on writing terribly, bathhouses, and a blogging crisis.

Wendy Laurel Photography-20I recently used a couple babysitting hours to visit a bathhouse.

If you don’t know what a bathhouse is, don’t worry, I didn’t either until I showed up. Asha Urban Baths is new in town, and when I saw their name pop up on Facebook a few times, I took it as a sign. Last week I booked a babysitter, threw my swimsuit and coverup in a backpack next to a half-empty spiral notebook, and off I went.

I was the only person there for 90 glorious minutes. The check-in girl commented on this fact, twice.

You’re so lucky, she said.

I nodded silently, not sure if I should feel guilty about this or go buy a lottery ticket.

It felt like I was playing hooky from school, skipping out on my children and my inbox to sit in a gigantic tub of warm water all by myself. With my legs curled up under me on the step, I opened my journal and wrote “New Years Reflection” across the top, followed by a single mantra for 2017: work smarter, not harder.

I set my intentions for the year (slow down, remember to play, create for the joy of creating to name a few), and then I set some actual goals in three categories:

Take care of my body.
Take care of my mind.
Take care of my soul.

Under “take care of my mind” I wrote five things:

Writing night once a week.
Read 17 books in 2017.
Attend one creative conference this year.
More “think” days.
Blog again. 

Blog. Again. Full recognition, on paper, that blogging is no longer a thing that I do.

I (somewhat unintentionally) stepped back from this space in 2016 to focus on growing Coffee + Crumbs, to work on the book, to save my marriage (that’s a joke, or is it?), to see my friends, and to occasionally breathe into a paper bag away from my laptop.

I came back a few times when I had words swirling in my head and needed to put them somewhere. Like here and here and here. And it felt good to get those stories out. Familiar. Like when you visit your Grandma’s house in the woods and it always smells the same and she has chocolate fudge waiting for you on the counter.

But it also felt a little awkward, a bit out of place, like when you slip on a dress you haven’t worn in three years and look at yourself in the mirror. Does this still fit me? Is this even in style anymore? Am I pulling this off? 

By the end of 2016, I was convinced of two opposite conclusions:

1) I need to stop blogging altogether. Make a formal announcement. RIP where my heart resides; you’ve had a good run.

and

2) I need to start blogging again. I miss it. I miss writing here. I miss writing, period.

This drummed up a lot of (first-world problem) confusion.

Where do I go from here?
Do people even read blogs anymore?
(Don’t answer that.)

***

I remember last January making the resolve to cut back on my blogging with an internal pledge: only write when you have something to say.

And for 2016, I think I needed that, to be honest. There were a lot of business dealings in 2016: contracts, agreements, e-mails, new accounts, forms, statements, and on and on and on and on and on. 2016 was the year of the left brain; the year of We Need To Figure Out How To Make Money Or Bust.

But 2017? I want to do things a little differently this year.

I don’t know if people still read blogs. I don’t know if people still read this blog. But I do know that once upon a time, this was my writing home, and I felt comfortable and safe here. I could be honest. I could be silly if I wanted to be. I could write and hit “publish” and go about my day without thinking about it too much. Even more importantly: I felt accountable here. Whether lots of people were reading or hardly anyone was reading, I felt a responsibility to show up. I had a routine. I was disciplined. My attendance record was solid. In the span of blogging from 2009-2016 I even stopped calling myself a blogger and began calling myself a writer.

Come to think of it: that self-professed title change might be one of the greatest values this blog has ever culminated.

And I guess what I’m trying to say is …

I miss it here. I can’t pinpoint when this happened, but somewhere along the line in 2016, I got so bogged down in logistics and spreadsheets and e-mails, that I started to believe I had nothing worthwhile to say. Every time I sat down to write outside of a deadline or specific commitment, I was empty. Every time I sat down to write for me, to write for fun, to write for you, there were no words. Just fear and insecurity (can I call them Satan?) whispering in my ear: do you need to say that? You’re adding to the noise; the world doesn’t want or need your story right now.  

Taking a break from writing is a slippery slope for me. I can only equate this to peanut butter cups. I’m talking about the dark chocolate ones from Trader Joe’s, you know the kind that come in a tub? You pluck one out carefully. Just one. And then one turns into two and two turns into three, and six wrappers later, you feel both shame and satisfaction.

