. the proverbial well of words in my heart had dried up, it seemed, and i wasn't sure if it was ever coming back. i agreed to go out of a sense of helplessness—i'd identified as a writer ever since i could remember. if i'm not a writer, who am i? 

i told myself that it was important to show up and act like a writer even when i didn't feel like one, because even though i hadn't been writing, i reassured myself, i still was a writer. but sometimes the words felt hollow. and it was sometimes embarrassing to be The Writer Who Doesn't Write. i consistently came to the meetings empty-handed—"no, i don't have anything for you guys to critique yet—maybe next week though!" i offered feedback on others' writing, feeling equal measures insecure and helpful depending on the advice. the voices of doubt were overwhelming. you don't have anything helpful to say, you haven't written a damn thing in weeks, they said. sometimes i would offer advice that seemed to be helpful, and i felt a spark of hope flare in my heart. okay. maybe i'm not hopeless after all. maybe i've still got it. my emotions were all over the place, and over the next few months i kept showing up, eyes hopeful, hands cupped around my coffee cup, praying that the writing gods would take pity on me and return after months of evasion.

meanwhile, my therapist was on the same page as i was. she was convinced that the reason my depression had been so much worse was because my writing was blocked and one of my main coping mechanisms had been taken away. i completely agreed, but i felt frustrated—i had known this for months, but i couldn't figure out anything to do about it. i had tried everything i knew how to do. i had tried putting a pen to paper multiple times. i had written with friends, written by myself, written on my blog, thought about writing, made up characters, listened to playlists, gone on pinterest. all my old tricks weren't working. it genuinely felt like it was over, that i would never write again. my therapist wanted me to write again, my friends and family wanted me to write again, i wanted to write again, but i didn't even know how. i felt like i'd forgotten, like the muscle memory had disappeared. i felt completely and totally lost. not only that, i felt like a failure. i'd been writing my entire life, and now i just suddenly couldn't do it, no matter what i tried? it felt ridiculous.

my failure to launch consumed my every thought, until one morning, it was time for writer's group once again. i'd been feeling terrible physically the night before, but i'd also been feeling down mentally. i'd reached my limit of showing up to writers' groups empty-handed, i didn't want to show up once more and say, hello, yes, it is i, The Writer Who Doesn't Write, once again! with no writing to show! i'll be here all week. i woke up and immediately regretted it, everything in me wanting to just go back to sleep. i had had a hard week with lots of activity, and my body was exhausted. surely that was a good enough excuse? but as i buried my head in my pillow, something in me told me i had to get up and go. i couldn't let the thought escape, that i was supposed to be there today, and then... as tired as i was, i was physically incapable of going back to sleep. might as well go, right?

so off i went, armed only with my phone and a seed of hope, but mostly a healthy serving of doubt that i would have left my comfy bed for nothing. and honestly, i don't remember much, just that the entire few weeks of doubting and questioning and feeling like i would never write again culminated in me asking my friend gianna a question about writing and then promptly becoming a sobbing mess. (here's my formal apology, by the way, gianna.) i told her about my doubts, how i hadn't written anything, how i felt like a failure. she reassured me that i was still a writer, that i was a good one, that everyone has these seasons of doubt and questioning and everyone has felt like they'll never be a writer. i don't remember the exact words so much as the feeling she gave me, which was that i was exactly where i needed to be. that it was okay to be where i was, that even if i'm not writing right now, i'm going to be feeling things and experiencing them which will ultimately make me a better writer. that maybe this was all part of the journey. and suddenly i knew why i had felt i needed to get out of my warm bed this morning, and it had all been worth it.


a few days later was therapy, and i showed up with lots to talk about (as always). but, for once, i actually was prepared to talk about my writing, unlike all my previous sessions. my therapist echoed something that gianna had also said—that maybe i needed to just get things out of my head. it didn't matter if they were good or not. maybe i just needed to write things for me. when i told her that i freeze up and can't even write that, she told me something that changed the game. she told me to just open a document, and start typing, even if it is gibberish. it doesn't matter if it's just random key smashing, the fact that my fingers are moving will matter because my brain remembers what that feels like. (see? my body hasn't forgotten what writing is like. i should have known.) she told me to just type until words start to come out. and then she made me promise to go home, open a document and try it. and i did. i went home, put on "you've lost that lovin' feeling" by the righteous brothers, made a new document titled "NO ONE WILL READ.", and just typed. i typed key smashes, i typed lyrics, i typed headcanons, i typed random thoughts, and i typed until an actual story came out.

and it worked. i actually wrote something. i wrote 1,000 words that day without trying, of a story i've been meaning to write, for the first time in a long time.

it's been a slow progression ever since. i've kept writing in the document—ideas for stories i want to write, little snippets, journal entries, things that may never see the light of day. it's been a slow trickle of output. plus, i'm here writing on my blog again, something i thought might not ever happen. but it didn't happen overnight. it happened because i kept showing up in the belief that one day my writing would come back to me. it happened because one day i just smashed letters onto a page until something stuck. and it happens because i keep opening my document and writing, even if it's bad.

there's something to be said about believing in things even when you can't see them, about believing even when it seems hopeless. don't give up. the words will come back. in fact, maybe they never left.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I just went through a long period of time where I wasn't writing either, and I thought I was never going to again too. So I really relate.
    It's super freeing to let yourself write badly and thoughtlessly.

    ReplyDelete

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