I didn’t write much this summer. I managed a couple of blog posts, a few pages in my journal. Not much else. I could blame it on time or my kids or wanting to take a break during the lazy days of summer. But really, I’d lost my why.
Do you know why you are writing?
It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I’ve spent time on blog posts for clients, emails, sales pages—pieces that helped them achieve their why. And I love that work. I enjoy helping people, many of them moms like me with littles at home trying to be present and get things done, reach their audiences and their goals.
Still I want more. I want to write about the things that matter to me. I want to tell you about the best frosting in the world happening in my kitchen right now and about how neighborhood can be like family. I want to talk about freeze warnings and my debate on taking the sure thing of an early harvest or the gamble of leaving some to keep growing. I want to use my words for food and family, gardens and grief. That’s why I started write • nourish • grow.
Roughly two years ago, I was trying to figure out “What’s next?” I had been a freelance writer and editor for 14 years, but the market was changing. My life was changing.
I wanted to do something different, but didn’t know what. I ended up having a chat with Megan Flatt, a business coach for mom entrepreneurs, who told me, “You can’t think yourself to clarity. You need to act.” So I acted.
I jumped into this blog with ideas about running writing + cooking retreats and writing for food magazines. I gave myself space to grow. And for a year, I played with that idea. I wrote about my garden and food and parenting and writing. I ran online writing retreats and shared weekly writing prompts (I’m not done with these things yet). It was fun, but not the job I needed.
But through that action, I discovered the work I’m doing now, the ghost blogging, the editorial calendar planning, and content creation. I found clients I love and a working rhythm that fits my life.
And in the midst of all that I wondered if I needed to start blogging about copywriting and editorial calendars and blogging. I felt ugh every time I thought about it. But I felt like I should. I mean, who was going to hire somebody writing about the changing seasons in nature and life and grief when they were looking to grow their business?
The people I most like to work with bring their heart to their business. They connect with potential customers and clients through story and real experience. That’s what I do. Sure, I’ll pay attention to key words and headlines, but I start with the audience and the why.
And while I am a copywriter and content manager, that’s not my why in this space. I’m not planning on writing about copywriting here.
I’m going to keep writing about love and loss and abundance and paying attention. I’m going to keep following the flow of seasons. I’m going to keep talking about creative writing as I make more space for creativity in my life. And I’m going to invite you along too, to act, not just think.
There are a lot of whys for writing. What are yours?
I’m on my porch, listening to the sound or rain filtering through leaves, hitting the already wet pavement directly, splattering in gathered puddles. Taps and trickles, plunks and plops.
A green haze is creeping across the crispy grass that looked like it might never recover. The plants in my garden and along the sidewalk stand a little taller. I draw myself up a bit too.
I went to bed to the sound of gentle rain last night and woke to the same this morning.
It’s been a dusty summer of hopeful promises. Dark clouds gather each afternoon. The wind turns the leaves up. We pull in laundry, hold off on pulling out the hose. A few scattered drops. Rainbows, but no rain.
Glance at my garden, peak into my pantry. It’s been a slow season in many ways. Flipping through photos from three years ago, I find a lush garden, shelves piled high with pickles and jams. It’s all going slower this year. Some seasons are like that.
Production is slow and things are passing quickly—raspberries are done, my cucumbers are wilting, greens bolted early. I’ve stopped asking things to slow down, and just moving at the speed of this summer.
Back in June, I rejoiced in the rain that encouraged my seedlings, and I dared hope that a recently published essay would end a writing drought. My writing, like my garden, has struggled with a dry spell this summer. I got rain, but not enough. But I keep watering. I weed and check in. My yield may be small this summer, but I haven’t given up. I may not produce much fruit or many flowers, but sink my roots deeper and know I will thrive again.
As I’ve been writing, the rain grew in intensity, crescendoing to a roar. A river runs down the hill and the little puddles by the roadside extend down the street. Tiny droplets evicted me from my seat to one even deeper on the porch. I keep myself dry, but I soak it in. I come back to the page to see if my writing can green up like the grass, perk up like the perennials that had wilted by the walkway.
I was supposed to be hungry—NPO after midnight—the day my son was born, but instead I had a fried egg sandwich for breakfast.
