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?