For most of my adult life I didn’t consider myself much of a writer – not much of a creative person at all, really. But it wasn’t always this way.
Thinking back to my childhood, my teachers applauded my imagination and storytelling abilities. Heck, I even won a few academic awards and scholarships for a book I wrote about unicorns and time travel, something that seems far too creatively adventurous to arise from my current, over-burdened adult mind.
Yes, somewhere along the way it all left me, or I left it – either way, the muse somehow slipped out the back door. Not only had I lost the spark that sent unicorns through the time-space continuum, but I had stopped writing altogether.
Nothing: no pen to paper, no fingers on a keyboard.
And, although I didn’t make the connection at first, I eventually came to the realization that the more I moved away from writing, the more of a disorganized mess I was. I was forgetting things nearly as quickly as they popped into my head. Procrastination had become the norm.
A Journey Back In Time
“…I eventually came to the realization that the more I moved away from writing, the more of a disorganized mess I was. I was forgetting things nearly as quickly as they popped into my head.”
When I moved into my first house a few years back, I decided to unburden my parents from the boxes of my belongings that had been collecting dust in their basement for an eternity. Pouring through those boxes, I came across journals, poems, short stories and other things I had written. As I read through them all, I found myself transported back to the feeling-state I’d been in at the time, realizing the incredible connection that the act of writing has on your mind and memory.
As trying as my mnemonic faculties are, they were surprisingly fresh upon reading all that I had written down. Suddenly the absurdly simple power of lists dawned on me, and I could see the problem all too clearly: I was relying solely on my memory to store all of the things I had to remember doing. No wonder I could never remember to pick up milk from the store on the way home; I had so much stuff floating around in my head it was a wonder I even remembered to wear pants every day!
So, I started doing it. I wrote down the things I needed to remember to do – what had to be done that day, week and month. And guess what? It actually worked. My mind seemed a little lighter, now that it wasn’t filled with all of those things bumping around; writing my checklists and to-do lists began to help me actualize my priorities. And, I actually felt quite accomplished with each item I crossed off the list.
But it didn’t stop there. Just the simple act of putting ‘pen to paper’ and organizing my thoughts in an external manner was invigorating — there was the first glimmer of that spark once again. Sure, I wasn’t a perfect writer and my spelling and grammar weren’t the greatest after relying on my computer’s spell checker for so long, but it was a start.
From Structure To Chaos… and Back Again
“My mind seemed a little lighter, now that it wasn’t filled with all of those things bumping around; writing my checklists and to-do lists began to help me actualize my priorities.”
I thought of other ways to add writing back into different aspects of my life. I went to a bookstore and bought myself a new journal. It was time to see if that spark could be nursed back to health.
So I sat, and I sat, tapping my pen on a blank paper, thinking of something amazing to write. Then, I stopped thinking – and the ideas started flowing.
I tried something called ‘free writing’, where I would set a timer and just write continuously the whole time — whatever came into my head, I’d put it down on paper, no stopping, no thinking, just writing. This exercise shook up new ideas, decluttered my head and got the gears of my imagination turning once again.
Next, I went to the store and picked up an armful of cards. I didn’t know who I was sending them to yet, but I wanted to find a person to send each one to, for no reason other than to write them a personalized note. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love getting a hand-written card in the mail, yet I couldn’t remember the last time I actually sent or received one. I filled each card with memories, thanks, well wishes and more, and I felt great doing it.
Off The Job, And On The Beat
Then a totally different writing exercise came my way. I had to move on from my job, so updating my resume was on the docket. I hadn’t looked at the thing in years, however, so it was in need of some serious editing. Using the skills I’d been honing through my writing exercises I put together a better resume than I ever thought I could.
Now, I realize that I am a writer. I always have been and always will be. And, the skill of writing has helped keep me on track and boost my productivity in so many aspects of my life.
Now, to get started on the sequel to my award-winning unicorn book, Dragons in Outer Space!