Oozy yolk, melty cheese, crisp bread. Eight years later, I don’t remember if it was homemade bread or a sesame loaf from the bakery down the street. I do remember how my husband cleaned up the counter methodically before he got started cooking, as he always does.
He moved without haste as if it were any other day. But then he still thought our baby was going to be born the next day.
Henry was to arrive by planned c-section on a Wednesday, three weeks before my due date. Given the plan and those 21 days shaved off, I was pretty smug that I knew when my baby would be born. His birth one day earlier than planned would be the first of many lessons about expectations.
Late Monday night, I started spotting. A little anxious, though not alarmed, I called my doctor who said to call back if I had any cramping or contractions. I fell into the uncomfortable, fitful sleep of late pregnancy.
I felt a jolt and woke with a start. What was that? I think it was a contraction. Wait was it?
I waited and waited. Almost an hour. And then again.
I debated if I should call my doctor. Two contractions an hour apart. But my doctors had impressed on me that I should not go through labor, and after the spotting had said to call if I had any contractions.
5 AM. I called and woke her up. After reminding her about my case, she told me to come in for monitoring at the hospital at 8 AM. They’d check me out before my scheduled appointment at the office.
I quietly went upstairs and packed a bag and then I waited, letting Brian sleep as long as he could. Then I shook him gently and explained the change of plans.
“Do you want a fried egg sandwich for breakfast?” he asked.
I was hungry as I was so often those days, and we had a busy day of bustling from one appointment to the next. I was having more contractions, and I suspected that we weren’t going to wait until the next day to have this baby. I knew I wasn’t supposed to eat before surgery, but my doctor hadn’t said I couldn’t. . . .
So he wiped down the counter and cleaned a few dishes and sliced bread before heating up the pan for the eggs. All the while, I waited to get going.
I enjoyed that sandwich thoroughly, though I ate it quickly. It’s one of the last memories of before. At the time I watched Brian impatiently, wondering at his need to clean the kitchen before he started working, but looking back his unrushed approach was part of the normal of those last moments before life changed.
Henry was born that day. When the anesthesiologist asked when I ate last, I admitted to the egg sandwich as I signed consents and got an IV put in. Soon after Henry entered this world. Brian held him in the OR and chatted with the anesthesiologist about hiking in the White Mountains. Everything was OK, or so it seemed.
After Henry died, I fumbled around on his birthday for a while, trying to figure out what to do. One thing I settled on a few years in was making my self an egg sandwich for breakfast, a nod to the memory of the day he was born. These days we are just as likely to have cake and sausage for breakfast, a tradition that Henry gets included in though he wasn’t here when it began. Henry’s birthday is coming up. I think I’ll an early egg sandwich and second breakfast of cake.
I’ve listened to a few episodes of the Plan Simple Meals podcast recently, and host Mia Moran ends each episode with this question:
Tell us about one meal that made an impact on you, whether it was because of the company, the food, or an aha at the table.
She inspired me to start thinking about all the meals I could pick to tell about. It’s Wednesday—Write with me.
Tell me about one meal (yes, just one) that made an impact on you.
White-gray morning sky and the icon on my desktop said rain. I didn’t have to water the seeds I planted last week—the mesclun, spinach, arugula, kale, and peas, the carrots, radish, and beets that came later.
I love spring and summer rain because I don’t have to water my gardens. I love the rain because sometimes I need a day to catch up on errands or inside projects, things I don’t want to do when the day calls me outside.
The rain will sink into to the dry soil. It will help open up those seeds and wake up the peepers.
I’ve been in a writing drought. I’ve found myself resistant to writing. My notebooks are filled with what I’d consider grumblings not writing. I’ve sent out letters. I’ve abandoned my blog. The half written article and the not quite right essay get shuffled from place to place.
I tried writing prompts, but instead of new words, I thought of ones I’d already written.
“I’m tired of my own story,” I thought.
Back in January, an editor had nudged me to submit an essay we had talked about. The timing felt terrible, but I did it. The digital edition came out earlier this month, and the magazine itself, arrived over the weekend. With it came responses—an email from a friend, a call from a neighbor, a FB message, comments on the digital version, emails to the editor. Gentle rain.
Each response reminded me that one of reasons I write is to share experience—to connect.
Writing is discovery and self-understanding.
Writing is capturing memories—or letting them out to let them go.
Writing is communication and sharing.
Writing, over time, allows us to notice patterns and change.
