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On writing avoidance - part 1

Having just taken up my blog in earnest again, I am hoping to build a good habit and be here every day. Which is, of course, what I should be doing with my writing, too. Once upon a time, I wrote every single day (or nearly so). I blogged that often, too. Hell, sometimes I blogged multiple times a day, if the spirit moved me. And then, sometime last year, I stopped. Stopped writing daily. Stopped blogging anything approaching regularly.

It coincided with unpleasant life events, such as my divorce, which started in early April last year, and a flare of my rheumatoid arthritis, which came along in the early fall. It also coincided with terrific life events, including S's graduation from high school in June and departure for college in August of 2011 and my then-burgeoning relationship with my sweetheart, which has been a tremendous gift.

I've been wondering how much "credit" each or any of those events deserve for the fall-off in my writing. Some of my recent rumination leading up to my blog renewal has to do with some theories of creativity that I've read about, including the notion that some people can only write when they are depressed, but not when they're happy. (The theory is one of many found in the discredited-but-still-good book Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, who seems to have his thrown his career away by fabricating Bob Dylan quotes for the book.)

See, for the past several years leading up to my divorce decision last spring, I'd been unhappy in my marriage, and in recent years I was definitely upset by my ex-husband's battle with lymphoma (fortunately, he is still cancer-free - he's a great guy, even if I didn't want to stay married to him). One of my ways of dealing with those stresses and unhappinesses was to throw myself into my writing, be it poetry, picture books, novels or blogs. Since I don't have another full-time job, I essentially created one for myself to hide in. And I was good at it.

But once the divorce decision was made last spring, I felt like a weight had been lifted. And when, later in the year, I ended up finding the love of my life, well . . . let's just say, I really found happiness. Maybe it's a coincidence that my writing fell off, but in light of that theory in Lehrer's book, I have been wondering lately if that might play into it. Did I write as a way of avoidance? Well, yes. But was it the only reason? I don't really think so.

I have come to the conclusion that Lehrer might have been onto something with the theory that some people write better when depressed than when happy. But what I really think is that with all the changes that took place last year - my husband moving out, S moving to Charleston to attend college, M getting her license, me having a new significant other, etc. - I fell out of the habit. I adopted a new routine, and a new schedule, and I realized only recently that I never made a concerted effort to carve out writing time and space in my new (happier, shinier) life.

So today marks a big step for me. Two days in a row here at my blog, yammering at you about stuff you may or may not be interested in. Because when I was writing regularly, I was blogging regularly. And blogging is writing, after all. So I'm starting with the blogging, in hopes that I can make the REAL writing follow. So consider yourselves warned: there's more yammering to come.

I'd really love to know, though, whether you've experienced something similar to my situation in your own creative life, and what worked (or works) for you in getting started up again.

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Comments

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
beckylevine
Dec. 21st, 2012 10:22 pm (UTC)
This sounds so much like what I've been wondering. Not the divorce part, but going back to work, getting closer to son leaving home. It's all good, NOT depressing, but...it's easy to say the time isn't there to put into writing, but I don't think that's all of it. The mind is occupied? Sure, but...

Good thoughts, Kelly. Thanks for sharing. Not sure I can do the every day, but maybe 2013 needs to start with at least a once-a-week blog for me.
kellyrfineman
Dec. 21st, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
I am hoping that the daily blogging might spur the daily writing . . . perhaps it's a chicken-and-egg thing. That will be the focus of part 2, I think.

And there's merit to talking about the process, even when the "process" being discussed is the process of forcing your butt into a chair somewhere to get some writing done, right? At least, I hope so.

There are so many variables in life, it can be hard to process all of it. And every thing that causes a change in your daily schedule affects ALL the stuff that was already on there, even if only by bumping up against it.
jeannineatkins
Dec. 22nd, 2012 01:54 am (UTC)
I"m listening/witnessing, Becky. Sounds good! And won't it be great to hear more from Kelly, thoughts on balancing?
docstymie
Dec. 21st, 2012 10:23 pm (UTC)
I quit blogging when my whole world went to hell and still haven't gotten that creative spark back even though my transition is over. Not sure if it'll come back. So, I guess I'm at least one contrary data point to that dude's hypothesis :)
kellyrfineman
Dec. 21st, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
For every theory he puts forth, he puts forth something that sounds suspiciously like the opposite point. Including that drugs can help you create, or can destroy creativity. Or that working with others is the key to new ideas, only some people have to isolate themselves and work alone.

Keep on keepin' on, you outlier you.
fabulousfrock
Dec. 21st, 2012 11:17 pm (UTC)
I feel like writing just comes easiest when life is on a fairly even keel. When I'm really depressed, I can't write. But when I'm really happy, I have trouble with it too. Both depressing and happy times can be inspiring kind of after they're over. Like, taking a vacation is sometimes just what I need to kick my writing up a notch, and other times I've written to deal with sadness. But basically, I think boredom is my best friend when it comes to productivity...
kellyrfineman
Dec. 21st, 2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
Interesting - so for you, it's not the highs or lows, it's the vast middle ground that is most productive? That is really, truly cool - especially since the highs and lows tend to come infrequently.

