I need to get back into journaling regularly, but I don’t really remember how to do it.

You see, I had a weird incident last year that kind of broke me for a while. I’m a writer by nature and career, and writing things out is how I work through things. Not having this outlet has really undercut my ongoing healing process from living life in general, and you know what? Enough of that. Feeling like this outlet is blocked or broken hasn’t been conducive to being able to sit down and use journalling in all the ways I do – recording the good stuff, the family stuff, the confusing stuff, the ‘I feel really down and broken and I need to work through it’ stuff. I use this journal as a place to work things out when things are not going well; I need to work them out by writing, and I do that by writing in a place where people can sometimes give me feedback or support. It also keeps me honest: writing here means that there is an audience of some kind, and that’s important to me as a writer, because it gives me a sense of responsibility. I write differently for myself than for others. If it’s just for me, I’ll be lazy. If I know others will read it, I take more care in how I express myself, and it ends up being a lot clearer to me when revisiting it.

After that incident last fall, I stopped trusting myself, I stopped trusting my audience, and it really broke me in a specific way that a writer can be broken. As you’ve seen, pretty much the only thing I’ve kept to is Owlet’s monthly updates (and I even skipped one of those). Anything else has been very irregular. I need to ease back into doing this, and I think a way to do that is to come up with some sort of loose schedule. Maybe Tuesdays I can jot down a few words on the spinning, knitting, and dyeing stuff I’m doing. Maybe Thursdays I can talk about cello, what’s happening in orchestra and in lessons, and maybe I can broaden the subject to include mention of the type of music I’m listening to, and new discoveries. Maybe Fridays I can talk about what I’m reading, online and in book form. I stopped doing my end-of-month book roundup right around the time Owlet was born, and not knowing what I read when has been driving me up the wall. Sparky deserves his own posts periodically, too. I stopped doing his monthly posts when he turned five (and I’ll do the same for Owlet), but as a result I’m not noting down the stuff that he’s doing very often, and I feel like I’m missing pages in his scrapbook, so to speak.

Right now I am having an odd relationship with writing in general, and I think maybe my journalling issue is also symptomatic of that. I work very well while fixing other people’s writing — that’s what my career is right now, after all. I’m very happy with it, too; I’m good at what I do, and my clients seem to be absolutely thrilled with me and my work. I enjoy it, but I miss pure writing. I remember the feeling of writing; I remember working through an idea by putting words on paper to see where it went, and I miss that. In a recent editing lull, I went through some old novels that were in rough draft form or just missing the conclusion, and while I read and enjoyed them, I recognized that there were things that needed to be fixed. But I have this broken writing thing. I know that sometimes you just have to plunge into it, but that can be hazardous when one’s writing muscle has atrophied through lack of regular exercise, which is partly what journalling is.

That incident last fall really cut my feet out from underneath me, and I’ve had to think about my identity as a writer, as someone who communicates and works with words, as someone who interprets the world through words. I used to do that as my job, and I really need to find my feet doing it again, so baby steps; I’ll start with this schedule, and we’ll see where that goes, where it takes me. I’m sure it will help in several ways, and among the areas of my life in which I’ll see a benefit are my mental and emotional states (both of which took a big hit in the past while, which has contributed a hell of a lot to my struggle with depression).

I think one of the associated problems I’ve been having is that journalling seems so overwhelming now. I haven’t been writing things down for so long that when I do sit down to journal, I’m drowning in the amount of information I have to break down. There’s so much to say that I don’t know where to start, and I don’t know how to get it all down. And I’m constantly asking myself if it’s worth writing down, censoring the writing before it even happens. It’s frustrating, and it usually scares me so much that I don’t sit down to do it at all. As a writer, this paralysis has been devastating to me. I comment on life in my head throughout the day; I have a running narration going on, about what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, and so forth, and not being able to actually write that down somewhere in some sort of form has had a really negative impact on how I’ve been processing things, in dealing with information and events in my life. Not blogging probably doesn’t sound like much to some of you, but it is a fundamental shift in my outlook, in how I process and interpret the world and information around me, and there’s been a breakdown in my thought processing, in how I understand what or how I’m feeling. When that gets stoppered up, everything else starts getting slowed down, and there are traffic jams in how I emotionally assess things.

I think that if I just start writing things down again, little things here and there, it will help me back to a better place in my relationship with words. At this point, what I write isn’t as important as just making a date to put a few words down a few times each week. I’ll use the rough schedule as a trellis, so that my expression has somewhere to climb; the guideline will offer me something to cycle through, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I miss a day, and I’m certainly not going to let that structure stop me from doing something at any other time. I think that if I journal more regularly, I’ll feel less intimidated because there won’t be so much to choose from when I do sit down. It will be easier for me if I can keep it to short entries, and it’ll be easier for you as readers because you won’t have to wade through a novella every time I sit down.

Let’s see where this goes.

9 thoughts on “Reset

  1. Em

    Here in solidarity!

    I would, however like to challenge the label of “broken” in favor of “closed for renovation”. Something wonderful is starting to bubble away in there, and those of us who know and love you won’t be even a little surprised when your next verse is written, new yet ever the same, authentic, resonant.

    Yeats seems to be on your side, too:

    Every event in action or in thought;
    Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
    When such as I cast out remorse
    So great a sweetness flows into the breast
    We must laugh and we must sing,
    We are blest by everything,
    Everything we look upon is blest.

  2. Autumn Post author

    Emily! I just pinged you on WwF! I must have picked up your love-Owly vibes. I like your alternate “closed for renovation” explanation.

    Tal: I know. xo

  3. Mousme

    I am so glad to see you back!

    Like you, I am someone who needs to process things by writing them down, and not having that outlet for a while was very difficult. When I did start using it again and was told that I shouldn’t, it threw me for a heck of a loop. So I understand exactly where you’re coming from.

    If it’s any consolation, I started writing drips and drabs of journal entries at first, and within a short span of time I found it all coming back in a rush. Journalling comprises almost the entirety of my writing these days (my fiction has taken a major hit in the last year and a half), and I’m very glad to have it back.

    So start small, and it will come back, slowly but surely. I look forward to seeing more of you and your lovely words online!

  4. Ceri

    I have been feeling so, so much of this as well, so I found myself nodding a lot as I was reading this.

    We’re here, when you’re ready to write. :)

  5. Meri Fowler

    Trying to write when you can’t is a special kind of pain! Instead of one step at a time it becomes one word, then one sentence, then one paragraph. The thoughts start to pop up like sprouting seeds. When a writer becomes silent for a while I think it’s like composting. I can’t wait to see what new flowers grow! Or maybe zucchini?

  6. Cate

    Singin’ my song, too. I wonder if Twitter and Facebook play a role in a lack of posting. I find that I put more immediate thoughts on those sites, rather than saving them up for a blog post, like I used to do before social media. Unfortunately, that means I feel like I’ve got nothing to write about on my blog, since I’ve posted it in other places already. I like the idea of themes for certain days, and short posts. Like you, I tend to assume a blog post will be long, but it doesn’t have to be.

  7. Jessica

    Big big hugs! I cannot tell you how much i love reading your posts. They truly are the highlight of my feed, because you are honest with your feelings. Glad to read you are starting back at it.


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