Saturday, July 09, 2016

Missing Me

I have a confession.

I miss the old me. The old writing me, that is. (Well, I also miss the old size 7 me, but that ship has sailed long ago! Hahaha!)

This is for a few reasons.

One, I truly think I was much more into my writing and the writing life before the emergence of social media. Before Facebook and Twitter, I blogged a great deal, connected with other writers on a deeper level, read blog posts on the writing craft, read books on the writing craft, and spent more time immersed in the writing world.

But then I made the decision to join Facebook and then later, Twitter. And something changed.

I've written on here before about how social media is a double-edged sword. I love all the connections I've made on it - with writers and historians and readers and friends and family - but I've noticed that my ability to focus has dropped. Let's face it: It is easier to digest a soundbite of 140 characters than it is to read a long blog post. It's easier to respond in short statements than it is to write a very long response - even though long responses are much more conducive to good conversation and are more intellectually stimulating.  

And it's very easy to get sucked into a debate about politics or anything else, which can further deplete my already low energy resources.

What is most disturbing, though, is that I find it difficult to read a long article. I tend to skim through it instead of taking my time. It's hard for me to buckle down and really focus because my attention span has grown short. I keep thinking, Hurry and read this so you can hurry and go read that and then check this out and then go and check that out! It's bizarre and frightening and I don't like it one bit. 

And apparently I'm not alone in noticing this change. In fact, there is scientific proof to show that how we use the Internet is actually rewiring how our brain works. Some studies even show that too much screen time can damage our brains. That's a bit scary. Of course, limiting your time spent on the computer is one way to combt that. So for me, that's step one in regaining the "old me."

But the other reason I feel like I've "lost touch" with my writing has nothing to do with social media: it's called life.

When big upheavals come - and they usually come to all of us at one point or another - it changes us. This isn't necessarily bad, of course. For example, my latest upheaval was buying a house - and this was definitely a good change because we moved out of a rental house with mold problems and a landlady who simply didn't care. I'm much, much happier in my new home and am thrilled to have a  place that is mine. The downside, of course, was that it interrupted my normal schedule for a long time and I was unable to spend a lot of time focusing on my writing. But it was a temporary condition since I'm now settled and have all the boxes unpacked, the new curtains hung, and my furniture arranged exactly as I want it to be.

But the not-so-good upheaval that has impacted me the most is, of course my health. Having a chronic health condition changes your life in nearly every way possible. It's changed my work habits, my social habits, my eating habits, my sleeping habits. In short: it's changed everything. I never know how I'm going to feel from day to day, and that makes it very hard to plan things. For example, I had plans to write this weekend -but I woke up this morning feeling quite horrible. I was up for a few hours before I had to take a nap that was almost four hours long. I'm hoping that I will be able to get more writing done this evening and tomorrow.

I'm learning how to adapt to this new life as I've written here before, but it's a continuous learning process. I was feeling terrific last week and was able to take lots of walks and go shopping and work in my yard. I had energy! But then this week has been almost exactly the opposite. I've struggled to just make it work (and I didn't two days out of the four scheduled) and when I did go to work, I had zero energy when I got home.

Herein lies step two to rediscovering the "old me": learning new strategies to deal with the uncertainty of my health. Keeping to those strategies is the tough part. When I don't feel good, I tend to fall into bad habits - like eating too much chocolate and spending hours on social media. It becomes a vicious cycle. 

And the third reason I miss the old writing me? Well, the old writing me was completely connected to writing. I loved writing. I loved immersing myself in my characters and my stories. And I feel that has been missing lately. I attribute this to the first two reasons, yes. But on Friday, after having become heartsick with all of the awful news coming out of the US lately, I had to put my foot down. Enough is enough. I want that old me back. I want that old me who immersed herself so fully in the writing world that it wasn't a hardship to open the laptop and start working on the novel. Lately, I've been procrastinating with the best of them. I'm gripped with anxiety and struggling to find the thread of my story. It's not like this hasn't happened before, of course, but I've noticed that my resistance to working on the novel has become much, much stronger.

Life is about growth and change and adapting. But sometimes, we have to be really serious about making those changes and growing, or we can end up in a very bad place. I don't want to end up there. I want to rediscover the joy of writing again, not just fleeting glimpses of what it used to be. 

