Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

In my last essay, I mentioned that I would be making changes to the blog that would take a few weeks to put in place before returning to regular posting. Since that time, I decided to take an intensive writing course, which has pushed that plan back a bit. As such, I’ll publish at least a few more posts as per usual before making any real changes to the blog.

In today’s post, I’ll tell you why I opted to enroll in the writing class, as well as share some of what I’ve learned from the course thus far. Even if you’re not a writer, I hope that my insights will help you in whatever creative – or other – pursuits are important to you.

enhancing creativity

We are all creative! What creative pursuits are important to you?

On Writing, Stagnation, and Being a Real Writer

The writing class is called “How to Write Better” and it’s taught by Joshua Fields Milburn, one half of the blogger duo, The Minimalists. I’ve followed his blog and podcast for a number of years and have considered taking his writing class on numerous occasions. I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t taken the leap before, but it probably had to do with both the cost and the projected intensity of the course. I knew it would be a lot of work, and I don’t think I was ready for it previously.

Perhaps I also wasn’t fully ready to claim myself as a writer. Sure, I’ve been blogging for over ten years now (I started in 2010 with my first blog, The Healing Project) and I’ve published two books, but I haven’t always felt like a real writer. After all, pretty much anyone can be a blogger and self-publish books on Amazon like I’ve done. Deep in my heart, I know that I’ve made a positive impact with my words, but I’ve also tended to sell myself short.

In recent years, I’ve started to feel stagnant with my writing. I’ve been writing less often and publishing fewer blog posts as the years have gone on. I published both of my books in 2014 and haven’t taken on a new book project since that time. I’m often unsure what I want to write about, and even when I finally center on a topic, the words don’t flow at nearly the pace they used to during my blogging heyday of 2013 to 2016.

At times, I’ve considered giving up blogging completely, but something within me has always compelled me to push forward. There’s a “still small voice” within me that’s whispering that I am indeed a writer and I do indeed have powerful insights to share that can make a difference in the lives of others.

The Writing Course

Enter “How to Write Better” … Just as I was planning to shift direction with my blog to try to reinvigorate my love of writing once again, I received an email from Joshua Fields Milburn that he would be teaching the final session of the initial incarnation of his writing class. He mentioned that he was revising the course and that participants in the last offering of the original class would be invited to participate in the new course when it was available – free of charge! That was the nudge that I needed to click “Enroll Now.”

So here I am today, about a third of the way through the four-week course (which often takes students more like six to eight weeks to complete). I’ve had a few “aha moments” that I want to share with you. First and foremost, writers actually write! Now that might seem self-evident, but there are plenty of “aspiring writers” out there who rarely or never actually put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. They want to write, or they intend to write, but they don’t actually do it! Although I used to be quite prolific with my writing, I had recently become one of those people. I didn’t feel like a writer because I so rarely actually did it!

I Lost that Loving Feeling…

Last year, I only published twenty blog posts. I fared slightly better in the previous two years, at twenty-two and thirty-three posts, respectively (after taking most of 2017 off from blogging). I typically work on my blog posts for two or three days before hitting “publish,” which meant that I only wrote on forty to sixty days out of 2020: approximately 11-16% of the days of the year. Back in the heyday of Recovering Shopaholic, I published two or three posts per week and wrote far more often, so no wonder I felt more like a writer back then.

Somewhere along the line, I lost “that loving feeling” with writing  and I want to get it back! I also want to regain my confidence as a writer and edge back into the ease and flow of churning out words. It used to be so easy for me to write an essay, but lately it’s felt more like “pulling teeth”! But writing is much like exercise: if you don’t use it, you lose it. When one doesn’t work out, their muscles start to atrophy. Well, my “writing muscle” has definitely atrophied from lack of use.

Sitting in the Chair

One big commitment that students of “How to Write Better” must make it is to spend at least one hour per day writing during the thirty days of the course. Joshua said that the best advice he ever received about writing consisted of four simple words: “Sit in the chair.” So that’s what his students are directed to do each and every day, weekends included: sit in the chair and write for at least an hour.

sit in the chair

“Sit in the chair” – powerful advice for all creative pursuits!

