About a month ago, I returned to blogging after taking a break to focus on my mental health and regroup after a some changes in my life and everything the past year has thrown at me. Now that I'm back and settling in again, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on how it was coming back.
Self-assessment posts are something I've done from time to time on this blog, primarily in the form of my June Check-In and end of year wrap-up in December, and I want to start doing them more often because it's good to stop and take stock in a craft like writing where your methods and process are always evolving. Longtime readers likely know I'm a huge advocate for reevaluating and adjusting goals in order to make them more attainable. This past year especially has made me appreciate this part of my writing process.
Understanding the progress you've made so far helps you chart your course for what is to come.
But in order to plan for the future, you need to revisit the past.
To catch up anyone who missed my first post-hiatus upload, one of the reasons behind the break was a feeling of being overwhelmed by things going on in my life and struggling to get any writing done. This resulted in a lot of guilt. I had plenty of things to be working on between ongoing fiction projects, querying materials, and blogging that it wasn't as though I was suffering from writer's block, yet I had somehow still hit a wall.
Instead, I had too much to work on and didn't know where to start.
And not knowing where to start resulted in my needing to stop.
Completely stepping back, even though I did so in order to take care of myself, didn't sit well with me at first. That feeling of guilt spurred by not getting any writing done not only persisted but grew more intense because it not due to my projects falling to the wayside amid work and other things but instead a deliberate choice.
It almost felt more to me like being sent to the time-out corner at first rather than the respite it was supposed to be. Overall, I'd say it took roughly three weeks for me to make peace with needing the break.
Aside from playing with a potential outline and scribbling down a very rough draft of a first chapter for an as-of-yet untitled WIP, the only writing-related activities I did during this period was reading some research materials I hadn't had a chance to sit down with. Beyond that, much of the time I had outside of my retail job was spent getting back into gaming, finishing my first run of Cyberpunk 2077, making my way through Resident Evil: Village, and starting Red Dead Redemption II. Gaming in general is something that I've often pushed to the side in favor of writing, so it was nice to revisit that hobby and shift my focus from crafting a story to just enjoying the one I was interacting with and experiencing through the eyes of a protagonist like V or Ethan Winters.
They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and that proved true for my writing. But despite how hard it was for me to take a break, coming back was in some ways harder.
My hiatus was three months, give or take, but I really only took half of that time off so I could prep the content that would be going up in the weeks after I came back.
In my last post ahead of my hiatus, I mentioned wanting to be back for the June Check-In and making that the first thing to go up. This wasn't the first one I wrote, though. Before tackling it, I wanted to make sure I wanted to make sure I had enough ready for the weeks after. This isn't all that different from my process leading up to the launch of the blog back in 2018, only instead of being able to choose a date after I had written what I felt was a sufficient amount of content, I was now facing the opposite, having to get enough done within a specified time frame.
Writing against an unyielding calendar or clock works well for some, and there have been occasions where that pressure has helped to keep me on track. In this scenario, however, it was more imposing.
Part of this, I think, came from my not knowing where to start.
Logging back into Wix, I was quickly reminded of how many drafts I left unfinished. Their number overwhelmed me back in April when I was shifting between them, and seeing the list in its entirety was intimidating. I didn't know where to start. Additionally, trying to remember where I left off and where my thoughts were back when I started those posts was a challenge--especially where I had a collection of fragmented sentences I use to guide my thought process or keep track of things I need to touch on because making sense of them months later was like deciphering a foreign language.
The initial priority was polishing those half-baked drafts into something publishable and writing my return post. As I worked on those, I kept adding to the list I had kept in my time off of topics I wanted to cover eventually, including my post on Resident Evil: Village and lunch break writing sprints. I played around with those to give myself a change of pace whenever I felt the stress of already-in-progress drafts, though it soon proved easier to work on new posts than those I had started in March.
So, even though there was a twinge of guilt for not finishing what I started, I went ahead and made brand-new posts my main focus.
I originally started bringing my tablet and Bluetooth keyboard with me to work so I could write on my breaks, but a few technical hiccups and temperamental WiFi caused me to shift back to good old pen and paper.
Longtime readers of this blog know my preferred method of drafting fiction is by hand in a composition notebook, something I've done since my first attempt at a novel back in high school. Taking this approach to blogging is new. I've gotten in the habit of carrying around a mini notebook and using it to sneak in some blog-work, but there has been some adapting to figure out along the way.
For one thing, anything requiring significant research or using direct quotes tends to be pushed to the backburner because I can't add links to sources on a piece of paper. This has me often leaving little notes like [EXPAND] or [QUOTE] so I know to come back to that section later on.
This brings me to the next phase in any project that starts with a handwritten version: typing it all up.
Not being able to work directly in Wix due to the app's inability to function without a stable internet connection has led me to using MS Word on occasions I'm transcribing on my lunch break because I can save documents to my tablet and sync them with the cloud once I get home. From there, all there is to do is paste it into Wix, at which point I'll also run it through ProWritingAid for editing because between my tablet's autocorrect being unreliable at times and the occasional missed press on my keyboard, typos are inevitable.
I will say that unlike typing up works of my fiction, there's a bit of tediousness in typing up blog posts, but I haven't been able to put my finger on it.
Lately, I've been looking for ways to simplify the process.
Voice-to-Text apps haven't been the most helpful, often misinterpreting what I say and substituing what it thinks I meant. Having "Incense" be perceived as "Incest" did warrant a slight chuckle from me while I rolled my eyes, but it was a stark contrast to the actual point of that article (see what I did there, Game of Thrones fans?).
In any case, the various apps I've tested out managed to be accurate about 70% of the time.
Going back and correcting the remaining 30% can be a nuisance, so I experimented with transcribing my notebook drafts in apps made to scan handwriting and render a text document. The problem with this is that despite all of the compliments I've received on my handwriting in recent years, these apps can't make sense of my "kinda cursive," putting me in the position of having to correct even more errors than those generated by apps relying on vocal input.
So, although it's the more tedious approach, I've just kept to typing up directly from notebook pages. The benefit to it is that it acts as a round of edits. When I'm in the zone, I just write until I reach what feels like the end of the post. Taking a second look as I'm bringing it into Wix or MS Word allows me to see where I've been redundant and can delete some paragraphs, or where I need to spend some more time. Even though I'm still aiming to find a more efficient method, I cannot ignore the areas of strength in my current process.
There isn't much more to be said for my return to blogging. While my attention has been concentrated on new uploads, I'm gradually polishing up those waiting in the wings. Just as I did when preparing to launch my site, I'm trying to not only keep up with my schedule but stay ahead so I can back to working on my fiction endeavors and regain that feeling of balance in my writing life I've lost.
But that's a reflection for another time.