I haven’t been writing lately. Not really.
It’s hard and scary for me to even admit that here because through all life’s seasons and phases, I have always identified as a writer.
It’s not that I don’t write anything… I write letters and often I spaz out on my keyboard for 10 or 15 minutes before sending a rant off to a close friend. But I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been journaling and I haven’t been producing much fiction either.
I haven’t been writing because of all the excuses.
I can shoot off a list if you ask. It starts with “busy” and ends with “relationships” or “work” or any number of things.
None of those excuses are legitimate.
You make time for what is important to you. I have the same 24 hours in my days as my favorite writers, or the scientist who discovers a cure, or the teenager who creates an app that changes everything. I have the same 24 hours in my day as the people I see enacting the most change in the world – the people touching the most lives.
I choose what I do in each of those 24 hours. I choose what I do in each of those 1,440 minutes. In each of those 86,400 seconds.
When I don’t take time to sit down with my journal, even for 10 minutes at the end of the day, I’m failing to value myself and my well-being. To me, those 10 minutes are the most calming part of the day. A chance for reflection, a chance to tell God what I’m struggling with, and a chance to understand myself. Those 10 or 20 or 120 minutes can take me from confused and distraught to completely at peace.
I have become a verbal processor recently, out of pure necessity. I’ve always processed through my emotions and thoughts via writing. But I’m becoming a verbal processor because I have started robbing myself of those times of written processing. I’m becoming a verbal processor, and I’m bad at it.
The only option, the only way to sort through my thoughts, is to start writing them down again.
Last night I went for a late night run, letting the chilly fall air fill my lungs, then I crawled into bed with my journal and a few pieces of fancy dark chocolate my parents bought me in Germany. I turned on my diffuser and the soothing scent of lavender soon filled the air (essential oils plug because they will change your life).
I am invigorated by the run and by the pen in my hand, and I feel alive.
Which is strange. Because lately I’ve been feeling pretty much dead in the evenings.
Which is strange. Because I’m a night person.
I’m a night person. But now, sitting down with my journal and giving myself permission to just write – until midnight if I want to, until 1 or 2 if I can keep my eyes open – feels luxurious. It is thrilling… almost naughty, like if someone walked into the room I’d feel embarrassed and slip my journal under my pillow in a flash.
It is simultaneously foreign and familiar. It feels like driving a few hours out of my way to reconnect with a friend I’ve known for a decade or two. It feels like sitting on a stool at the island in my mom’s kitchen after being away for a few weeks, the familiar smells of fresh fruit pies or roast chicken or whole wheat bread wafting throughout the house. It feels like the moment, driving home late at night, when that song from high school comes on shuffle and brings back memories you thought you’d lost.
It is stepping off the Paris metro for the first time, early on Easter morning, with no idea where the day will take you. What you’ll see, what you’ll hear, what you’ll smell… just knowing whatever it is, it will be wonderful.
I am exercising a muscle that used to be my strongest one – tough and defined. I’m tearing through layers of scar tissue that have been growing over my heart and soul. It feels good, and it hurts.
I am writing.
Writing is emotion. I love it, but I always feel like maybe with each stroke of my pen, I’m willfully reaching into my chest and prodding around until I find my heart, then proceeding to dig it out, set it on the table in front of me, and poke it until it’s bleeding and gasping for air. So many nights I’ve ripped myself apart and put myself back together with each turn of the page.
As I recount the last few weeks, I laugh and share little anecdotes from daily life, moments when I was happy and laughing and care-free, and I also write down mistakes I’ve made – times when I hurt people and times when I was hurt, and all the doubts that dwell inside me. I am bringing myself back to life. I am reintroducing me to the parts of myself that have been lying dormant, hibernating for the summer. (I gave myself the summer, you see. I graduated, and I let myself take some time away – away from writing, away from reading. I needed a break, but it was supposed to be a short one.)
Summer is over.
And I am a writer.
And a writer is only a writer if she chooses to write. A writer must write before anything else. A writer must write or drown.
Don’t let me leave again.
As much as the pages feel alive, they are inanimate. They have no power here. The only one who can keep the pen in my hand is me.
Don’t let me leave again.
Know yourself. Learn what makes you tick. And when you do figure it out, prioritize it. I’ve known since middle school that I need to journal to process. I’ve known since high school that I receive more revelation through writing than anything else. It’s easy to forget that, when journaling takes time, and I’m tired. I journaled almost daily all through my college years, but sometime this spring I started journaling less and less until I wasn’t anymore.
There’s beauty in the process, whatever the process is to you. Take your time. Be patient with yourself. Learn yourself. Recognize that what works for everyone around you probably won’t work for you. Instead of beating yourself up about it, do it your way. Tap into your passions. Find out what “your way” is. Realize that sometimes your way might change.
I don’t want to be cheesy and say there’s more beauty in the journey than in the destination. The destination has generally been my favorite part of every journey. But as long as we’re here, as long as we’re on earth, all of this – life – is the process. It’s all about getting somewhere, and as long as we’re alive, we won’t arrive. There will always be something more to see, to do, to challenge, to discover.