I’m Holding Back in My Writing

Recently I’ve realized how stunted my writing is. I’m constantly holding back. Writing, for me, has always been an essential outlet for releasing my emotions and getting thoughts out of my head and sorted into some kind of more tangible, manageable form. And yet, even privately, I’m unable to keep from censoring myself when putting my thoughts and emotions down on paper. It’s like I’m scared that by committing them to paper, all of my fears, bad memories, and wildest assumptions will take on a whole new, scarier reality. That by putting them to paper, they’ll become more powerful, more actual, more determinative. No more trapped inside my mind to be conjured up and played with or dismissed at will — now unleashed, a separate entity with a will all their own.

Yet what if I’m wrong? What if the opposite is actually true and, after writing down my thoughts and emotions, they seem a lot sillier and more insignificant to me? That’s in some ways more terrifying. I might realize my positions aren’t the most reasonable. I might realize I need to take some kind of action or change my perspective — that scares and unbalances me, makes me feel as though my legs have been swept out from under me. And worst of all, I might realize I have been living a mere existence, based on self-delusion, instead of the full life I could have been living. Is it possible I have created a meaningless existence for myself? Is my life made up of small things? Am I unfit for more important concerns and undertakings? The possibility I’ve been wasting my life on pettiness is crushing to consider.

Lastly, there are things I don’t want to admit about myself that I’m hardly able to think about, let alone put down on paper. Past actions, loathsome character traits I see in myself, reprehensible thoughts. Things that are already so painful to humor for even the brief moments they flit through my mind that I can’t imagine inscribing them and experiencing them via other senses, as well. The feeling of the pen in my hand as I write them. Looking at them on the page. Even smelling the paper and ink. The words, stark and accusing: “See, we are real. All your worst fears, most jaded perspectives, embarrassing memories, and horrifying suspicions about how others view you, they’re all true. We weren’t just ethereal synapses firing at random, easily rationalized away. We represent reality, and you’re going to have to confront us in a meaningful way sooner or later or your life will only ever be pain and sadness.”

Depression and anxiety have both affected my writing negatively. In turns, I feel each emotion. Depression numbs me to the point of no feelings, paralyzing my writing. Inversely, anxiety causes so many feelings to arise I become overcome with emotions and can’t think to write. Can any of you relate?

Writing for Mental Health

Writing is a powerful coping strategy for those with mental health issues. Beethoven, Plath, Hemingway, Woolf, Bukowski, Fitzgerald, Kafka, and Dickens are only a handful of famous writers who struggled with poor mental health. Writing has often been an important therapeutic outlet for me. I believe that my poor mental health, instead of being a hindrance to my writing, has instead been its muse. For while my mental health has benefitted from my writing, my writing has also benefitted from my mental health. Writers often write because of their mental illness, not in spite of it. People with mental illness often feel more than others and have unique perspectives on the world. I have found multiple forms of writing can be therapeutic.

Expressive writing, or stream-of-consciousness writing, allows you to write what you feel in the moment. Story lines and linearity aren’t required. Instead, the point is to get down on paper what you’re feeling and thinking. It doesn’t have to make sense or include explanatory details. It doesn’t have to follow grammar rules. It is the literary form of vomiting up everything inside you to be loosed, revealed, and examined. Writing can help you figure out how you feel. Emotions can be confusing and sometimes even contradictory at times. Writing them down can make them more concrete and manageable. It also helps you externalize your thoughts and separate them from yourself. They are not part of you. They come and go. They are visitors, some welcome, some not. And you have the power to determine who will be allowed to stay.

Writing (or rewriting) your narrative is an incredibly powerful form of writing that allows you to dictate and define your life story. It allows you to make yourself the hero of your story, to show how you have overcome struggles and problems. It centers you as a survivor, not a victim. It allows you to reframe negative life events. It encourages you to externalize your problems instead of seeing them as an inherent part of yourself. It helps you realize the strengths you possess that got you through tough times. Some people decide to write a memoir that covers a specific event or period of time in their life, what they learned during that time, and how it shaped them.

Writing fiction can take you away from your reality, even if briefly, while you create a story from scratch. Making up a story allows you to use your creativity and imagination and frees you from your own mind. It allows you to dissociate (in a healthful manner) for a period of time and to become someone else, perhaps with completely different life circumstances, inhabiting a different time and place. The sky is the limit as you compose your story. You have complete control over your characters and what happens to them. Writing fiction can be freeing and exhilarating.

