During my recent beach vacation, I decided to go almost entirely offline, but I still wanted to keep writing. That meant rocking it old school with paper and pen. It felt very different writing on paper, something I seldom do anymore. I’m typically not particularly linear in my writing; I like to cut and paste and shuffle things around, and that just doesn’t work well on paper. My handwriting is much slower than my typing, so my train of thought chugs along faster than my pen can keep up, leading to a barely legible mess with words that are often cut short or omitted entirely.
Sometimes whatever is going through my brain gets a little garbled in the journey onto paper. Consider the following that was apparently supposed to be part of this post: “I think thoughts but feel no compunction to get them down on paper. Laziness breeds contentment, I think. Even when that contentment is barely legible”. Huh? I remember thinking at the time how cool it was that the word compunction popped into my head, even though it doesn’t actually mean what at the time I appear to have thought it did (no quick Google search to the rescue!).
I didn’t anticipate how much I’d end up writing during my vacation, and it also didn’t cross my mind that the hotel would have a notepad or some other form of paper product handily available in the rooms. I had brought some scrap paper along that I intended to use for any writing I did on the plane ride, and every available space ended up crammed with writing, as shown in the photo below. I guess there were a lot of thoughts just waiting to leap onto the page. I had my various pieces of paper folded up and tucked into my bullet journal, and only once did the breeze pick them up; luckily they didn’t go too far and didn’t scatter.
Do I write more for me or for other people? Some of both, I suppose. I choose topics based on what I want to write about rather than what I think others might expect of me, but I do hope to add to the broader dialogue about mental illness and stigma, and toss in some of my professional knowledge as well where it might be helpful. Writing has a lot of therapeutic value for me. Through writing I’m often able to develop greater insights, along with the occasional profound epiphany. The writing process forces me to mould the disjointed odds and ends of my thoughts into a more neat, organized whole. Being able to read others’ blogs helps contextualize my own experience in the greater scheme of things, and that’s been really useful.
I get writing ideas from many sources, including personal experiences and what I read in other blogs. For the most part I’ve chosen to try to focus my posts around specific topics rather than my daily experiences; this is mainly because I crave that kind of order, which tends to be in short supply in other area of my life. When I first started blogging, I thought I should keep a slower pace with my writing to avoid running out of ideas. But what I have realized over the last few months is that the more I write and read, the more ideas I have. There is so much to say that I no longer give any thought to the idea well running dry. What matters in terms of pacing myself is making sure I don’t feel overloaded and can give enough thought to each post to really get out of it what I need to.
Being the organization nut that I am, I have a blogging spreadsheet. All things blog-related get captured there, which works well because my memory is crap and I get easily overwhelmed. I don’t have to worry about losing ideas that pop into my head, because they go immediately onto my spreadsheet. Another favourite tool of mine is the scheduling feature on WordPress. I always have several posts waiting in the queue, and then mix in an assortment of more on-the-spot posts that reflect what’s going on in the moment. The pre-written posts keep me from feeling any sort of pressure to write at any particular time.
Since I started blogging, I’ve had mixed feelings around reading other bloggers’ posts about number of followers, views, etc. I’m absolutely happy for them, but the personal goal that I set when I started blogging was to keep my headspace away from numbers. There’s great value in growing a blog’s reach and spreading important messages as widely as possible. For me, though, I recognize that I could very easily get sucked into a pattern of passing negative judgments on myself based on comparing numbers, so I prefer to try not to let myself go down that road at all.
I’d say that spending a week at the beach doing a lot of writing was a great reminder about the value of being simple and raw in writing. Rather than editing as I go along, as I do while typing, sometimes it’s good to just let it all flow and then pull it together afterwards. Just because writing on my laptop is faster and easier doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to bring it back to pen and paper sometimes. If nothing else it’s an exercise in trying to develop myself further as a writer.
Regardless of how and why any of us write, I think the important point is that we are writing, and using writing to share our voices. That’s how change happens in the world.
Image credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash