Category Archives: Writing

Writing again

Hi Lindsay, I miss reading your blog posts. I hope you will start writing again. You have nice words to say. -blog follower

I was so touched to receive this email from one of my blog followers this past week. Writing is something I have always loved to do yet have done little or nothing of over the last eight months.

Last year, I would write and write but then in December it all just suddenly stopped. The words and thoughts still came but they would promptly float away, meaning every time I sat down to put pen to paper the page stayed blank.

It was aggravating and many times I found my inability to write fueling the self-hatred that darkness spews.

Because much of my identity is wrapped up in my writing, it is often one of the first subjects my therapist will ask me about as an indicator of my mood and how stable I am.

As you all know, most of what I write about has to do with loneliness, suffering, and pain as it relates to my own journey. I’ll often get notes from family and friends after they’ve read one of my more intense articles to see how I’m doing. I think for most of them its hard to imagine writing something with that much emotional depth unless you are depressed. Yet it’s the complete opposite for me.

Depression has never driven my creativity. In fact, it’s always destroyed it. When I am depressed, I don’t have the energy to write nor do I have the courage to share such vulnerable parts of myself. Plus, I have difficulty concentrating.

It should come as no surprise then that I stopped writing in December because I was, in fact, depressed. I had just started a new job that came with tremendous challenges and pressures in the first few months of my tenure. At the same time, a romantic relationship was coming to an end.

Those major life changes were happening at a time when I was still figuring out the right cocktail of medications to manage my illness. Thus, the stress of all that combined had deep impacts on my overall mental well-being.

By February, I was stable again and doing great but I gave myself permission to continue not writing if I didn’t feel like it.

I had come to realize that I didn’t always want to be a storyteller. Sometimes, I just wanted to exist and savor the moment without this expectation that in order for the experience to be real I needed to write about it.

The closest analogy I can come up with is if you’ve ever gone to a concert and spent more time taking photos and videos to prove to social media you were there and having the time of your life that when you got home it almost felt like you weren’t there.

Maybe that hasn’t happened to you but my point is this: the urge to write and tell a story sometimes overshadows my ability to appreciate the moment. Thus, my writing sabbatical has been a good thing for me.

I have a new job that I find meaningful and rewarding, I bought a house and enjoy putting in the work to make it my home, and now I’m embarking on motherhood alone.

Today, I wrote for the sake of writing. I wrote because I wanted to. And for me that feels like a really big accomplishment.

🙂

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The magic of inspiration

I began writing a book about my journey through mental illness back in February of this year. I had written a few chapters but eventually hit a road block so I put it away in a drawer and haven’t look at it since.

However, one of my literary heroes, Elizabeth Gilbert, just released her new book Big Magic which profoundly changed the way I think about creativity and the “hidden jewels” lying inside me.

After finishing the book, I pulled out the chapters I had worked on so diligently for several months and the words made me cringe. The meat of everything I had written was about what happened to me rather than how it transformed me. Basically, it was dull and boring, even to me.

So I went back to the drawing board and asked myself, “Lindsay, at the beginning of your journey what would have been the ideal outcome of your story? Because that is what you should write about.”

It took an hour of soul-searching and self-introspection to get to the bottom of it, but in the end my ultimate desire was this: I didn’t want to waste my suffering. I wanted to use it to get closer to myself and to become the heroine of my own story.

I thought that sounded pretty cool and when I wrote that, inspiration struck me with such ferocity that I wrote and wrote and wrote. Before I knew it, nearly ten hours had passed, my Saturday virtually gone. But I looked through my composition notebook and realized I was looking at the outline for an entirely new book – a more real and genuine one than what I had previously written. One I was writing purely for me, not anyone else.

And you know what’s strange? I found myself writing about the profound pain and suffering and emotional confusion I had endured and was actually enjoying it, which is to say I am in a drastically different state of mind compared to where I was many months ago. Maybe that is because enough time has passed for me to look at my story as a spectator rather than writing it all as it unfolded.

At the time I had begun writing my book I had only been out of the hospital for a little over a month. I was still depressed as my medications hadn’t quite kicked in yet. And I was angry. Why did this happen to me? Why is life so unfair? It’s no wonder, then, I had written a book from the viewpoint of a victim. Thank god I’ve moved on.

Perhaps the most encouraging piece of advice I took away from Big Magic is the idea that your creativity and art is begging to be made manifest. It doesn’t matter if what you create is any good. It just matters that you finish it. It may not always come easy or naturally, but then again your work never promised it would be either of those things. It just promised it would interesting. And it is interesting, indeed.

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4 tips for beginner writers

Recently a follower of this blog emailed me and asked what advice I had for someone like her who was a beginner writer and blogger. I was deeply flattered because I hardly feel like an expert on the subject and only recently has my freelance career started to take off.

In particular she wanted to know the “hows” and the “whys”. How did I choose my blog title? Why write about travel and mental health?

Reflecting on these questions provided an opportunity to examine what has shaped my writing over the past five years. While I don’t think there is any right way to write, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way and which I think answer her questions.

If you’re a beginner writer or just looking for some reassurance, I hope this helps.

1. Write what you know.

While “write what you know” is probably the best piece of advice I’ve received as a writer it is what I most misunderstood when I first started out. Write what you know isn’t about the events that happen in your life. It’s about the emotion those events provoke. In all the years you’ve been alive what have you felt? Despair after a devastating heartbreak? The sense of accomplishment you get from finishing a project? The adventures and misadventures of raising a child? The longing of an unrequited love? The loss of a friend or family member? The excitement of trying out a new recipe in the kitchen?