Writing notes to yourself can be used to help remember things that are bothering you. It’s a way of freeing you from mental angst in the present without worrying that you will forget to handle the issue at a later date. Many people actually have a dedicated worrying time set aside every day so that the rest of the day can be free of distressing thoughts and useless worry. I have found that often the issue seems much more trivial when I revisit it.

Blogging your thoughts and feelings can also be therapeutic. Getting positive feedback can help you feel less alone and more normal. Being able to share these thoughts and feelings with strangers can be easier than divulging them to friends and family. It can be easier to get unbiased input from the general public than from people who know you.

Writing has been an invaluable tool in my arsenal of self-care and the management of mental health issues. I would encourage anyone struggling with poor mental health to give it a try.

In Defense of Poetry

Poetry is a rather controversial form of written art. People tend to either love or hate it. Many who hate it believe it to be stuffy, boring, pretentious, saccharine, or confusing. Too short or too long. Too wordy or not wordy enough. Many feel this literary genre should have been left in a bygone era. Granted, poetry has been around since ancient times to show emotion, convey beliefs, and relate events. However, it also has an important place in today’s world, perhaps moreso now than ever. Personally, I love both reading and writing poetry and will attempt a defense of this classic literary form in this post.

Poetry can be free flowing or adhere to certain rules. This allows structure and rhythm to be offered where needed or wanted, such as in William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”. However, free verse doesn’t require rhyming, a specific meter, or a certain number of syllables per line, which allows for more freedom and creativity. An example is Anamika’s “Vandal”.

Poetry can have an overt point or be mysterious as to object or meaning. It can be literal or symbolic. Abstract or obvious. Compare E.E. Cummings’ “So Comes Love” with John Donne’s “The Good-Morrow”.

It can be light and playful or dark and somber. Compare “Skipping Stones” by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater with Khalil Gibran’s “On Pain”.

It can make you question your choices or stances or attempt to convince you of something. Compare Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” with Charles Bukowski’s “The Laughing Heart”.

Poetry allows a message to be conveyed beautifully and creatively, similar to music. It is rhythmic and soothing and flowing. While it has the ability to teach a lesson or stir the conscience, it does so gently and graciously. Poems, such as Beowulf, can tell a story or can make a political statement. Take, for example, Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” or “On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial” by Linda Pastan.

Although poetry, as mentioned, is usually shorter than prose, it can also be as long as many prose stories. The Iliad and the Odyssey are two famous examples of long, epic/narrative poetry.

Poetry allows for a large impact in a condensed form, unlike prose. Prose can take a long time to make a point or to have an impact. Poetry packs a big punch in a small package (and there’s my mixed metaphor for the day). Lang Leav’s “A Way Out” beautifully demonstrates this.

Poetry is therapeutic. It asks self-reflection of both the reader and the writer. It touches the soul in a way other art forms cannot. It allows the emotional release and overwroughtness that people often feel uncomfortable even reading, let alone writing about or showing. Examples are Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art” and Charles Bukowski’s “Raw With Love”.

Poetry requires great care to be taken with word usage. A poet’s choice of words can change the flow, meaning, or style of a poem. In poetry, how something is said is every bit as important as what is said and who is saying it.

Poetry can also be read aloud in what is termed “slam poetry” or “spoken word poetry”, where the poet recites their poem in front of an audience. Tone of voice and inflection bring the poem to life and make it seem more accessible and relatable. Two of my favorite spoken word poems are Edwin Bodney’s “When a Boy Tells You He Loves You” and Lily Myers’ “Shrinking Women”, both of which can be found on Button Poetry’s YouTube channel.

To close, for anyone still on the fence as to the worthwhileness of poetry, allow me to offer some recommendations for your perusal. Some of my favorite poets are Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, John Keats, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, E.E. Cummings, and Edgar Allan Poe. If you’re still unsure, try attending a slam poetry contest or writing some of your own.

I happen to be a self-published poet. For anybody interested, you can find my book of poetry, available in paperback and on Kindle, here: https://www.amazon.com/Loves-Contradictions-Poetry-Shirley-Anne/dp/1517780349

Starting a Postcard Collection

Deltiology is the study and collection of postcards. I have been playing with the idea of starting a collection, myself, although I’ve considered myself a minimalist for eight years now. As a child, I collected stickers, stationery, beanie babies, troll dolls, and My Little Ponies. However, I haven’t been a collector of anything in several years, especially anything non-consumable (for example, I have several bottles of different nail polish colors).

