Words matter

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie

If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad. ~ Lord Byron

Writing is constantly on my mind—the intricate ideas that come to me, incredibly sentimental stories that I never want to forget, and poignant moments that beg to be captured on page—these gems of writing inspiration that await their ink debut never truly release their grip on me until I find the time to sit down and write. Ironically, so many of my best writing ideas come at the most irritatingly inconvenient times (while showering or driving, grocery shopping, when rocking a child to sleep). Because I never can tell when inspiration might strike, I’ve become quite adept at making mental outlines to transfer onto page as soon as possible, also utilizing the Notes feature on my iTouch in a pinch, and I’m even going to admit to prematurely stopping a shower just to jot ideas down. Pens and paper are kept in every room of the house so that I never have to search too far for a writing utensil in case of these frequent writer’s mind emergencies. My experience is all too familiar with a spark of writing doused prematurely by seeking out a pen and paper in which to record incredible thoughts. Such a waste of creative juices–and I arm myself and my surroundings with preparation. Often, I must improvise to bring writing ideas in my head to real ideas on paper. Some of my best work was first begun on the back of old receipts, a stack of restaurant napkins can be some of the best uses for poetry, and one of my best class exercises was originally penned in the middle of my personal Moleskin journal while I sat in the waiting room during one of The Boy’s speech therapy sessions.

Challenges to my writing await me from dawn until dusk—every day obstacles to lofty writing goals stand in my way as  I can come up with a thousand excuses for not writing or by distracting myself with a to-do list miles long–anything to avoid this mad passion called writing. Typically, it is I whom sets the barricade to personal literary ambitions talking myself away from my desk any chance I can for a myriad of reasons and excuses. This week, for instance, I was inhibited because of feelings. I felt overwhelmed by deep and heavy emotions brought on by the anniversary of my father’s passing and some other personal struggles I’ve been slowly making my way through. As a result, the only type of writing that I accomplished was limited to short snippets in my electronic journal and a few free-writing exercises. On days when writing feels like just one more task to complete, I tend to keep my fingers engaged by setting a timer to free-write or just pound away on the keys filling up pages in my Word document journal, consoling myself with the fact that at least I wrote something.

What I’ve learned since I took a chance on myself this fall by investing in a life-changing online writing class is that I have to write when I can. More importantly, I am the only one whom can make writing a top priority–only I can carve out time for myself to write, but then I actually have to follow through. So, before sitting down to write on this beautiful early Spring-like Sunday eve, I looked ahead on my calendar to figure out when I might be able to devote some time to writing this week and realized that I have quite the busy week ahead filled with PSR class, school programs, soccer practices, and more. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by my schedule, thinking that I might not have any time at all to write,  I chose instead to see the promise in the week ahead and decided that I will just have to come prepared. Whether I’m in the car lane during school pick-up, on the soccer field watching the kids’ practices, or wrestling Baby Girl down for a nap, I will keep my ears and eyes sharp for the key moments happening around me and write on the go. I’ll use the iTouch notes app if necessary, and will pack my favorite pen and paper along with the snacks and water bottles and tuck an extra pair of writing tools beside the backpacks and soccer balls. If ever I’m going to excel at writing, if ever I’m going to post more than once a week on this blog, if ever I’m going to break the 100-page mark on the creative nonfiction book I’m writing, then I’m going to have to get creative about how, when, and where I can write. For too long I’ve separated my writing life from the life that I am living. For far too long, I’ve not been giving the time and attention that my true passion (writing) deserves. What I learned from my online writing instructor and that I now know and believe to be true is that I absolutely must write my words because they matter. My stories are significant, my unique voice needs to be heard, and writing is just as much a part of me as is being a Catholic, wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend. The courage I needed to write my truth has finally peaked, and as Sylvia Plath once wrote, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Nevermore will I let crippling self-doubt, fear, or anxiety cloud or ruin my personal worth as a writer ever again.


