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On Not Writing
Sometimes what we are not doing is important too
I have been writing off and on for roughly 20 years. It comes in spurts. I will write piece after piece, sometimes daily, for weeks or months at a time then I will hit a dry spell and find it a struggle even to send out a brief tweet (well…a toot now, since I am on Mastodon rather than Twitter) about something that happened to me.
Sometimes the words do not want to come.
I was in one of these frantic modes when Medium began its own Mastodon instance.
Mastodon was, and still is, very exciting for me. The instance I started on is a nice balance of shitposting and serious news and commentary. It leans left, often, in my personal opinion, to a fault. But I appreciate the difference in perspective. For the most part, the people there are not judgy. And even though they tend to be atheists, there is a certain level of respect for where I am coming from.
There is an understanding that we are all on a journey, and rather than run me off by trying to force me to think their way, there is a tendency to teach and guide.
Though some of that is deliberate on my part as well. I block and mute when someone takes the opposite approach.
I migrated from my first instance to the me.dm instance the day they opened it up. It was for members only, and I saw it as a great opportunity to promote my work, gain an audience, and interact with other writers. It worked for a while for me. Being around so many writers kept me in constant practice with my own work. But as the days wore on, the people there gradually became less and less engaged. They stopped posting and, due to the lack of federation with other instances, I was unable to see some of the posts by people I was following unless I made an active effort to go to their pages.
So I migrated back to my original instance. I stopped writing and recording as well, somewhat intentionally. Besides feeling like words were drying up, I was also beginning to feel like I was constantly writing and saying the same things over and over again.
Not that those things were not important, but you can only say something so many times before you begin to sound like a broken record.
So I have been taking a break from writing.
The thing that was giving me the most trouble was trying to write content for my blog and separate content for my podcast. I want them to be connected, but not to sound as though I am just recording what I wrote for my blog. If I wanted audio narration for the blog, I would record that (which is not a bad idea, and I may be getting on that in the near future). And yet, all too often, the podcast was starting to sound just like that. Sometimes I would say it a little differently, but I found myself just saying the same thing in both spaces.
I had even tried mapping out my podcast seasons and what days of the week I would be writing for the blog and which ones I would be writing copy for the podcast. And I still found myself blending the two together much more than I wanted.
It was frustrating, and I used the Memorial Day holiday to take a break from the podcast. Which turned into a break from blogging. I shut down my Twitter. I invested a little more of my time on Mastodon. I read more. And now I think I am ready to start writing and recording again.
You see, sometimes we need to take a break. Even if we are taking a break from the things that we love doing. When you go to the same places all the time, you risk those places losing their wonder and beauty. It is still there, obviously, but you become numb to it. It stops having the same effect on you.
The same happens when we spend all of our time around the same people. Friends, loved ones, and coworkers can all begin to get on our nerves from time to time.
It is not that we have grown to hate them, rather we have gotten used to them and, in the process, lost our sense of enjoyment in their presence.
In those moments, it is good to take a break.
Those breaks can be short. Not talking to your coworkers outside working hours for a day or two. Turning down one invitation by your friends to hang out. Stepping out of the house for an hour or two just to get away.
Because the next time we see those people or go to those places, we will regain some of the original joy we feel in their presence.
The old adage is true: absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
The opposite is also true. Staying away for too long can be a destroyer of joy or attraction. You can become so used to not being in their presence or in those places that, when you are, it feels like they are encroaching on your ability to enjoy.
So at some point, you have to return. To maintain your joy you also have to cultivate it. You have to practice it.
Sometimes taking a break from doing what you love is the best way to cultivate joy in doing it.
Sometimes what we are not doing is every bit as important as what we are.
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