Today is Day Eleven of my commitment and I’m feeling much more “in the groove.” It’s still difficult for me to get going with the writing and I still procrastinate to even sit in the chair, but I’m doing it. And I’m already feeling more like a writer again. It’s amazing what actually doing something can do for our feelings about that activity – and ourselves!

Another aspect of the class involves having an accountability partner to whom we report each day regarding our writing commitment. I have not just one, but two accountability partners! Neither of them is in my class, though (that’s not a requirement), and neither of them is doing writing. My first accountability partner is my friend, who’s an artist struggling to claim herself as such and to do art regularly (just like me with my writing). She has committed to “sit in the chair” and do art for at least an hour each day. My second accountability partner is my husband, who surprisingly got on board after I asked him which “sit in the chair” activity he would do each day if he had to select one. He has opted to spend at least an hour a day learning to play the electronic keyboard that has long been gathering dust in our garage.

So far, all three of us are feeling reinvigorated in our various creative pursuits, even after this short period. My friend has sent me photos of her gorgeous artwork and she’s also sharing them on her Instagram page. My husband is so excited about diving back into music that he’s considering purchasing an updated keyboard (his is over twenty years old!) at the end of our thirty-day commitment. And I’m even more excited to improve this blog, dive more into blogging, and potentially publish additional books. Just think about how much more positive and encouraged all of us will feel at the end of thirty days – and beyond!

Consistency Matters Most!

What I’m learning is that a little can go a long way. Of course, many writers spend far longer than an hour a day constructing their prose, and I’ll likely have days when I sit in the chair for longer times, too (I often do when I write my blog posts). But it’s the consistency that matters most. My class instructor Joshua Fields Milburn writes every single day (usually for three hours, first thing in the morning). Many other writers and authors also have daily writing practices, including Stephen King, who writes six pages and over 1000 words each day (which has helped him to publish more than fifty novels!). I may get there eventually, too, but an hour a day is a great start and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to push past my inertia to make that happen.

I know that in the coming weeks, my writing class will delve more into specific techniques to help me write better, but if I’m not actually writing, none of those will matter. I think it’s wise that the course starts out with teaching us to establish a consistent writing practice. The foundation for excellence at anything is good habits – and “sit in the chair” is a simple but powerful foundational habit to be a good writer, artist, musician, or whatever one wishes to excel at.

It’s not always going to be easy, and we’re not always going to want to do it. Sometimes there will be literally dozens of things we’d rather do than sit in the chair, but if we have the discipline to honor our commitments to ourselves and our creativity, we’ll be glad that we did. I haven’t gotten to the point of writing at a specific time of day yet, although I do think that would be advantageous. I see the beauty of writing first thing in the morning like Joshua Fields Milburn does – and I may shift to that schedule later. But the important thing for me now is just to write for at least an hour a day, regardless of what time I do it. The fewer rules and impediments I have for making that happen, the better at this point.

Conclusion

Because I’m writing more often, you’ll see more posts from me here. Hopefully, both the output and the quality of my writing will improve over the coming weeks and months. I hope you found this glimpse into what I’m doing now both interesting and informative, and perhaps it will inspire you to “sit in the chair” and spend time doing what’s most important to you, whether it be writing, art, music, exercise, learning a new language, or whatever else you’re excited to take on.  Wishing you all the best in your creative and passionate life endeavors!

20 thoughts on “Sit in the Chair!

  1. Claudette says:

    Not that your writing needs improving! But I am looking forward to reading your thoughts more often!!!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your kind words and support, Claudette!

  2. Gail says:

    You ARE and have been a writer in my ex-English teacher eyes, Debbie! And a thinker and kind beyond words person whose posts I get so excited to read. Good for you for taking this step. Self-improvement with benefits to your readers and friends. Love to you.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      That means a lot coming from an ex-English teacher, Gail! I’m glad you enjoy reading my posts and I hope that continues to be the case.

  3. Nikki says:

    Lovely post! Very positive and inspirational! Good luck with your writing process 🙂

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you, Nikki! I’m happy that this post inspired you.

  4. RoseAG says:

    I’m a computer programmer and I like to program, but it can be hard to get the time to do it!
    There is way too much talking about it and hardly any time left to actually do it.
    Interruptions are a pain and make it hard to get into the flow.
    I hope you’re able to get ahold of your schedule and find the time to write!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I know time can be a big challenge, Rose. Most of us have a lot of balls in the air in our lives. There is something comforting about having the commitment to spend at least an hour a day on writing because I know it’s going to happen. I’m sure fitting the time in is more difficult for those with busier schedules than mine, but it IS possible. It can help to either carve out a specific time each day (or a few times per week – it doesn’t necessarily have to be an hour or more each time) and/or to actually add that time as an appointment on your calendar. I hope you’ll be able to find more time to do computer programming soon. I wish I had that type of skill!

  5. Krissie says:

    Im excited for you that the course has been so inspirational. Im excited for me because if it means more blog posts here then go you! I have been writing a memoir for a few years now and now I’m at the stage of editing. That has definately been the hardest part. So any tips would be most welcome. How did you publish your books in paperback? or was it online only? I am planning to self publish.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Good for you for writing a memoir, Krissie! That’s something I’ve often thought of doing, too, although some of what I would include has been posted on my various blogs. Editing can definitely be challenging, as we can become quite attached to our words. It can help to have a few other people help to edit your book. I did that with my books and I feel it helped to make them stronger. I only published my two books electronically, but I hope to do physical books, too (I don’t know if I will publish my existing books in paperback, as the sales have gone way down). I know people who have used CreateSpace (which is now KDP Print), and they told me it was pretty straightforward. It’s an “on demand” service that is part of Amazon. You can easily learn about it through Googling (I originally added a link here, but it created a weird preview box on the page that I couldn’t remove).

      I’m sure there are a lot of other available options, but I don’t know that much about the publishing process. Getting my e-books published was fairly simple, but I did get help with the cover designs and with formatting. When I publish future books, I hope to do the formatting myself (I’ve heard it’s not that hard, especially if you use a platform like Scrivener for putting your book together), but I will definitely still hire someone to do my cover design, as graphic design is not my forte.

      I wish you the best of luck with finishing and publishing your memoir! I hope you’ll let us know here when it’s available.

  6. Jenn says:

    This post hit home for me. I’ve stumbled a bit on my own writing journey, mostly due to lacking confidence and clarity as to what I wished to gain from writing.

    As someone who had mostly written truth, six years ago I essentially dared myself to write three novels—and decided what each one would be about. Over the next few years, I managed to turn that joyful experiment into “work,” diminishing the joyfulness and the freedom I’d felt while writing lessened.

    After finishing my second novel, I stopped participating in my online critique group, and my local group pretty much disbanded during Covid.

    Last fall, I enlisted the help of a life coach who helped me see how I’d turned from someone who “played” with writing with a curious, open-to-learning frame of mind into a self-critical taskmaster. I’ve since written some smaller pieces, mostly true, in efforts to make sense of or honor some of my relationships and experiences. (Cleansing maybe, but not nearly as much fun as escaping into a world of make-believe of my own creation.)

    Whether published or not, writing is definitely an essential part of my life, but I need to figure out how to focus it in a way that is either useful or excites me (or both).

    I need to find a new local group because just being around other writers inspires me and start back up with my online group. But this time, I don’t want to share my work until after completing a first draft. With my last novel, I shared bits along the way—lengthening the process of that story’s completion—my passion for that project fizzling along the way.

    I’m about to go on a two-week trip. The first trip I’ve taken without a writing project in six years. Without providing online critiques and edits to other writers on their projects or creating or improving upon my own. I’ll have time to consider what I want to work on next. I’m pretty sure it’s the third novel I’d envisioned six years ago, but we will see.

    I look forward to reading more about your experiences with this class, and seeing where you want to go with what you learn.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      As usual, I related a lot to what you wrote here, Jenn. I understand how it feels to turn something that used to be a joy into tedious work. I commend you for writing two novels – that’s a huge accomplishment! But I understand the phenomenon of turning into a self-critical taskmaster about projects, creative and otherwise. I hope you’ll be able to find a new local group soon. I’ve always hesitated to join a writing group because I was hesitant to share my writing with others and have it critiqued. I can see the value in having additional editing eyes, but I agree with you that there’s a time and a place for that, and it’s often best to wait until one’s first draft of a longer project is completed.

