Stepping Away from the Blog

The good writer seems to be writing{A photo I took on one of our hikes on Mt. Rainer.}
 

I read a piece in The New Yorker online recently by an author I deeply admire. In it, she spoke of how social media – with its ease of sharing, the way it encourages us to gloss over and digest large quantities of information, its impersonal nature – is threatening a writer’s ability to think through and reflect upon his or her life. Will we ever really connect with our readers if we’re so wired to spit out episodes of our life in 140-characters?

We’re all so busy lately. Constantly plugged in. The week before we went on our summer vacation I found myself noticing that it’s been so long since I was last able to sit down and do nothing. Other than the three minutes it takes me to fall asleep after I crawl into bed, hours after everyone else in my house has. And even then I have a to-do list of things still waiting for me running through my head before I nod off. Life is so damn non-stop these days. Dani Shapiro is right – most times these little bits of our life are dashed off on social media to efficiently inform our entire networks. What ever happened to picking up the phone? And why does the entire world need to need to know what we ate for lunch?

We’re such a distracted society. I often find myself thinking back to when my son was a baby (he turns 6 next month) and how people in my life barely used Facebook, Instagram wasn’t born yet, and Twitter was just a toddler. I spent more time on the living room carpet playing with my child than I did on my phone and laptop combined. The ipad wasn’t even an element in the equation in our household yet. Sadly, I can’t say the same today. I know I only have myself to blame.

My blog turned 3 this month. Three years of my life written out in blog posts, shared on the vast interwebs by clicking “publish.” I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in three solid, fairly consistent years of blogging. And I’m in awe of the incredible connections I’ve made in this virtual world, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person, who I’ve built lasting friendships with.

The time just feels right to take a step back from this space. I’m not calling it a break because I may get the burning desire to hop back on here and share my perspective on one thing or another. But at this moment my heart is telling me if I put more energy and time into reflecting on the story I want to tell – this memoir living inside me – I’ll become a stronger writer during the process.

One of my idols in the literary world, Cheryl Strayed, wrote a book called Tiny Beautiful Things. When she signed my copy at the Wild Mountain Memoir Writers’ Retreat, she wrote this:

WP_003980

The red-cover collection of letters, her advice on life, love, loss and humanity will blow you away. Cheryl’s inscription refers to her response as the advice columnist Dear Sugar, to the final letter captured in her book. A twenty-two year old had written Sugar to ask one simple question: What would you tell your twentysomething self if you could talk to her now?

Cheryl may have inscribed all the copies of Tiny Beautiful Things the other writers in line handed her with the same note, because it’s rock solid advice from a writer who’s been there. The essay she wrote when she replied to “Seeking Wisdom” included the following paragraph:

“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.”

I know my book has a birthday. It’s coursing through my veins. It permeates my thoughts countless times a day. It’s a part of me and I need to nurture it and develop it and give it wings by first doing the work of practicing to fly. I need to practice my writing with pen and paper and my thoughts and crickets chirping when everyone has gone to sleep and the house is quiet. Staying focused is something I’ve never been that great at. I’m recognizing this now and in recognizing this I’m also realizing that surfing Facebook does not contribute to a page count of my memoir. I want to find discipline in my writing practice to reach my dreams and I know I can do it.

I’ll be posting here less and will be writing more by hand with my flowy, fast pen and my favorite notebooks anxiously awaiting words to fill them up. If anything happens to be born from this more focused writing, I promise to share it with you here. I’ll still be tweeting and Instagramming and taking Facebook breaks only once I’ve put in my writing time for the day offline. I hope to continue to write for What to Expect.com, PostpartumProgress.com, and the International Bipolar Foundation, in addition to running our non-profit, This Is My Brave, Inc., with my creative partner Anne Marie Ames.

I’ve been thinking of doing something like this for a few months, and am thankful I finally listened to my gut and the wise advice of two brilliant writers I look up to. This isn’t goodbye, it’s only so long for now. I hope by shifting my priorities from blogging to practicing the discipline of writing, that I’ll be able to wait, as Dani Shapiro describes, “for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself in time.”

 

Comments

  1. ENJOY THE TIME AND SPACE.

  2. Peggy Thompson says:

    AMEN!!! Wishing you blessings in your endeavor.

  3. I write everything by hand with number 2 pencil in a notebook, regardless.

    I could hear the stress in your voice when we talked, then again, us bi-polars always sound like that.

    Enjoy yourself.

  4. Lovely post that illustrates the conflict well. I had a blog (about a Jewish Cougar divorcee, dating in NYC) for 2.5 years and my following was skyrocketing when as Cheryl says, my life became more important. I got married and writing about dating was obviously obsolete but moreover, I wanted to honor my husband’s (our) privacy. I wrote a memoir during that time, and have a completed draft to show for it. But! I’m stuck and discouraged.. seems I need to now write a proposal, publish an essay, and get blogging to build my platform. So point is, I still need that blog, and I regret not keeping it up since I invested so much in it to begin with. I just wrote a new post – the first in two years – and it was painful to get out, but I’m now proud of it and glad I did. That said, TAKE THE BALLOON! The memoir is calling you in that deep shapeless way that your blog isn’t, so honor that. Who knows where the balloon will lead you. Good luck to you.

    • Thanks for reading, Oritte. I agree – life is more important. Being present for my kids, and also really taking the time to sit with my story and decide how I want to put it out there in memoir form. Then the work, of course. Good for you for writing that post!

  5. This topic must be in the air, as I’m doing a similar thing ; I’m cutting down 90% to finish my book “Birth Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar. Cool minds think alike! I discuss this (even mentioning books & birthdays!) in today’s blog post “Hunkering Down”. We can do this, Jenn! We will realize this dream! http://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/…/24/hunkering-down/

  6. Good luck with the change ahead! It sounds like something you’re ready for. I look forward to reading that memoir!

  7. You’re extremely inspirational with this bold leap! Blessings to you as you keep figuring it all out :)

  8. I so understand this. I’ve been focusing on the things I can make with my hands. The things I can hold in my hands. It grounds me. I hope you find the same in your writing.

  9. thank you for this post! I just recently started my own blog. it’s for mostly my own therapeutic reasons but I also want to share with others what it’s like being a mom and wife who bipolar and the daily struggles and highs and lows I experience. I often have to take breaks from social media because I get so over loaded with junk that I can’t focus on my own thoughts and life. thanks again!

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