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Getting back into the writing habit

I spent most of this summer writing a book.

(Um, I’ve just realised that by saying that you’re probably going to be all, “So where is it then, huh?” The thing is, I did spent most of the summer working on it, but… then I had to spend an entire month writing advance posts to cover my holiday, instead. Then I WENT on holiday. Now I’m back from holiday, and having to catch up with all of the stuff I should have done while I was on holiday, and OMG, when am I EVER going to find time to finish that damn book? And why do I go on holiday, anyway?)

As some of you might recall, the book is basically a memoir, and a lot of it covers Terry’s illness and subsequent kidney transplant. So it’s a fun read, seriously. You’ll love it! If I ever finish it! (OMG, SERIOUSLY, WHEN WILL I FINISH THIS BOOK?)

Anyway! So, I’ve been writing this book, and because it’s a memoir, and not something I just made up in my own stupid head, I’ve been relying a lot on the journals I kept during that time. Paper diaries, Word documents, that ancient Livejournal which I’ve long-since deleted, but which I saved to my hard disc first so I could NEVER FORGET the angst of those years. Oh, the song lyrics! The deep-and-meaningful musings on life. The angry rants about how much I hated my job, and wanted to die: that kind of thing, you know? And that’s without even getting into the whole, “Oh yeah, my fiance will have to be hooked up to a machine several times a week, just to stay alive!” bit.

It’s been painful reading at times (YA THINK?), but it’s also been really useful to have all of those emotional outpourings on hand, because it means that I don’t have to try to remember what it felt like (and honestly, it’s frightening just how easily you forget) – I can look back on those journals and know EXACTLY what it felt like. In excruciating detail. And sometimes in the words of Michael Stipe and Adam Duritz, because nobody has ever understood me like them, and no one ever will.

I used to write all the time, back then. Aaaallll the time. 

I mean, there isn’t just one notebook, or Word document. There wasn’t even just one Livejournal, come to think of it. No, I used to write anywhere, on anything. Every handbag I owned was filled with scraps of scrawled-on paper: sometimes at work I’d even sneak off to the bathroom, just to frantically scribble in my notebook for a few minutes. It wasn’t GOOD writing, needless to say (or even particularly hygienic writing, now I come to think of it), but it was everything to me. I don’t think I’d have gotten through those years – or the ones that preceded them – without it.

 I don’t write like that now. 

I do WRITE, obviously. More than ever, in fact. I write this blog, and two other blogs, and between the three of them, I write all day, every day.

I don’t write the way I used to, though. I know I’ve talked about this before. I don’t do the spontaneous scribble any more: the “I just have to get this out of my head and onto the blank page.” I miss it, and I also miss being able to look back on the things I wrote (NOT the teenage diaries, I hasten to add. I don’t ever want to have to look at those again…).  So, a few months ago, I bought myself a shiny new notebook, and told myself I’d get back into the writing habit. I took it on holiday with me, and imagined myself sitting in the car on long road trips, writing down profound thoughts about everything I was seeing, doing, thinking.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. 

I think I wrote… five sentence? Maybe? It’s hard to tell, because I wrote them in the middle of the night when I’d gotten up to use the bathroom one time, and my handwriting’s not what it used to be, unfortunately. Actually, I find it really hard to even write by hand now. Is that just me? I’ve always assumed that I’m so used to typing everything now that my hand has lost the muscle-memory of how to hold a pen properly. I can do it – of course I can – but I can’t do it well any more: it always feels like my hand belongs to someone else, and I’m just working out how to use it for the first time. Then I end up with this illegible scrawl, and think, “Yeah, I should really just have typed that.”

I can’t lay all the blame on my poor handwriting, though. The real reason I didn’t write in my new journal was that most of the time it just didn’t occur to me. When it did, there was always another blog post to write, or a photo to upload, and the fact is, I spent so much time creating content for this blog – or thinking and planning about the content I’m going to create next for it – that it doesn’t leave much room for any OTHER writing.

So here’s my solution: I’m writing this post in the new ‘Diary’ section, which you’ll find on the homepage of my updated site*. The plan is to use this section for writing. Like, old-skool writing. The off-the-cuff, unplanned stuff that just pops into my head, and which I don’t have time to take a Pinterest-worthy image to accompany it, or whatever. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, you’re right, I DID try this once before. And it failed. It didn’t fail because I didn’t use it or enjoy it, though: it failed mostly because the posts were tucked away in a corner of the site that no one ever saw.

This new section lives on the homepage: the posts go right into the RSS feeds, like the rest of the content, and they’ll also appear in the “all posts” section, which is linked from the header and, as the name suggests, is a handy list of all the posts on the site, in the order they’re published.  I don’t for a minute expect that everything I write here will be of interest to everyone who sees it, and I’m not promising to update it every day (or even every week, for that matter), but if it gives me a place to combine the writing I’d like to do more of, with the content-creation I need to keep on top of, then that sounds good to me…

 

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5 Comments
  • Chiarina
    October 8, 2015

    Every time I read what you write (even in passing!) about what you and Terry went through it sends shivers down my spine. Thank you for sharing something so deep and private, it really moves me. And the way you write about it seems to speak directly to your reader’s soul. When your book is done and ready, I am guaranteed to buy a copy.

  • FM
    October 8, 2015

    First comment from a long-time reader. The pressure of writing on-demand is a complete inspiration drainer, isn’t it? (I also write professionally, but in a very different – and much drier – context.)

    Good luck with the book. It’s a tough subject, but one that touches more people than one would first expect. My step-dad was a long-term dialysis patient, and the whole thing sucks. Your book – from the perspective of a younger patient/loved-one – will help so many people to realise they’re not alone.

    Random aside, did you mention in your teenage diary that your birthday is 10 March? Me too – and we share it with Neneh Cherry AND (wait for it!) Prince Edward! Totes amaze! 36 is the next birthday for me, ho hum.

    • Amber
      October 11, 2015

      So great to hear from someone who’s been through it – I think it’s one of those things that you don’t really understand until you’ve had to deal with it yourself. I’m glad you think some people will be interested!

      And yes, my birthday is March 10 – I knew about Prince Edward, but my teenage self would’ve been super-impressed to share a birthday with Neneh Cherry!

  • Paula
    October 9, 2015

    I use to write like that. Just scribbles on paper because I had to get the words out! I would later find them in my car or purse. And I wrote in a journal all the time. I recently tried to start journaling again, but I find that I’d rather use my writing time for the blog. I miss those days though. 🙂

  • Erika
    October 13, 2015

    My writing has changed some too. I’ve gotten out of the daily journal habit partly because of my blog, but realized, I missed it. I tend to be a bit more generic in my blog journal posts, I don’t pour my whole emotional self into them. That’s the best part of keeping a journal though, so as of this last weekend I’ve been back to pen and paper. Which, yes, my writing seems much sloppier, and why does my hand cramp now…? Lol! I’m very much looking forward to your diary posts.

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Getting back into the writing habit