I’ve published a new piece on this blog every single week for the past 85 weeks. EIGHTY-FIVE! Google and I figured that out together. Isn’t it wild? There was spotty and unpredictable writing that preceded this 85-week run, but never before has my writing seen so much consistency. 85 weeks. Hold on, I’m going to remove my hands from the keyboard to applaud myself for a second. This is a big win for me.
I’ve never worried about running out of things to write about. As long as I keep living my life, I figure I’ll have more material; after all, sometimes it’s a quick run to the grocery store that spurs an entire blog post. The crazy and the monotony in my days all serve my writing.
Lately, however, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. I sit down at my computer and I struggle to put an entire sentence together. Just today, I began three different pieces, all of which remain unfinished. They may forever remain unfinished (a truth which is like nails on a chalkboard to this writer’s ears). After many failed attempts at the 86th week’s blog post, I decided to stop trying to fake it and just tell you that I’m feeling short of writing ideas and inspiration. That’s the bad news.
The good news is, I think I know how to diagnose the issue, and it doesn’t involve a writers’ version of WebMD. (Thank goodness, because I have enough anxiety as is, without the internet diagnosing me.) Here’s my self-diagnosis (drum roll, breath held, fists clenched):
I’m not reading enough.
Oh, I’m sorry. Did I hype that up too much? I’m just not reading enough. If any of us are going to be writers, we have to be readers. I’ve been spending too much time trying to get words out without spending enough time taking words in.
So it’s back to the basics. I’ve been running races without giving time to my training. It happens so easily, doesn’t it? We focus so much on where we’re going, we forget that we need to maintain our best practices in order to get us there.
My husband and I are celebrating anniversary number 2 this August. We’re still so very new at the marriage game, but we try to remember that we need to hold on tight to the basics; we have to train and maintain our best practices in order to run this race for the long haul. We see a marriage counselor twice a month to help keep us on our toes, communicate effectively, and give our marriage a chance to be “tended to” by a wise and caring professional. We do not generally look forward to these sessions, mostly because it’s hard to see the value in them when our relationship isn’t in crisis. We have to pull ourselves back and look at the bigger picture to remember that while this practice will not guard us against all relational turmoil, it will help us better navigate the turmoil when it comes. It’s keeping us in shape.
In college, I took some American Sign Language courses. I loved these classes but always felt pretty slow to pick up this second language. At my first class back from summer break, I was sitting at the end of the row of students in the class who were returning from break with me. The teacher asked us a very basic question in sign language that we had learned in the previous semester of class. Because of my seat placement, she had me answer the question first.
I did nothing. Literally, I didn’t move a muscle. I just stared at her, wishing I would have sat anywhere else in the room. She signed the question again, and then a third time. (A third time!!!)
I was mortified. I could not figure out what she was asking me, soon wondering if I had missed some sort of pre-class refresher session? Eventually, after far too many minutes of my classmates looking at my horrified face, the teacher wrote the question on the board:
What is your name?
Truly—I mean, really—this is probably the very most basic lesson we learn in American Sign Language. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten the signs for a question so simple. I should have seen it coming, though. I took too much time off from the basics. I didn’t review my ASL at all during the summer break. I expected to just jump right back into learning a second language without maintaining what I had already learned. It turned out to be a grand lesson in reviewing my classes over school breaks (and better considering which seat I choose in the classroom).
I’m sad that I haven’t been better about keeping up my writing basics. After all, this is something I’ve been pouring myself into for 85+ weeks. IT’S OKAY, THOUGH. There’s no need for shame and despair. We have no time for that. Now I have been reminded that the basics matter in writing, just as they do in marriage and in learning and in every other area of our lives. Today, I return to that stack of books that’s been collecting some dust, because I
want need to be a writer who reads.
What are the basics you must return to in your work? How do you keep yourself “in shape” in your job and relationships?
Oh, and what are you reading these days? I’m going to be doing a bit of reading this summer…