OK, here’s the idea: Write your way out. If you’re in a funk, feeling unsettled, whatever, then writing might be just the thing to help you move on.
What else might writing do? Well, for one thing, it will give you perspective as time passes.
An example? I wrote that first line of this post (“OK, here’s the idea…) on October 31st, preparing to publish right on the November 1 start date, knowing that the month of November would be a wallop of a month and that we all might need help getting through it. Actually, I wrote almost all of this post on October 31, but I just couldn’t get it to the point of hitting “Publish.”
So, now we’re a week in, and …
Yeah, it’s still a wallop of a month in a wallop of a year that continues to be characterized by the full range of feelings (fear, anxiety, hope, joy, worry, uncertainty, unrest, and more), as we all continue to live through a once-in-a-century pandemic, isolated in so many ways from the people we care about.
Am I relieved today, the second Sunday in November, by the outcome of the election? Indeed. Overwhelmingly so. And I’m also still deeply worried about how this will all play out over the coming few months. Every feeling, all at the same time – and I’m a thinker, not a feeler, so it’s a lot to take.
And while eating chocolate (and cheese grits) and drinking wine (and gin) might be temporarily soothing in the heat of a moment, the best ways to deal with an overwhelming world, for me are these: Exercise and writing.
What kind of writing? That’s what I want to talk about this month (and then I’ll offer the usual suggestions for reading, cooking, and more.)
Hear them for your self, in this month’s dispatch from the messy kitchen (with bonus washing machine in the background, so you’ll know for sure, if you didn’t already, that I’m really inviting you into my messy life, laundry noises and all…). Not up for video? Np. You can read it; just keep scrolling.
Before you say, “I’m not a writer; I don’t write,” consider this: You write text messages, emails, grocery lists, and notes (even if just to yourself). You already write more than you may realize.
So, what I’m suggesting here is that you take something you’re already doing, and use it in a new (or expanded) way because writing might make you feel better, more grounded.
For me, writing provides a place to put things. It’s like the hook by the door for keys and coat. I write to organize my thoughts, to get things out of my head, to exchange ideas, and so on.
There are three particular types of writing that I find most helpful when life is extra stressful:
- Long form writing (which sometimes makes its way here, to the blog, and other times may never be read by anyone else)
- Writing to myself (daily gratitude notes, organizing thoughts, brain dumps, etc.)
- Writing to others (notes, cards, letters — no, not emails or texts; real hand-written words on pieces of paper)
In our limited time together here, I won’t waste any of it belaboring the case for writing by hand. There is a bit of research and a good deal of speculation suggesting that writing by hand, with a pen (or pencil) on a piece of paper activates the brain in ways that typing on a computer (or smartphone) does not. I am a write-by-hand believer, and when I suggest writing as a form of stress relief, I mean specifically writing by hand, with a pen (or pencil) on paper.
If writing is already a part of your daily life and you want to try a new way to use that established practice for your November self-care, then maybe you’ll join NaNoWriMo and try to bang out a 50,000 word first draft in the month of November. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, I am doing it this year. No, you’ll never read the draft that I write this month. That’s the beauty of the effort. Just fucking get it done, slog it out, write 12,500 words a week, free-form without editing them. Totally serious. If you need a big project to take your mind away from the world (because, as a reminder: You are not the boss of the world; it’s out of your hands, friend), then dig deep into novel-writing and give those anxious thoughts a home of there own in the process.
Not up for that much? I get it. Here’s a totally practical, approachable way you can still use writing as a form of self-care: Write to yourself, every day. Write in a planner (my favorite, as you’ll remember, is the one from ink+volt), write in a notebook, write on Post-It notes, whatever. Take the words in your head, and write them on paper, every day for the rest of the month. If you’re already the type of person who writes daily, then consider expanding that practice to include something new — a daily four-word story is always a good approach. And remember: No one but you will ever see these daily writings. They’re for you. Hook by the door, for your keys and coat, so you have a place to put things, right?
Third idea is my favorite, of course: Write notes, cards, or letters, to people you care about. If you brush off this idea, every time I suggest it, then you are missing out on something that might feel more rewarding and fulfilling than you imagine. Try it, just once, and see what happens: Take any ordinary piece of paper and write a short, three-sentence note to the first person who pops into your head.
Here, I’ll even offer what you might write: Hey, (friend’s name)! I just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you. I look forward to seeing you soon. Cheers, (your name).
Seriously, that’s it (though I’d bet good money that if you actually write the note, you’ll write a little bit more than that…).
Whatever approach you take, big or small, just try it, just for this month. Write your way out. Write your way through. Write for five minutes before you open the pantry or refrigerator to reach for chocolate or wine. Write to clear your head and soothe your heart and soul. It works. I promise.
Reading, Watching, and Listening (short list this month; I’ve been doing other things…)
“For the Love of Mail: Letter Writing in a Pandemic” (read again, even if you read it in September)
Astor Place is closing (ah the memories of all those Saturday train rides into the city for haircuts and art gallery visits… )
White wine pasta with roasted mushrooms and burrata (with a side note that “cheap white wine” is a terrible, terrible recipe direction, so ignore it)
Empress Gin cocktails (all of them)
Pear tarte Tatin, adapted from this apple tart Tatin (with thanks to Michelle and Steve for food, friendship, and good humor, always)
Farro with mint-pistachio pesto
On Deck for December
Creativity. We’ll talk about what creativity looks like in my house, how we got started with the glass yogurt jar candle project, and how you can explore the sparkling creativity that’s already inside you. See you then.