And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath



  1. renee says:

    The advice your writing instructor gave you is very encouraging. I started writing critically and creatively many years ago, then stopped because I made the same excuses you did…I am too busy or I can’t do it because I do not have anything important to say (and can’t say it well). What has taken away some of my self-doubt is telling myself that I do have things to say and that writing for me is most often about discovering what I think and have to say. I have to start somewhere without worrying if it will be good or bad before I begin. Useful advice my professor gave his class was that the only way to learn to write and improve upon it is to write. Other helpful ways I have tried to overcome my self-doubt have been reading other authors talk shop or reading good writing from authors before I start to write.
    Regarding the issue of time constraints, a recent painful experience and renewed exploration of faith made me realize a lot of things I needed to change about what I need and who I want to be, including making time to pursue my passions. I knew and frequently told myself that I needed and wanted to make time for things that matter, such as writing but I didn’t follow through. Your words about making time and following through are truer than true.
    On the subject of writing on what is available around you at the time, like you, I keep the traditional journals and have written on more unusual substitutes such as backs of receipts, mapquest printouts (if I am driving in my car), the “Notes” or “Address” sections of my yearly calendar planner I carry around in my purse. The problem I have is making sure I don’t lose all the lose papers because for some reason transferring the writing from the receipt to a journal doesn’t work for me. I like to keep the content on the original paper and in the original written form until I am ready to use it.

    1. purdywords says:

      Thank you for your comments! I absolutely love this, “…writing for me is most often about discovering what I think and have to say.” I find this to be true for me, as well, and I quite like taking the journey. What has helped me is trying not to stress about writing every single day. If I write a few hours per week, that’s a good week. We all have other responsibilities, jobs, family and personal obligations to attend to, but we must try to schedule time to write even if just on Saturday mornings or Sunday nights. Start back slowly, but if a large chunk of time comes your way, try to use some of that free time for writing. Personally, the time I spent reading every day has been cut back just a bit to squeeze in more time to write. As for keeping all of those loose papers in one place, I’ve used a large paper clip to fasten them all together and store them in my computer bag or affixed to my Moleskin. Just a tidbit!

  2. renee says:

    Clarification: The “can’t say it well” is in parentheses because that is applicable to me–that is what I say to myself. I am not sure if that is one “doubt, fear, or anxiety” that you struggle with or not. It is hard to believe that good writers like yourself have self-doubt. I hope that you are no longer letting whatever doubts, fears, and anxieties you have “cripple” or “ruin” your personal growth as a writer. You have a confident, honest voice and an eloquent, fluid style with important, meaningful things to say. I am glad that you took that on-line writing course that encouraged and inspired you to write on a regular basis and that you realized what you have to say matters so you can share your stories and entries with us and do what you are passionate about. Never stop writing!

    1. renee says:

      Correction: I read poems, essays, etc. by other writers before I start writing (the selection would depend on what I am preparing to write at the time) not to alleviate self-doubt, rather to give me inspiration prior to setting pen to paper. I know that when you are in the middle of a school rehearsal or sporting event and just trying to catch a few minutes here and there to write, reading beforehand is not possible, but when it is, it is helps take me to my writing place and prevents my mind from wandering to the list of things that need done.

      1. purdywords says:

        Reading writers you admire and trust, are inspired and touched by is such a wonderful way to get the creative juices flowing. I often do this myself! It is a great exercise in clearing the mind and focusing on the writing craft. Have you ever read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, or Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write…? I recommend these three author’s books–each their own unique take on the writing craft (with prompts)–all three equally great catalysts for setting about writing.

    2. purdywords says:

      Every single time I sit down to write, I fight off significant amounts of self-doubt and have to calm away the fears and anxieties built of failure, or sounding like a fraud or idiot, or not being able to adequately get down in words what I wish to convey. A lot of this doubt is self-inflicted and unfounded, but so much of it is being afraid of facing criticisms by letting others in to such a personal space–my heart, mind and inner-thoughts. So, you are not alone, my friend in facing your own fears and having self-doubts, too. But, I want to empower you to conquer these anxieties by just starting again. I know that you will have so much to offer if you let yourself enjoy the process of writing again–even if you have no particular goal in mind–just to sit down and write for the joy of it, for the need of it, for the gift of it. 🙂

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