Some people collect postcards that have been sent to them by others. Some collect antique postcards they happen to find while browsing antique shops or specifically set out to find by browsing eBay or other online sites. Others enjoy collecting postcards from a specific niche or subject area, such as funny postcards or postcards that showcase teddy bears.

Still others enjoy collecting postcards from their own travels as mementos from the trips. It is a goal of mine to travel more frequently (I know I am hardly alone in this), and I think it would be a neat idea to write travel memories on the back of postcards I find during those travels. Although postcards aren’t the most unique travel souvenir, it’s not surprising why so many people collect them. They are easy to find, cheap, light, compact, and can be easily stored or displayed. They could also act as an homage to my love of writing.

Do you have any collections that are special to you? Why did you decide to collect what you collect?

Updates/I’m Back

Hello. Greetings. It’s been a while. I have many posts saved in draft form that are currently in the works, and I’m glad to be back and publishing posts. I’ve missed writing. It helps clear my head and make sense of often overwhelming, muddled thoughts. It makes me feel less crazy to take often-unformed thoughts like amorphous clouds drifting through my head and nail them down on paper (or the Internet, as it were) to examine more clearly in the form of words with sentence structure and subject-verb agreement and direct objects and ORGANIZATION. And to be able to share things with my blogging audience I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with those I know personally.

Early 2020 for me has not been very different than late 2019. I’m still working the same job, although I currently work from home because…

…we are now in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. This is what happens when I leave my blog for a few months (bad joke, I know…). I hope everybody is staying healthy and sane while we all try to live as self-contained as possible to avoid catching and spreading this virus. I think the hardest part right now is the uncertainty of when the danger will end and when we will all be able to go back to living normally. I have always felt that I could bear just about anything as long as I know when it will be over. At the sane time, I feel thankful to still be well when many others are currently fighting for their lives. Still, my introversion is being put to the test…

I wish I could at least say my weight-loss journey is going well, but, to be honest, it’s gone anything but. I seem to have no inner motivation for it and, in fact, it seems my concentrating on it and giving it attention only makes me desire to do the complete opposite — as though my public commitment to lose weight only served to heighten my anxiety over the topic, resulting in weight gain. I have noticed worse pain than ever in both knees, especially when going up stairs. I know I need to lose weight more now than ever during this pandemic. I already struggle with shortness of breath. My weight could be the difference between my living or dying if I were to catch this respiratory virus. At the same time, quarantining has me feeling I’m in a holding pattern and causing heightened anxiety and uncertainty, overshadowing the importance of self-improvement goals like weight loss. It doesn’t help that today I’ve been having technical difficulties with my work, which caused an additional level of frustration, exhaustion, and depression — a state that always has me running to food for comfort. At this point, I’m beginning to feel ambivalent…

I’m glad I’m back and writing again. I feel the most “me” when I am writing. More centered, grounded, and calm. So thanks for having me back and let’s wish each other good luck and strength to get us all through.

Let’s Talk Hobbies

Some people have many, some a couple, some none. Some are expensive, require a lot of skill, and/or take up a lot of time. Some are free, require no special skills/talent, and/or can be done anytime/anywhere. Some people prioritize making time for them, while others only do them as an afterthought when they’re bored.

What are your hobbies? What do you consider the definition of “hobby” to be? According to dictionary.com, it’s “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation”. Using that definition, my hobbies are reading, writing poetry, watching movies, gluttony, taking sit-down showers (more about this in another post!), taking drives, and — my newest! — blogging. I hope to add exercising to that soon, although I guess there are definite non-pleasurable aspects to that activity when you’re first starting out in the pitiable shape I’m in. In listing them, I notice many of my hobbies are passive, solitary, and/or unhealthful.

Do you find you have the time/motivation to put into your hobbies after taking care of your daily responsibilities? Do you consider them important enough to prioritize as part of self-care so that you don’t get burnt out and so your entire identity doesn’t become worker/parent/spouse/etc? I’d love to hear what place (if any) hobbies have in your life.

Welcome to WritingOne3583

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by! I feel drawn to having an outlet for myself to write about things that interest, bother, confuse, or inspire me. I wrote many short stories and letters as a child, kept a diary as a teenager, and have written several poems, as well. I find writing cathartic, and it’s one of the few things I believe I do with some level of skill (but that’s for you to decide). My blog topics will most likely be varied and a bit “all over the place”. I hope you enjoy the content and can relate or at least get a chuckle every once in a while out of my latest writing project. If no one reads my blog, it will just be an online journal, which is fine, as well. Regardless, I am going to strive to be as honest as possible and only write what’s on my mind and heart. Ttys!