10 Things, or Getting Back into the Habit of Writing: Slice of Life #sol18

I always have lots of plans for summer writing. Stacks of new notebooks and the only pens I can write with. A couple of free professional development writing opportunities that should keep me in writing ideas and inspirations (#100DOSW18, Teachers Write). A lack of other obligations and time commitments that makes writing sound appealing and indulgent.

But then….. it just doesn’t happen. It’s not unusual to go back to school in August, open my notebook on the first day in my Composition class, and find that the last date I wrote was sometime back in June. Or even May.

I’ve come to believe I need a few fallow periods during the year, times of rest before and after productivity. I used to feel like a bad writer, or not a writer at all, for taking unscheduled time off. Why didn’t I want to write? How could I–seemingly overnight–lose a daily habit I’d worked so hard to build?

But now I think it’s just part of my process, part of the shape of my year. I used to worry during these fallow periods that I was done, maybe I’d never write again, but now I trust–more or less–that the desire to write will return. I’ll pick up my notebook to write again and it will be just like picking up with an old friend I haven’t seen in awhile.

A few nights ago, after the TV was turned off and I’d read for a few minutes to my son and he had fallen asleep on the couch, I crept out to the porch with my cats and my notebook and settled into a chair. I suddenly felt like writing again.

Over a month had passed between entries. I was a bit sad to think of all that I hadn’t captured in my notebook during that month. The trees I ogled in Balboa Park. The research on lorikeets and okapi and servals and tapirs from interests sparked by the San Diego Zoo. The sunrises and sunsets I didn’t describe. The beauty of Utah I didn’t note. The stories of cats at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary I wanted to remember. The teaching plans I made driving for 21 hours there and 21 hours back.

But that was gone, and this was now. Where to start after such a long lay-off? Where I always start, right here in this moment.

There’s a thunderstorm predicted and a flash food warning. I am sitting on the porch, which I cleaned and reorganized today, and the breeze is just beginning to stir the air and there is lightning behind me that occasionally illuminates the page.

I have sat on the porch in the dark for twenty or thirty minutes, capturing my day in lists of 10 things, a blog structure I occasionally use and always love reading. I’ve never used it in a notebook before, and I don’t know why. I often give myself length or time challenges–write for ten minutes, write three pages–in my notebook, but I’ve never given myself a number of thoughts or observations I need to have. One night, it took nearly an hour to come up with 10 things. Last night, it took barely 10 minutes.

The weather and cats and yoga and reading and the fading light that I can’t see the page by are always good for at least five observations. Entries in the lists of 10 range from one line (about a glorious pile of new library books) to four pages (about Sara Ahmed’s book, Being the Change, which I am hoping to turn into a blog post for final #cyberPD reflections).

The handwriting is hard to read when I open the book in the light. If I’m interrupted and lose my place, I sometimes have to simply turn the page and start fresh to avoid writing over a line I’ve already written. I interrupt myself often to watch the clouds cross the moon or the leaves pick up the wind or a person walk a dog or the lights flicker in the window across the street or the cats leap on a toy or each other.

When I get to 10, I close my notebook and go inside to read before bed. (This week, Amor Towles’s wonderful novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, which I would like to read forever.)



28 responses to “10 Things, or Getting Back into the Habit of Writing: Slice of Life #sol18”

  1. Thank you for this. I’ve been writing in my notebook for the last month, “I’ve got nuthin here,” and it’s getting old. Perhaps I should have just walked away from my notebook altogether for a month, burnt out from my dissertation writing. When I get that way, I usually turn to cut and pasting – choosing random magazines and cutting out any fodder that speaks to me and pasting it into my notebook. I may write from it, I may not. It’s the physical act of cutting, pasting and collecting that is pleasing to me when in a writing drought. I know others who keep their writing going by just writing one line. Perhaps we expect too much of ourselves. 🙂

    • I love what you do when you’re burnt out or in a drought. I collect all kinds of material for collecting, cutting, and pasting, but never actually do it. I think I’ll try some of that and see what happens. When I’m not writing, I often remind myself that just one line would do…. but then I don’t even open the notebook for that one line!

  2. I enjoyed reading this slice. Getting a glimpse into your thinking and writing life touched my heart, gave comfort and encouragement.

  3. When I take a break from writing I tell myself that thoughts are mulling around in my brain looking for the perfect format in which to be expressed. I, too, like lists. They can take us in many directions.

  4. I love visualizing you sitting in the dark writing, with “lightning behind (you) that occasionally illuminates the page.” What a wonderful image!
    And thanks for these words – “I trust that the desire to write will return.” I’ve always been terrified of not writing my weekly slice, afraid that if I ever stopped, I would never return. But this summer, I’ve given myself a couple of weeks off. Thanks for this reminder that it’s good to trust ourselves.

    • It’s always a fine balance between sticking with a habit and routine and giving ourselves a break. I, too, always worry that if I skip a day or a week of a valued routine, that will be it and I’ll never return!

  5. I feel the same as you during my fallow periods (I LOVE that word!) – but I’ve also realized that the writings I produce after these long droughts are much better than what I would have done had I forced myself. And I’m okay with that! It’s something for me to remember when I go back into the classroom and I’m working with my students. Thank you for sharing and helping me to reflect!

    • That’s a really interesting observation–that your writing is better after a rest. I usually fixate so much on how hard it is to get back into the daily writing habit again that I don’t even notice whatever I’m actually producing!

  6. I so identify with falling off the wagon. “But now I think it’s just part of my process, part of the shape of my year.” Yes. Tune into the TeachWrite Chat Blog in August for lots of posts about maintaining momentum. I think you’ll connect with our posts.

  7. I can relate to SO many things in this post. I always like your list structure in your posts. It reminds me it’s another way to add to my notebook writing

  8. Love the idea of ‘these fallow periods.’ I am in the midst of one myself, posting today for the first time since the March challenge. This line really spoke to me – “But now I think it’s just part of my process, part of the shape of my year.”

  9. I always think it’s funny when we write about not writing in a blog post. Isn’t that writing? I love imagining sitting on the porch with you with my notebook capturing just the very moment. I’ll remember 10 things tomorrow to make myself open to a clean page with another colored flair pen.

  10. I think the “fallow periods” are a normal part of the cycle. They renew and restore us, and make it possible to pick up our pens and begin again, “right here in this moment.”

  11. I relate to this on a fundamental level. I think sometimes our bodies/spirits force us into a break because we don’t know what’s good for us, so we find ourselves just not doing something (like me with my reading slumps) because it’s just time to stop for a minute.

    I also love that your lists of ten things has variance in size and scope and is really just another way to freewrite.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: