hobby & habit—snow day thoughts on why I write

Snow day: February 20, 2019

So, I’m doing this whole 19 Things in 2019 thing (some spectacular writing right there) and we’re almost 1/6th of the way through 2019 so here’s an update: some things are going quite well and some things, so far, are not.

Here are a few things that are going well:

  • Finish knitting the scarf.

The scarf has been around for about 16 months. It started as an ambitious project (I am not a knitter or even much of a crafty person, if truth be told) to complete a one-color, one-stitch scarf for my brother for his birthday. His birthday back in 2017. Oops. I got him a gift card and shoved the pile of yarn underneath the coffee table for many moons.

The reason I finally finished the scarf is no thanks to my own dedication. The reason I finished the scarf is because a dear family member was ill in the hospital for several weeks and I took the makings of the scarf whenever I went to visit her. Busy hands help when you are anxious and trying to appear calm.

It is by no means a glorious scarf. But it’s finished. And my dear family member is out of the hospital and on the mend, so all is a happy ending. (Also—my mom had to help me finish the scarf. I still don’t understand what “casting off” means.) But it’s done, and now my brother has his scarf and I’ll be offended if he’s not wearing it every single time I see him even if it’s 80 degrees.

  • Read 25 books in 2019. Five of them must be non-fiction.

I’m on book #6—which is GREAT. Four of them have been non-fiction. Excellent so far. I think this time last year I’d finished two books, but I won’t rest on my laurels yet—you never know what the year will bring and what kinds of things can disrupt a good reading cycle.

Here are some things that are not going so well:

  • Start blogging again and aim for two posts/month.

Ugh. I did so well in January and now I realize it was because I wrote most of the posts when I was off for the holidays and traveling, so while sitting on airplanes and at airport gates. And then the holidays ended and we crawled into that time of year that is just blahhhhhhhh. My only hope for squeaking by with this goal in February is this snow day.

If by now you’ve realized that my blog posts are meandering things, not well thought out or themed, I take this as a compliment because it means you are part of some small audience I have here. But the point of blogging again was never to blog, per say. I’ve done that before and to do it well and correctly is to kill it before it ever gets off the ground. The point of blogging again as part of my 19 in 2019 was simply to write creatively.

Writing is both hobby and habit for me. While, in some forms, it’s what has helped me make a living, it is not something that at this point I want to commoditize. There’s a great article by Ann Friedman about deviled eggs … well it’s really about how “Not Everything is a Side Hustle.” Some things are done purely for the joy—for the practice, the crafting, the experimentation. It does not have to be done perfectly because it is for an audience of one. If others happen to enjoy this, that’s fun but it’s not the point.

Blogging done well, or correctly, is exhausting. It’s content strategy, it’s analytics, it’s cross-promotion slung over several channels with hashtags and keywords. It’s a website built with the visitor in mind. It begs product placement and commercialism. Yes, I have ads on this blog because at some point it earned me some higher level of the “free” WordPress. I have made approximately $0 in revenue. Amazing.

But conjuring up freestyle word vomit, editing it to passable and tossing it out into the blogosphere expecting nothing in return is pure joy. It’s writing for the sake of writing, but it’s not journaling. I’ve made that mistake. In my youth, when blogging was first becoming something that some people even did, I allowed my inner processing to take up real estate in the public sphere. When you are in your twenties, you think that every revelation is important, that everything you say holds weight. You don’t understand that every revelation is merely light cast just a little bit further on the road ahead. Nothing will ever be truly illuminated; you can only see the mile right in front of you which takes you to the next mile and onward. Sometimes there are lessons we can share but, for the most part, I’ve learned that there are very few things you can package up and sell as a solution. And that the very worst thing you can do is to declare a lesson learned, a thing done.

In our 30s, most of us have come to realize what an inauthentic joke Carrie Bradshaw was.

For all her faults, Hannah Horvath walked a line closer to reality.

I’ve also done the kind of blogging where I attempted to write interesting accounts of my life. They mostly turned out to be self-deprecating stabs at making sense of a day-to-day in a new life, in what felt like a different world. As an expat, I felt exposed as a fraud for writing such things. When I thought about my friends and family back home, I felt whiny and ungrateful. While I’m now happy these posts exist—mostly because they are the only writings I did during that time—they weren’t sustainable and took so much out of me that I had a minor breakdown every time I posted. Not that anyone, expat or old friend, was reading. Who was I even writing for at that time? I had a misleading sense of self-importance I now realize was more wishful thinking.

So, strategizing and writing other peoples’ stories—workplace. Journaling—private space. Daily life accounts—boring to everyone but you. Pulling things out of thin air and pressing them into this space as it pleases me—“blogging.”

I’ve come to learn that writing in this way requires a certain stillness, a certain kind of pause in the normal routine. An energy that only comes when a thousand other tasks are done. The dishwasher must be emptied, the cats fed, dinner’s vegetables chilling in the refrigerator.  A good writer will tell you that this feeling of quiet is something that must be cultivated through careful discipline. There is no waiting for inspiration when a deadline is looming.

But any truly creative person will tell you that every single thing they do in some way services their creativity. I dread the blank page like anyone else and, today, I decided what I wanted to write while rinsing the breakfast dishes and sweeping the floor. The phrase—“hobby and habit”—burst into my brain when I reached down to refold a tea towel that had fallen from the counter. From there, an entire post unspooled, however haphazard this thing may be.

And this is also what blogging is for me. It’s a collage where I can collect the things that pop into my head in the shower, on a long run, while walking to work. I reach for a can of beans in the grocery store and think about why She Used to Be Mine is so fucking great. I sometimes fall down a Zillow rabbit hole and imagine life in other cities, in a different house, and realize that there are many things that make a home. I write these things that belong nowhere else—here they belong to me.

The two posts a month is a method of accountability to make sure that my brain is ticking along the way I want/need it to be. And while today’s post was extracted during a snow day when the whole world feels like it’s paused, it was a good reminder of what can unfurl from a single thought. “Hobby and habit.”

Now I just need another snow day.