So I've resolved to do just that. It's going to take discipline and strength to keep from slipping back into old habits, and I'm sure I'll fall down a time or two, but the important thing is that I keep going and keep trying. 

So tell me. Have you noticed a change in your writing and in yourself since the advent of social media? If so, how have you tried to combat it?


  1. Definitely! Especially after I added a pseudonym. Now I'm managing two personas on social media. I've also noticed that trying to keep a consistent blog schedule takes time away from the novel. Yet, agents and editors say that a writer needs a complete platform. It's enough to make me want to unplug and write in a shed like JRR Tolkien. A hobbit's life sounds pretty good these days.

    1. Yes, it's so hard. I want to have a platform, but when it takes away from my writing time, my writing suffers. So it's a tricky balance!

  2. I've noticed a change in my writing and my writing self, but more from real-life circumstances than social media. (Warning: This gets long!)

    I've noticed that since I started working in educational publishing, my fiction writing has been adversely affected. It's become more mechanical and less emotional, I think because I spend most of every workday focusing on mechanics and detailed guidelines. Even my journaling has suffered. I miss being able to sit down and pour my emotions onto a page. I wish I knew how to get that back.

    As much as I love working at home as a full-time freelancer, that's also diminished my writing. I don't have inspiration I used to find riding public transportation or working in a bustling office. As a freelancer, it's getting harder and harder to earn what I need, so I'm taking on more and more projects--which takes away from my writing time. It's harder to get into a groove with such an inconsistent schedule. It doesn't help, either, that I live in a money pit that I'm desperate to sell but struggling to keep up.

    It would help me, I think, if I had a local, real-life writing partner or two--not so much for critique, but for weekly or monthly writing dates. I do write better out of the house, at the library or Panera usually. Also, so many of the writers I know here don't have the same writing goals or level of skill that I do. That makes it hard, too, because I'd really like to have a writing partner who equals or exceeds my skill and commitment. Not having that, I think, has also stalled my writing.

    Just this week, I've gone back to writing by hand and that's been more productive than writing on my computer. I don't think I could get away with handwriting my novel, though...

    Basically, I'm stuck too.

    1. I totally understand. I think when you have a day job that involves writing, it necessarily impacts YOUR writing and it can be negative or positive.

      And I totally agree about having a real-life writing partner. It helps tremendously to have that face-to-face connection. I hope that you can find a few people that will fit the bill so you can have that connection.

      Have you thought about doing a different kind of freelance job, one that isn't writing-focused but enables you to work from home? Or maybe a part-time job out of the house doing something different that would help with your income and reduce the amount of freelance you need to do?

      I hope you can find something that works for you. :)

    2. I have been looking for another job, but it's slow going because I'm being VERY picky. Same for finding local writer peeps. I know exactly what I'm looking for in both departments--which is both a blessing and a challenge. :-)

    3. I don't blame you for being picky at all. Transitioning from full-time freelancer to part-time and having to actually go to a job on-site will be an adjustment!

  3. Leila Cassell4:22 AM

    Yes! I recognise myself here, Melissa. In the old days writing was my hobby, the thing I did for pleasure, quietly finding my voice and learning my craft. Then came a novel worthy of publication. Now writing isn't my hobby. It's a job. There are things that have to be done that I'd rather not do. And sometimes I feel overwhelmed and anxious. To write well I need to reclaim some of joy I felt as a relaxed hobbyist. I'm working on it and if I find the answer I'll let you know.

    1. Yes! Reclaiming the joy after writing has become a job is very hard to do. I've suffered from that, too, since I got an agent who is trying to sell my novel. I keep thinking about my audience when I write the first draft and I think that's hindered me somewhat. I need to follow my own advice: write the first draft with your heart and the second with your head. :)

  4. Good post Melissa - and yes I agree with a lot of what you say. I think it does addle our brains and concentration. Good idea to go back to simplicity and regain our joys in our writing.

  5. My problem is quantity - social media is often my only form of socialization because I get out very little.

    And it's so easy to wander around reading and commenting when my brain isn't really on.

    But that stuffs my mind with snippets and debris that have to be processed out before I can think - and write. I know that, but still seem to have to learn it every day.

    I didn't know RA had brain fog too, so you have my sympathy.


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