I’m having trouble writing longform pieces lately, though I don’t know if you could call a nearly thousand word essay longform (actually, I know the answer to that: you don’t). Tweets and Instagram captions are easier, though sometimes those are hard for me, too. As fun as microblogging can be, it’s not the same as an actual blog.
Writing was easier when I could write about anything, when I was confident in what I had to share. Maybe it’s a byproduct of getting older and becoming more responsible, but so many of my stories now are entangled with others, of times and places and happenings that don’t belong to just me. It’s harder to write publicly when that’s the case. Some of these limits are just common sense (I don’t write about work), while others are self-imposed (I don’t want to write about my family or friends or relationship unless they are okay with it).
I also wonder, too, of how the role of writing in my life is evolving. I used to write every day, privately. Then I wrote every day, publicly. Now I hardly write privately or publicly. It’s not what I want, but it’s also not as discomforting as I would have imagined it to be. It happened so gradually, and other things have stepped in to fill the void of not writing. But even so, not writing makes me feel like a piece of me is missing, even if I fear I don’t know how to write anymore.
Once upon a time, I carried a notebook and a pen with me everywhere I went and wrote. I wrote about anything and everything, anywhere and everywhere I went. Sometimes it was fiction, sometimes it was (terrible) poetry, and sometimes it was non-fiction (mainly journaling). Then I got a laptop and started this blog and all of my writing was done electronically. Which was great, because I was always on my laptop and had a working internet connection, so I was still always writing.
But then, especially in the last year or so, I cut down on my non-work online time. I started going to the gym, I started reading WAY more, I started buying tickets to local events and performing arts engagements, and I started dating my boyfriend. Now, there are some days when my only time spent online is a quick checking of my social media accounts via my phone. There are other days where I don’t open up my laptop at all. And then there are the days that I find the time to write, only to find myself staring at a blank screen for hours.
My fleeting moments of inspiration seem to occur less and less frequently nowadays, and each time they happen the inspiration is harder to grasp. I find myself fumbling, first with refining the idea and then stumbling over what I want to say and the words I want to use to say it. It’s like someone’s turned off the light switch in a room I know by heart, but instead of being able to move in the dark I’m tripping and falling and knocking into things because someone’s changed the room layout.
Sometimes, I wonder what happened to those notebooks I spent so many years scribbling in. I think to myself, if I were to read them now, would they inspire me to pick up my notebook-and-pen carrying habit again? Sometimes I fear I’ve forgotten how to write. Would those notebooks be confirmation that writing isn’t a skill that can be forgotten, but rather just needs to be exercised? And that it’s okay if some of my ideas/drafts ever see the light of day, or that the only kind of writing is rewriting, or that writing is really hard work and the only reason why it seems like it’s gotten harder is because somehow, it fell down my list of priorities?
Other times I wonder if I were to start over from scratch, with a new name and a new home and a new location online, would it be easier? A fresh start, one without the posts from a girl I no longer recognize and the drafts that clutter my dashboard. But then I remember that I’m struggling with pitches, too, and for writing at other places, even places I’ve written at before. It’s not where I’m writing that’s the problem I’m facing, it’s writing in general. And that’s the scariest thing to admit, to voice, because how do I fix this problem that I can’t even pinpoint a beginning or end to?
In the worst times, I wonder if this is it. If writing and I have had a good run, but we are no more. That our time is up, but at least it was good while it lasted.
But then I remember that at the two local writing workshops I attended in May, I wrote. I wrote more than a paragraph for the first time in far too long. My sentences and paragraphs and pages were rough and needed the workshopping and feedback those settings provided but I wrote. It was a wonderful feeling, almost as good as the feeling I felt being part of such a wonderful setting. (Need a confidence boost regarding your personal creativity, a reminder that your ideas have merit and worth? Attend an intimate writing workshop attended and hosted by kickass women who will constantly remind you that yes, you can write).
So maybe it’s not that I can’t write anymore. Maybe it’s that as my relationship to writing changes, naturally, so will how and when and why I write. Maybe what worked for me before isn’t working for me now.
Maybe it’s time for some experimenting.