Writing, whether letter or essay or blog post or book, is expression.
The writing in my pile of notebooks and the nested folders on my computer matters. Writing is in part about the process. Writing shared matters in a different way.
This is why I’ll struggle with the stubborn essay on my desk that isn’t taking shape and find my way back here again, why I’ll keep trying to find a home in the world for an essay that did come together, why I’ll keep coming back here even when it feels like it’s been too long.
Whether it’s writing or something else you’re feeling stuck with, go back to your whys.
Tell me about your why.
I’ve been in a non-writing rut. I’m not blogging, not journaling, not finishing articles. My writing notebook and online files are dusty.
It’s not that I don’t want to write. It’s just . . . work is BUSY, BUSY, BUSY as Humphrey would say in my kids favorite series. We’ve had snowdays and half days and school vacation. I’m tired. I’m uninspired. It’s been so long. Sound familiar?
So here’s how to start writing again:
Write something—anything. A letter. A list. Count it.
Write again. Five minutes about what you can see out the window. Go.
Email a friend or two. Say “I miss writing with you. Let’s write together again and share.” If you’re lucky, your friend offers to set up prompts to come to your mailbox every week. If you’re not, offer to send them out yourself. If you have no takers, dust off a book of prompts and work your way through.
Get the prompt. Sigh that you are too busy. Think about it all day. Shut down your computer. Say, Damn I didn’t write yet. Pick up a notebook. Write it by hand.
Clear your kitchen table of all the debris that loves to collect there—the junk mail and random toys and a dowel that you are sure goes to something. Wipe away the dust. In that empty space place your notebook and your favorite pen. Be ready.
Wake up early, but not early enough. Sit at the table with your coffee and start to write. Stop mid-sentence when your daughter comes down. Vow to get back to it.
Come back to it.
Print out the essay and the blog post and the article you want to finish. Put them in a prominent place on your desk (the one cleared just like the kitchen table) right next to the daffodils that make you smile each day. Open the file. Read. Think. Start making notes.
Put aside the thought that it’s been so long since you blogged. Write a simple post. Don’t overthink it. Hit Publish.
Open another window. Write some more.
Let it be messy and imperfect, but let it be. Make it be.
I’ve had some false starts over the past couple of months, but I feel like maybe I’m gaining momentum as the spring energy flows. How about you? How are you going to get writing these days?
Need an idea to get started? Try one of these.
It’s been a while since I wrote here. December was the month of making space, and January, I thought, would be the month of fresh starts. Instead, January walloped me with a little too much to do.
I managed to keep up with most of it—the client work, welcoming new clients, writing an essay, writing my monthly post for Empty Arms. I even managed to read a bunch. I just didn’t make it to this spot despite all my good intentions to connect more.
And now it’s February—another chance at a fresh start. A friend posted this challenge to write a letter every day there is mail in the month of February (bonus—write a letter on the other five days too). I find myself inspired.
I LOVE letters (I wrote more about that here) and I miss them.
I miss the excitement of finding an envelope (that’s not a bill) in the mail.
I miss sitting down and getting a glimpse into a friend’s day.
I miss the time and space created in the writing and reading. Again and again I find myself wanting to slow down. So this month I will—and in that space I’ll write letters.
I might start with the weather:
Tonight when I ran out to the grill in just sweatshirt to cook dinner, I didn’t wish I had put my coat on. There was a softness to the air that doesn’t belong in February. Earlier, waiting for K’s bus, I peeked at the bare ground by the back door wondering if the snowdrops would show their heads early. Even though it hasn’t been much of a winter (December found us eating at the picnic table and we’ve yet to get a covering of snow), I still smiled to see tiny green points of hope coming out of the ground.
I’ll tell you what I’ve been cooking (steak subs with blue cheese and caramelized onions) and how the books I’ve been reading make me want to spend more time cooking and relaxing around the table.
I’ll tell you what I’ve been reading (All the Light We Cannot See, Cooked, Death at La Fenice . . . ) and ask for suggestions.
I’ll talk about my kids, my writing, my wanting to start running again. I’ll talk about grief and joy, boredom and inspiration. I’ll tell you about dreams and my garden.
And I’ll hope I hear back, because I love writing letters, and I love getting them (and writing back and getting another).
Until next time,
Will you join the challenge and write 24 letters this month?