I decided last week to write more. I am in the habit of journaling for myself, and I also wanted to get back in the habit of doing prompted free writes, and blogging, and I also want to really, truly, for real this time transcribe all my old journals.
That’s a lot of different kinds of writing. But I thought about it, and I could easily do all of that in one hour per day: 10 minutes each for journaling, transcribing, and free-writing, and 30 minutes for blogging.
An hour is not that much, really, not for something I say I want to do. I’m awake for about 17 hours each day. I dedicate an hour to exercise and a shower; between three and four hours for meal prep, eating, and dishes; eight hours for work; and one to two hours for reading. That’s about 14 hours, leaving three hours for other stuff like time with my family, messaging with friends, writing, chores, errands, and miscellaneous time-passing, like Twitter and Instagram and news consumption.
Writing was already in my free-time activities, but not enough. I wanted more.
As a Making Space for Writing post on Tumblr pointed out, you can’t add more to your life just because you want to. The hours in a day don’t expand to fit more just because you have something more you want to do. If you want to add something, you also have to subtract something.
I thought about my days, and about what I can subtract. What’s in that three hours that I can let go of? I rarely watch TV. I do stand at the window a lot and look at my garden. But on days where I don’t have chores or errands, where does that time go?
Simultaneously, my mental health was suffering from news overload. And I thought, hmm. In the morning, instead of picking up my phone after I journal, instead of immersing myself in news of things I can’t control and that stress me out, why not direct my energy to writing instead?
I read the book Where’d You Go, Bernadette? last year (I loved it! Fun and funny, highly recommend), and there was a quote in it that has stuck with me:
If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
When Bernadette didn’t create, she destroyed. Not on purpose (I don’t think), but destruction was a consequence when she was not creating.
Ever since I read this and thought about the relationship between creation and destruction, I’ve found this to be accurate. Not that I become a menace to society, but maybe just a little bit to myself (and by extension, my family). When I focus on writing — on creating sentences and paragraphs from whatever’s going on in my head — my mind feels productive, happy, and satisfied, and is in a healthy place where I want it to be. When I create through writing, I feel like my mind is alive and my spirit is fed. When I do nothing but consume, on the other hand, when I don’t create on my own, a darkness seeps in. My mind feels insufficient, confined, and discontent, and my spirit withers.
For the past six days, I’ve put creating first. I listen to news to get the big stories while I unload the dishwasher and make breakfast and coffee, then I turn it off, pick an ink color that feels good, and start writing. I journal, then do a prompted write, then schedule a blog post before I go to work. If I’ve timed everything right, I can also squeeze in 10 minutes of transcribing old journals so I can get them off of my bookshelf.
It’s only been a few days since I committed to add writing and subtract doomscrolling, but so far, so good. I haven’t cut social media out all together, but I feel like I have a better balance now; by the time I consume, I’ve already created. I feel more nourished than when I wasn’t writing, and I’m getting more comfortable with letting words flow and not overthinking. The more I write, the easier it is to write, and the more I want to write. I feel filled up instead of emptied out.