It’s easy for me to skip writing for a day. Eh, I feel uninspired. I’ll write tomorrow. And then tomorrow rolls around and there’s a new episode of This Is Us on Hulu and that for sure sounds like a better naptime plan than writing. I’ll write tomorrow! But tomorrow comes and I can’t think of a good opening line for that essay floating around in my head so I give up on it altogether because the act of starting feels too damn hard. And then one day turns into one week and one week turns into one month and pretty soon I can’t even remember how to write anything anymore because I cannot bear the thought of sitting down and writing something terrible.

I don’t know what happened to me.

This isn’t me.

This isn’t my best creative self, which is terrifying to admit the year I am co-leading an entire course on creativity.

I wasn’t going to complete the course myself because isn’t that backwards for the teacher to become the student? But I went through the January lesson tonight and one of the assignments was to sit down and write two pages without thinking.

So here I am.

These are my two pages of not thinking. And I suppose now that I’m done I can shut my laptop, close my eyes, and dream the night away even though I may have written something terrible.

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47 Responses to on writing terribly, bathhouses, and a blogging crisis.

  1. Lucy says:

    I love your blog. I’ve been one of your silent readers for a long time. I enjoy the words you have to say and the truth and honesty that is in them, whether they be silly or serious. I would be sad if your were to stop writing here, even if you do only do it sporadically. -From a girl halfway around the world who lives a life completely different from yours.

  2. Melissa says:

    I love your words. and your honesty. I love following your life and knowing that I’m not alone.
    I find myself slipping away if I don’t do something creative – even if I’m not proud of it. Its the act.
    So glad to see you back more frequently!

  3. Misti says:

    Yes, people still read blogs! I’m always dismayed when my favorite ones go radio silent and soon a year passes and no update. I hate to unsubscribe because ‘what if they return?’, though I should know better.

    Keep writing.

    • Ashlee says:

      That has become quite the thing, hasn’t it? I know a lot of bloggers who have walked away from it in the past couple years. I don’t expect to blog forever, but I still feel like I have something in me….I don’t know. Thank you for telling me to keep going 😉

      • Alyssa says:

        You don’t expect to blog forever? That makes me sad. It’s reasonable, but it makes me sad. I LOVE your blog. I don’t know if people still read blogs, but I still love reading yours… I think I love your blog posts more than the C+C newsletter… And that’s saying something! 😉 You need to do what the Lord calls you to do, but I hope that includes writing here!

        • Ashlee says:

          HA. Thanks, Alyssa. That made me laugh. I don’t know, Lord willing if I live another 50+ years, I imagine blogs will go out of style at some point, right? We’ll all have computers embedded in our arms by then and our attention span won’t be more than 0.2 seconds 😉

  4. Those Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups are amazing, as is your blog. I love you writing and look forward to reading more.

  5. Amy G says:

    One thing I’ve slowly been learning the hard way is that some of the best writing happens when it’s just for YOU. People do read blogs, obviously, but it’s really easy to feel insignificant in such a saturated space. I’ve had probably 7 or 8 different blogs over the last ten years, and I never feel any less disappointed with myself when one gets neglected and then finally abandoned. I just started back again, but for the first time I feel like I’m only doing it for myself. Authenticity is what truly draws people, I think.

    • Ashlee says:

      Yes, I so agree! When I blog here, I do it more for me than anyone else, but what’s weird is that I am not a journal-er, really. Like if I was just going to write for myself in a notebook, I really don’t think I would do it that often? Or I wouldn’t write in the same way. I think I would be more sloppy and ramble a lot – I probably wouldn’t try to make the writing any better than a shitty first draft. Having a blog (that people read or don’t read) inherently makes me feel more accountable to the process. Do you feel that way?

      • Amy G says:

        Yes, absolutely. I think it makes us better at writing, of course, but even more than that I think it forces us to articulate our thoughts in feelings in a way that other people can understand. Something perhaps unexpected, though, is that by doing so we also understand ourselves a little more too. Having to explain to someone else what I’m thinking makes me process my own thoughts in a way that I never would, if not for sharing. 🙂

  6. I would be so happy if you started blogging again! I love hearing your take on life and writing, and I especially loved this whole article. I love that it was part of your year in creativity course!
    Christine Amorose´s last blog post ..One thing to make your mornings better

  7. Brittany D says:

    Please keep writing here! I love Coffee + Crumbs but I also love Where My Heart Resides. Blogs forever!