In my case, I think I've shifted my outlook quite a bit since starting my new relationship. Fewer things upset or stress me, which is good. If it's not my problem, I try not to internalize it. And truly, I'm just really content with my life. It occurs to me, based on your comment, that maybe it's just taken a while for me to realize that this new level I've reached is just a higher, happier sort of plateau, and not a temporary peak. Something I'll ponder!
fabulousfrock
Dec. 22nd, 2012 03:46 am (UTC)
I think I have been in a not-dissimilar place this year. I've been so happy having my house. But professionally this year has stunk! I've had such a hard time writing! Since I actually have to write a novel, and it's kind of a dark and involved novel too, that has put somewhat of a damper on things. Still, too much happiness to write is a great problem to have. I'm glad you've reached a new plateau. I'm sure the writing will start to trickle back in as you realize more and more deeply that this is the new normal. =)
kellyrfineman
Dec. 22nd, 2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
Love that idea of the "new normal." And I think your advice will hold true for you, too.
writerjenn
Dec. 22nd, 2012 12:04 am (UTC)
I just think that when so much is going on in one's real life, it's harder to immerse oneself in imaginary lives. This may be on the same track as Jaclyn's "boredom" theory.
kellyrfineman
Dec. 22nd, 2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
You might be onto something there . . . will think about it a bit more.
bogwitch64
Dec. 22nd, 2012 01:49 am (UTC)
Kelly, I am just so happy to hear this. Not that you had a rough patch, but that you are happy now, and that you're finding how to write HAPPILY instead of avoidingly...is that a word?
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kellyrfineman
Dec. 22nd, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)
If it's not a word, it should be. And thank you!
jeannineatkins
Dec. 22nd, 2012 01:59 am (UTC)
Kelly, first of all I smiled (which this past week hasn't had much of) when I got to your last paragraphs. Partly it's selfish. You really do inspire me. I think what you and others hint at here is that you there's been big upheavals, that you need neither big happiness or big despair to write but some plateau or quite. The old recollection in tranquility part, which it seems like you're coming to. Yay!

I'm at a point now where I pretty much write through it all, but not ever fast or furiously, was never as prolific and energetic as you seem to have been. I love your resolve to get back in and feel quite confident you'll find your own beautiful way.
kellyrfineman
Dec. 22nd, 2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
I hope you're right about finding my way back in. And thank you for your kind words, Jeannine. I always find comfort and inspiration in your posts.
robinellen
Dec. 22nd, 2012 06:13 am (UTC)
I definitely go through cycles -- but having my kiddos in elementary school combined with additional students each semester means that I simply don't have the time (and/or creative energy) I used to...so my writing is very sporadic.
kellyrfineman
Dec. 22nd, 2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
"Sporadic" about sums it up for me. And I just didn't have the same level of desire as before, but I think it might be coming back, at least enough to make a start.
stephanieburgis
Dec. 22nd, 2012 01:55 pm (UTC)
Major life changes of any kind, good or bad, make it really, really hard to write, in my experience. I actually write much more easily when I'm not depressed (depression makes me feel like what's-the-use?), but even good changes, like getting in a new relationship, throw everything into turmoil. Creativity has to come from a fairly centered place inside me, which can be awfully hard to find in unsettled circumstances.

When I was going through my own divorce, in my early 20s, I stopped writing for months, and then when I moved to the UK (which was a really good life change), I had to learn new writing routines all over again once the shift had settled down for me.

I'm so glad things are settling down for you and you're starting to find your writing center again!
kellyrfineman
Dec. 22nd, 2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Stephanie. It truly helps to know I'm not alone!
lisa_schroeder
Dec. 22nd, 2012 11:03 pm (UTC)
Yay for happier times and writing again! Yammer away. :)
kellyrfineman
Dec. 23rd, 2012 12:54 am (UTC)
Ha! Thanks, Lisa!
tltrent
Dec. 23rd, 2012 12:28 am (UTC)
I think I'm still in the same place you are with trying to establish a routine. I've found that age has more to do with it for me--in my 20s and 30s, I was seemingly tireless and could work a full-time job and keep a writing schedule with no problem. (I destroyed my back doing it, of course, but...ah well). Now at the edge of 40, I am just truly exhausted.

I also have developed great difficulty with multi-tasking. I blame the Internet. (Notice where I am right now?)

What seems to have been there back then (and is perhaps missing now) is drive. I had a great drive to be published, to be published well. I had high hopes and expectations. In my old age, I've let a lot of those hopes and expectations go, and I think with them went my drive.

So, I'm definitely looking for a way to get into a good routine this coming year. One that is both relaxed and still challenging at the same time. I would like to remember why I started telling stories in the first place.

Edited at 2012-12-23 12:29 am (UTC)
kellyrfineman
Dec. 23rd, 2012 12:55 am (UTC)
I think those are admirable and achievable goals, Tiffany. If you find a way to get into a good routine, I hope you'll share it!
jessica_shea
Dec. 27th, 2012 12:19 am (UTC)
Welcome back, Kelly! I'm so glad you've found happiness with your sweetheart!

For me, there's a certain inertia that sets in when I don't sit down to write regularly. It becomes easier just...not to. I've never been an every day writer, but I'm hoping to create a more regular routine this year.
kellyrfineman
Dec. 27th, 2012 12:24 am (UTC)
That's also a true thing - inertia is a biggie. I'm happy to have restarted blogging on a daily basis. Will see where it goes from here. And thanks for the kind words!!
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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