Return From An Unexpected Journey | writing is a habit, boundaries are your friends, + other collected bric-a-brac


I am back.

Throw some confetti and commence the apologies.

After a long silence, I finally have stopped ignoring that nagging reminder in my head that I had a personal commitment to write every weekend. I had plenty of thoughts before, all those weeks that slipped away without a post, but no time to catch them with my butterfly nets. So I had let dust settle on all the furniture around here. Before I knew it, a full month had passed. Then two. I began to pack a few things, look back over my shoulder and wonder where to start again and when. Suddenly my virtual house was making me sneeze.

At the beginning this week I talked myself into sitting down and even wrote 3/4ths of a post before giving up and abandoning it to drown in the draft bin.

Which is when I started getting the messages.

Apparently I have some telepathically-talented readers, friends, and family. I am in awe of their abilities.

As my grandmother pointed out, “I thought with the coronavirus and all you would surely have MORE time to blog.”

This, I am afraid, is the truth.

Since my life got cancelled, I have caught up in school and even gotten ahead. I have done some spring cleaning, read some books for pleasure, filled pages of my sketchbook at alarming rates, and done lots of walking/biking/driving/running around my neighborhood. I’ve even crocheted a random hat, sorted hundreds of beads, and virtually attended one meeting of friend’s book club.

But I have not blogged.

Until now.

The last post I published was about my debate team’s upcoming tournament. That Saturday we competed, had an absolute blast, and even qualified to advance to state competition (though it was cancelled a month later.)

Ever since mid-last semester, I realized I did not have the time I needed to commit to studying and to writing. In the end, I found after studying and drilling debate materials, I did not have the mental energy to write. Instead, I turned to doodling and watercolor to satisfy my artistic yearnings.

It was because of that change of pace, February 2nd passed without me noticing it was my blog’s one year blogversary. Later in the week, I realized the fact, wrote a post in celebration, and never got around to editing it.

The thing is: writing is a habit.

You have to train yourself to sit, turn off noises, and train yourself to think for yourself.

No more podcasts drilling your head with statistics, no more music looping your mind with catchy tunes and choruses, no more emails sliding in and cluttering your inbox (at least to your knowledge).

You have to pick a time.

You have to pick a spot.

And you just have to sit. Write, or don’t write. But sit there and do nothing else for the allotted time.

In the couple weeks after my decision to take a undefined break from writing I would find at the same exact time of day, every day, I would begin to feel restless, and then this … longing. An urge to sit down at the computer and just write.

It was because through working diligently on my novel 51 during the summer, I had unconsciously created a very specific routine.

Who said anything about numbers of words? Writing is a habit, not a race. Sure, it’s good to have word goals, but the foundation is training the brain when to stop listening and when to start thinking.

It goes beyond that in my experience. Once I said goodbye to my old blog, and started this one, with my weekly post goal, I had ever so many ideas. I had ever so many things to write about. I was training my mind to form posts through my week so that once I sat down, I would have an overflow of ideas. Talking to a friend about the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice vs. the Hollywood adaption. Finding inspiration in writing through bookbinder poetry. The occurrence of my brother’s wedding. A passing remark over a to-go box of food.

Sure, I still spent anxious moments staring at the blinking cursor, but I was working at it. The feeling of thoughts funneled into words and then into sentences on a Friday or Saturday morning, the feeling of flexing those muscles started to feel right and normal. All because I set boundaries and strove to stick to them.

In the writing community, I sometimes hear people proffer that when you’re stuck, you should remove the boundaries you have, whether they be related to time, style, or some type of personal or given challenge.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Truth #2: Boundaries are friends, not foes (and that’s not just for the procrastinators in the room)

Two weeks I had a fantastically happy moment when I finally found someone else who voiced this opinion in this amazing interview of soundtrack composer Nathan Johnson. The first full episode I listened to of this podcast, I was very pleased. Beyond finding the section about the creation of the soundtrack for a movie called Looper fascinating (a soundtrack my brother and I have been hooked on ever since), I found the principal idea I have discovered and experienced in my own life finally said in a clear, tangible way:

“…this is like an old principle in art: the worst way to try to make something is with no rules. You need the parameters to know how to push as far as you can up against that. You need the canvas for the painting. You need to define what the playground is. And that’s the thing that lets you go all the way up to the edges of it.”

Nathan Johnson

This is why my thirteen-year-old self’s freestyle poetry mass produced every day flopped out of the machine as nothing more than soggy deflated balloons. I had no boundaries. I just threw pretty words together on the page. This is why at the beginning of 2019 when began reading The Roar on the Other Side and learned the forms, I began to see clearly the boundaries I had set (writing sonnets, writing haikus, etc.) and learned to be creative within them – practicing my imagery inside them.

This is why once I made the goal “post every Friday,” I knew my boundaries, worked toward them, and created within them. I stuck to religiously to that goal for almost an entire year.

For 51 it was to write a novel in 1st person, present tense – something I had never done before.

And finally while I have been absent I have again realized a third thing.

Truth #3. Accountability matters

Shoutout to the telepathically-talented few, those that prick you with forks, and those that raise their eyebrows when you’re making a bit too many collages and inspiration boards for your new WIP, while the actual draft is sitting in the corner.

They save your (writing) life.

other bric-a-brac from the past couple months

  • I still can’t get over what an amazing song The Gambler by fun. is.
  • Spending a couple hours at the DMV on a Monday morning was more interesting than I had been led to believe, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day.
  • I joked the other day about how once I get my full license I might want to keep the “student driver” stickers. But honestly. There is a noticeable difference in following distance when said stickers are in use or not. Sooo…
  • Dare I say it aloud? I loved the 2019 adaption of Little Women movie more than the original book.
  • Recently a writer-friend launched a review site for movies and books which I have been really finding interesting. (check it out and see for yourself: #shamelessplug)
  • One of my brothers and I have started reading at least one book a week. This week is rereading Peter Pan for me.
  • Gladiator* is absolutely brilliant. And now one of my favorite movies.
  • 3:10 to Yuma* (with Russell Crowe) was amazing and the BBC film Brooklyn* was pretty good too for that matter (though the friend I watched the latter with begs to differ, you know who you are haha)
  • I will be back next week.

Until then, be careful out there!

~ evelyn ~

(*as usual note content warnings, these films are not necessarily recommended*)