I can guarantee most everyone in the world can relate to these emotions in one way or another, although perhaps under different circumstances. If you write about the way you think the world is and about the things that are important to you, you will write from a place that is based on what you feel. Do this and readers will be moved and feel what you feel too.

2. Write with the sole intention of sharing.

When I turned 25 I made a 30 before 30 list and at the top of my list of career goals were 1) get published, and 2) write a book. At the time, my motivation for writing stemmed mainly from extrinsic rewards. I wanted to make my mark as a researcher in the academic world and I thought the only way to “make it” as a writer was to write a book. The thought of making money from my writing or being published in one way or another served as powerful motivators in the beginning, but over time I didn’t feel any particular sense of enjoyment from what I was writing about. Moreover, putting a timeline on achieving those goals made me feel pressured to accomplish something I wasn’t quite ready to do.

Over the years I’ve learned the key to finding happiness and fulfillment in my writing is to do it for the sole purpose of sharing. While extrinsic motivators have served me well, my career didn’t really take off until I started writing for the sake of writing. I was passionate about travel and from my own experiences with mental illness I was a strong advocate for mental health issues. I wanted to provide insight, help others, and along the way maybe even inspire them. When my writing became less about recognition and more about sharing, my career soared.

3. Be true to your voice.

The urge to imitate your favorite authors is incredibly tempting. After all, they’ve been successful in their own craft so if you copy what they do then surely you will be equally successful. While your favorite authors will undoubtedly influence how and what you write, imitating them is far different.

My favorite author is Elizabeth Gilbert but I will never write like her (although in the beginning I certainly tried to). When I finally came to terms with the fact I can’t write the way she does I started being more authentic. It’s when I started writing what I know! One thing I’ve witnessed is that many writers often spend too much time (especially if you’re an English major or in a writing program) imitating certain writing styles. Yes, there are components to fiction and non-fiction writing that you should adhere to but the way in which you write it or weave together a story should be unique to your own style.

4. Don’t let worry drag you down.

I often find myself doubting the quality of my writing. I worry about sentence structure and feel indecisive about how best to pursue an article. I write several articles a week and I’ve had more articles rejected than published. I worry about that too. I wonder if I’m going to get anywhere. I see other people my age aspiring to and achieving goals that I have yet to accomplish myself. I even worry about being worried. I believe every writer experiences this at some point or another and if you haven’t then I am skeptical. While it’s not particularly insightful, the only thing I can say about worrying is don’t let it drag you down and don’t be discouraged. Because eventually someone will read your work and say, “Yes, I want to publish this,” or, “Yes, I want to follow this blog.”

Overall, these tips answer the “whys” and part of the “how” in terms of coming up with my blog title (e.g. the tagline adventures of a travel enthusiast and mental health advocate). But what does The Scenic Way Home mean?

Well, despite my lust for travel I yearn for roots. And despite the fact I feel like my life is the equivalent to being on a seesaw, constantly moving between joy and despair, I always get through it. I always make it home.

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Home is [fill in the blank]

Over Labor Day weekend, I flew back to Missouri to celebrate the engagement of one of my dearest friends, Monica.

In many ways I was nervous to go back to the place that held such sadness and sorrow in the weeks (even months) leading up to my departure. I equate those memories to a broken record. I think about it daily. The wounds are still fresh, the cuts still deep. I really didn’t want to do anything to exacerbate that but I generously reminded myself that home also held a lot of good memories. I didn’t want to let the bad outweigh the good or let my fear prevent me from lavishing one of my favorite people with all the happiness and joy I felt for her. So I went. I stayed up late and I ate at all my favorite places and saw all the people I loved but didn’t get to say goodbye to and I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt. Then I laughed some more. It was a trip so good for my soul but also one that solidified the fact that Missouri no longer felt like “home” to me. Familiar and lovely, yes, but not home.

I was thinking about the concept of home on my flight back to Wisconsin and pulled out my writing practice notebook to start listing everything that came to mind. As part of counseling I’ve been doing 10 minute timed writings on a daily basis and as often as I need to. The premise is that you write only what comes to mind. You aren’t worried about sentence structure or being creative or even making sense. The intent is to let the words flow from brain through arm to paper. It’s a means of getting outside a structured mind. Go wherever you feel like going. Don’t think, just write. I often choose quick topics like “I feel” or “I don’t feel” or “I remember” or “I don’t remember”. This time I chose “Home is”. It isn’t particularly good or well thought out or even long. It’s just what I wrote in the moment, unedited. I wanted to share it because of what it made me realize: home is wherever we make it.

Home is the sea and the stars. It’s kissing a 100 year old tree and running on dirt covered paths through the woods. It’s a small quiet room and a girl moving her pen as the words she writes take on a life of their own. Home is curling up against Miley, my head moving in sync with her deep, shallow breaths. It’s smiling when she starts to snore. Home is the coolness of a hardwood floor in the summer. The sound of a fan as it spins round and round. Home is make my cheeks hurt laughter with Monica. It’s in the unconditional happiness I feel for her happiness and in the way our bodies move like cyclones on the dance floor. Home is sitting around the dinner table with my parents and in the smell of the chewing tobacco grandpa always coveted. Sometimes I even find home in the memories I wish to strike from my very existence. It’s in a soft kiss on the lips or a gentle squeeze of my hand. Then I see it. Home is not home anymore. It is transient and impermanent and will go wherever I yearn to go. Home lives inside of me now. It is my shadow. It is whatever I want it to be.

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Pinterest has the best ideas for engagement gifts. Fun to make but even better to enjoy it with my bestie.

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Of all the pictures Monica and I took this is the only serious one. Dancing the night away at Nash Vegas.

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