Exercises in Writing


Like most habits, writing uses its own distinct muscle. It becomes less straining with regular exercise, can easily be overworked, and brings the same fears of imposter syndrome that working out in public often inspires.

My shelves are filled with notebooks empty of words but full of good intentions — somehow in Target I manage to convince myself that a different page ruling or interesting color is all I need to actually stick to a physical habit. Even as a kid, I remember picking up and discarding those journals with miniature keys and "Secret Diary" scrawled on the cover repeatedly. I think I always wanted to write, but nothing holds me back more than my own expectations.

I read a number of biographies as a child that were reconstructed using journals, so therefore I had to be sure that anything I wrote down would be important enough to one day be included in a posthumous account — that's a lot of pressure for a 10-year-old! As I've aged I've shaken that notion, but the fear of permanence and inadequacy still remains.

While keeping a blog is a joy, I want to continue pushing myself in other ways so I don't get stuck. My first exercise is keeping a bullet-style gratitude journal. I started on my birthday and have been consistent since, and the bullet format allows me to be silly and feel less pressure (i.e. including "pasta" as a bullet point is fun, writing a sentence about why I'm thankful for pasta could quickly feel superfluous). I've yet to have any revelations of thankfulness like many proponents of this exercise will lead you to believe, but I am putting pen to paper every day and I think that's gotta count for something!

Once I get fully in the swing of this, I plan to add other small exercises as well. While I remember disappointingly little from my creative writing classes, I do remember we always started the semester out with small tasks that grew into large portfolios. Like most things in life, writing is fun, fulfilling, and hard — but I no longer want to make it out to be a huge, important task that I could never master. In doing small exercises, I want to break down my own stigmas surrounding the hobby and just do it in a way that feels most authentic to me.