Photo by Shalone Cason on Unsplash

“Forgive me, Father. for I have sinned. It has been 25 days since my last post.”

I am not Catholic, so I do not answer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but my writing has its own trinity: the Dissertation, the Novel, and the Blog.

This month, I have written 30 pages of my dissertation. After wading through countless research studies on the Response-to-Intervention model and research-based instructional practices and then dissecting them for my dissertation, I find that I don’t have much left for either the novel or the blog. I have an outline for my novel, so even if I am not inspired, I can sit down and write. My idea is developing, so I can figure out something to write about, but so far, I have only written seven pages.

Unfortunately, once I am finished working on my dissertation and my novel, I don’t seem to have much left to say in my blog. I struggled at the beginning of this month with my blogging identity. I can’t seem to figure out what my niche should be. I am not writing about fashion, or living on a farm, or pop culture. I am not sure I want to have a niche, even though I know that would increase my followers. I quit working on the blog entirely, because of this conundrum. What is my blogging identity?

I kept coming back to the title of my blog–“Beginning Again.” When I started my blog, the title defined this era of my life. I was at the end of my teaching job and wondering about changing careers. I was at a turning point in my life. I thought about all the things I like to do and writing is one of my favorite things to do. I began to work on developing my identity as a writer. Writing is the one thing I come back to again and again. I can be away from it for years, but I always pick it up again. So, I am a year into this exploration of writing. Can I still say I am beginning again?

Then, I thought that we’re all beginning again every day. Every day, we wake up and we begin again. We have new choices to make and consequences to face. Our lives are always changing. Every day, I wake up and tell myself, “Today I will write.” And I do. Maybe, it’s not on my blog, but I am writing something–my journal, my dissertation, my novel. But I begin every day with that commitment to myself. In other areas of my life, I wake up and make a similar commitment to myself. My commitment is not for tomorrow or next year or ten years from now. It is for today. “Today, I will…”

My other title for my blog is “Writing from the Heart.” When I thought about this subtitle, I realized that, perhaps, this is my niche, my writing identity. When I write on my blog, I will write from my heart. I will be honest with myself and my readers. I will have the courage to admit my faults and failures and the confidence to celebrate my strengths and my successes. And, then, it hit me. That is my niche.

To write honestly and maybe forge connections with other people who might struggle with the same issues as I do.

So, instead of chastising myself because I haven’t posted on my blog. I can be honest about my struggle to post. I can celebrate the fact that I am posting today. Instead of flagellating myself because I have only written 7 pages on my novel, I can celebrate the fact that I have started.

This month, I have written 30 pages on my dissertation, seven pages of my novel, and published six posts on my blog. Perhaps, I do not need forgiveness after all.


Blank Screen, Blinking Cursor


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Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

Every morning, I wake up and tell myself, “Today I am going to write.” Then, my mind goes completely blank. Yesterday, my mind was flooded with ideas, but today it has caved in. Slowly, I begin excavating my thoughts for a suitable idea. As I explore the recesses of my mind, a thought emerges. I grasp that thought and follow it deeper into the cave.

Free association is one way I find an idea for the day. By starting with the first thought that comes to mind and following my thoughts to the next, I am usually able to create an idea that I think will work. When I was a teacher, I used to tell my students who were having trouble writing to use this same method–to think about their interests, their experiences, their current thoughts–to discover ideas for journal entries and pieces.

A variation of free association is free writing. I keep a writing journal and use it to record ideas. When I’m looking for an idea, freewriting can help me relax and explore. I look at one of the ideas in my journal and write in long-hand until I hone the idea into something I can use. Some studies suggest that writing in longhand stimulates different parts of the brain than typing on the computer.

When I’m struggling for an idea, writing prompts also help me. On WordPress, I like to use the Daily Prompt to begin building idea. I look at the word for the day and free associate with it until an idea begins to form. One thing I have learned, however, is to be flexible with the daily prompt. I used to force myself to complete the daily prompt every day. I found that it limited what I wanted to say. While I could develop a satisfying idea on some days, on others I was only able to develop a shallow piece of writing.

I think the most important factor for finding ideas is perseverance. When I commit myself to sitting down every day and writing, my mind usually comes up with an idea. Like I said at the beginning of this post, my first thought every morning is “What am I going to write today?” My brain does not nudge me to write unless I am showing up every day and writing. I find that even missing a few days makes it harder for me to find and develop ideas, but, if I commit to writing every day, my writing flows better and I can find an idea even on those days when my mind feels like it is blank.