      Best wishes on your trip! I hope it helps to provide the clarity you need about what’s next in your writing life. I’m sure I’ll share more about the class in future posts, but you’re also welcome to contact me if you want to “chat” about it. It’s helping me a lot and I’m happy to be feeling more passionate about writing again. I wish the same for you!

      1. Jenn says:

        I In all honesty, at first, I was pretty timid about sharing my writing with my local group. It was my first novel–and I had much to learn. They met at my local library and when I left home for that first meeting, I told my husband that I might be right back. At the library, I pretended to be searching for a book while sneaking glances at the writers gathered in the conference room. They looked pretty harmless so I joined them. It was a good decision.

        Thanks for the offer of a “chat.” I will most definitely be in touch.

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          I can see myself doing exactly what you did with the group, Jenn! Maybe I will try going to a writers’ group once things open up again. I’ve always been scared to do so, but now I feel so starved from human connection that I might fight my fear and try it. I’m glad it worked out for you! I received your email and will respond shortly. I’m happy to converse with anyone regarding writing and hopefully we can help each other out in some ways.

  7. Katrina B says:

    Here we all are shouting “you’re a writer!” yet I completely understand that it is very difficult to make that claim for yourself. In my case I never once thought of myself as a writer, writing was just something I did occasionally for fun. Then at age 47, a teacher told me I was a writer. I was stunned by this idea, as I had previously known myself as an accountant and a biologist. How could I be a writer? But once I was able to absorb my teacher’s comment, I truly became a writer. I did not need any encouragement to do the work or sit in the chair, because the words poured out non-stop for almost three years. I was practically euphoric the entire time. I barely remembered to eat and sleep. I wrote three exceedingly long novels (not published). And then I was done. It turns out I don’t enjoy writing when my brain isn’t bursting with ideas that I absolutely must put into words. I tried a couple of approaches like the one hour a day exercise, but to turn something I love into something that I have to do would break my heart. And so I am not a writer now. But maybe one day I will be, again.

    I am excited for you to regain your enjoyment of writing. Classes are a great way to boost your interest and energy – same for writers’ groups. And I’m so intrigued by your non-writing accountability partners – great idea! Talking about your different creative pursuits and your struggles and successes from day to day may be very inspiring for all three of you.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I often DO feel like I’m a writer, Katrina, but I also struggle with a lot of self-doubt and self-criticism that gets in the way. How wonderful that your teacher was able to get you to embody your identity as a writer. Of course, it’s completely possible to be an accountant, a biologist, AND a writer, as we are all multi-faceted human beings.

      I’m so impressed that you wrote three long novels! Even if they were never published, they’re still yours and you can choose to publish them at some point if that resonates with you. I’m sorry that you lost the passion for writing, but it sounds like you were completely “all in” with it while you were doing it, which was probably exhausting. If it calls to you again, I’m sure you will produce more great work, but maybe something else will “grab” you instead. I totally understand what you wrote about turning a love into something you have to do. Some of our pursuits are better off as passions and joys than as work, and that’s okay.

      It can be hard to find a place of balance, which is what I’m trying to do now. We’ll see how successful I am with it! The accountability partners are helping a lot, as is the class. I doubt I would have been nearly as consistent without them, especially on low energy days and when I’m not feeling well physically. It feels good to be writing consistently again and to have others to talk to about it and cheer me on.

  8. Sue says:

    I am so happy to hear that you will be doing more writing because it means more joy for me when I look up your blog hoping to find a new post. P.S. I think you might be forgetting a few people out here in cyberland if you are only counting two accountability partners! 😉

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Good point that my readers can also be sort of accountability partners for me, Sue. I guess I don’t know how many people are waiting for posts from me, but I’m always glad to heard from people like you who feel joy when they see that I have shared something new. I appreciate you and I thank you for your kind comment!

  9. Jayne says:

    I am always waiting for new posts from you Debbie. You are so inspirational and I am always excited to read each one.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you so much, Jayne! It means so much to me to have dedicated readers who benefit from my writing.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.