If I had to sum up 2017 in a sentence, I would say this: it’s the year I started writing again.*
Every day. Not once or twice a week. Every day — save for a few birthdays, holidays, and vacation. And truth be told, I snuck in a little writing on vacation while everyone was asleep.
For better or worse, only a fraction of this writing made it to my blog. The rest is sitting in a handful of notebooks and legal pads or on my laptop. Some of the writings are under lock and key as part of larger projects I have in the works that may or may not see the light of day.
It felt good to write again in this way. It was as if I took a time machine back to 2008.
I credit this flurry of writing activity largely to two things:
1 / I abandoned social media for ten months
From the end of February until October, I was completely off Facebook. I didn’t login even once. During the months before and after, I was only on briefly, often deactivating for weeks at a time. I kept a log of my social media activity, so I know exactly how much time I did and did not spend on these sites — and it paid off.
During the time my account was active on social media, my writing significantly decreased as did my attention span. I still wrote, but my ability to concentrate was swiftly diminished and the quality became very poor in my estimation. Social media is the antithesis of deep work, and writing, for me, is deep work.
Not being active on social media, especially Facebook, affected the traffic to my blog. There’s no doubt about that. This is the first year my blog did not grow exponentially in page reads. I’m okay with that.
With that said, I believe the quality of my readers grew. These are the readers, such as yourself, that I didn’t have to prompt via a Facebook status update to visit the site. You came here on your own — either because you are a subscriber, frequent the homepage often, or because you have my site bookmarked in some way on your computer or phone. Or, you found me via a Google search you did which means you stumbled on a topic you were interested in reading about.
I also deleted old social media accounts that I no longer used such as Tumblr and LinkedIn and sites such as Twitter, which, though I think has its positives (the ability to curate lists), have a longer and more detrimental list of negatives (time suck, the inability to escape politics, sensational news, and the never-ending loudmouth of Donald Trump, our president who is the physical manifestation of an internet troll and the online equivalent of a spoiled rich kid who also happens to be an older version of the bully in my son’s pre-school class). Twitter’s muted words and muted people feature seems hit or miss (mostly miss on the former), so it was goodbye, once and for all.
2 / I started writing by hand again
It’s sort of odd it took me so long to realize this. My writing has tapered off over the years for a few reasons. Addressing my dad’s death was a big one. I abandoned all fiction and mostly all creative nonfiction and have essentially been in journaling mode since 2009. Writing is essential to processing my grief, even eight years later.
As I’ve found myself coming out of the longstanding grief that has been with me these last eight years, something hit me. Except for a few brief months in 2011, I stopped writing by hand almost ten years ago.
With the rise of technology, I switched to a laptop and never looked back — until this year. When I made the decision to abandon social media, I also made a conscious effort to keep my laptop’s bright screen closed as much as possible when not at work.
I wrote about this recently in “Writing By Hand Is an Act of Creative Rebellion,” so I won’t regurgitate that here; what I will say is that putting pen to paper has opened up a vein in which I thought blood no longer circulated.
Technology is great and all, but in abandoning social media and returning to writing by hand the way I once did, I’ve realized both drain nearly all of the creativity from my bones without me even knowing it was taking place. No more.
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Best of 2017
I hate to use the word best or favorite, so first off, I’ll say this: all of my writing can be accessed in the archive. But, if I had to write a best of 2017 list and choose the pieces I enjoyed writing the most or that meant the most to me to write, these would be it, in no particular order. Well, other than alphabetical order:
- Contemplating Death and the Fragility of Life
- Do You Not Know How Beautiful You Are?
- El Chupacabra on a Friday night at 1 a.m.
- Grief Is a Fire, Smoldering
- If I am not being creative, I become a lukewarm version of myself and jeopardize my happiness
- I Miss Your Speech Impediment
- Is My Writing Any Good? Who Cares, Do It Anyway
- It Doesn’t Matter Where We Go
- It Starts With the Breath
- Just Be
- My Dad Died, But He Is Not Dead
- Something Doesn’t Feel Right
- The Day We Went Back In Time
- The Last Letters of Vincent van Gogh
- The Man Who Walked Off the Face of the Earth
- This is Happiness
- When Depression Comes to the Workplace
- When the Nightmares Began
- Where My Father Once Stood
Thank you for reading in 2017. On to 2018!
*Obviously I am excluding my family life from this equation.