  8. Lauren F. says:

    I’ve been a silent reader for many years, and always perk up once I see a new post by you come across my Bloglovin’ feed (yes, I will read blogs forever.)
    Your writing pulls on different heart strings each time and I love the encouragement and honesty.
    I am so excited that you’re continuing to write!
    -Lauren

  9. Amie says:

    I stumbled upon your blog years ago by accident. Although I still can’t get completely comfortable reading about other people’s lives when they don’t know about me and I don’t think I’ve ever commented before, I do know I get a little excited when your new blog entry pops up in my newsfeed and I read every one! I love everything you write. You are so talented and your blog posts are something I look forward to, no matter how sporadic they are! 😃

  10. Jillian says:

    Yes! Keep writing! My husband knows of you and your blog as “you know, my favorite motherhood/parenting blogger.” Your blog is in my favorites bar in Safari, and I find myself randomly clicking on it often, just to be sure I didn’t miss a new post by you.

    So, Yes. Keep writing. Keep doing your thing. Please. 🙂

  11. Carol says:

    Ashlee, I really enjoy reading your blog. I appreciate your honest and authentic voice. I can tell you are intentional about what you post. You absolutely do not add to the noise of the internet! When I read something thoughtful like your blog, it prompts me to be more thoughtful about my own life. I hope you are able to return to this blog more regularly in 2017. Thank you for your writing!

  12. Kristina says:

    I love your blog Ashlee I was actually just roaming it the other day trying to find some old first time mom posts for a friend of mine. I always hoped you would come back!

  13. Laura says:

    I have loved reading your blog for YEARS now. And, while I’ve cheered on C+C, I’ve missed your voice here. In fact, some of your posts have so stuck with me that – even three years later – I found myself combing through the archives just yesterday looking for an old post where you had recommended a certainly belly band for postpartum support. (I mean, the deep stuff, obviously…)

    I, for one, am glad that you’re still writing.

  14. More writing from you? Yes please. Always more. Love you.
    Katie Blackburn´s last blog post ..dear autism

  15. Lauren G says:

    I love your voice. In real life and on the web. As sporadically as you post, your blog is really the only one that I consistently read… well besides your posts on C+C. What can I say, I’m your biggest fan 😉 (ok fine fine… maybe after Brett).

  16. Mary says:

    I still read blogs and still love blogs. I love this one. I look forward to reading more of your writing this year – it is often a real encouragement to me.

  17. Kelly says:

    I was so anxious reading this blog post because the whole time I kept waiting for you to say that you were going to stop blogging! Please keep writing 🙂 I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and love it.

  18. Katie pilskog says:

    I’m so happy you are blogging again! I’ve missed it! 🙂

  19. Callie says:

    I love your sporadic posts. It’s like a midweek treat you didn’t know you were going to get! And I love how coincidentally they are always so close to a Friday. It’s like you save them up to help entertain my insane Friday nights in! But in all honesty, discovering your blog and reading your words all these years has been like reading my own thoughts that are just way better articulated. I loved growing through the 20’s, marriages, kids, families, creativity woes and highs with you. It’s like we’ve had the same journey but on different continents. Even if your words are here and there. I’m grateful that you share them with us when you can! Xx

  20. Mimi says:

    Yes keep blogging! Keep sharing! It’s such a treat to get to read a different side of you then the C&C posts. Keep it up!

  21. Bethany says:

    I value reading blogs such as the one above. The honesty and realness make it worth while. And there is no need for perfection. We weren’t called to that. You weren’t called to that. We were called to show up, so here we are. Thanks for sharing a piece out of the deep.

  22. Meagan says:

    For me, your words stand out amongst the noise, and they always hit me in just the right spot. Keep on writing, because there are a lot of us cheering you on from the sidelines.

  23. I would read your grocery list if you published it, soooo… 🙂 Thank you for your beautiful words, no matter how sporadic.

  24. Carla says:

    This blog is how I found Coffee + Crumbs! (Still so excited for the book, btw.) Keep writing! Maybe it will encourage me to write the book I too think might be “terrible…”

  25. Anna says:

    I COMMAND you to keep writing ! But seriously, please do. I’ve only discovered your blog this summer (shortly after discovering coffee and crumbs) and binge read all the articles within 3 days. You have your own unique, lovely style. Everything seemed so heartfelt and authentic to me, and the love you have for your boys is palpable.

    It’s okay to have nothing to say at times, to be out of words. You can’t just be bursting with ideas at every instant. I think every writer goes through that phase cyclically. Maybe theses phases are meant for you to recharge yourelf mentally and emotionally and come back with greater a force.

    Keep rocking !! 🙂

  26. Briel K. says:

    I don’t know about other people but I do still read blogs! I’ve always enjoyed your writing and hope you are able to figure out where you want to go from here!

  27. Lise Mangiza says:

    I. read. blogs.
    I so enjoyed your real writing on here as I went through the pregnancy and birth of my son. And it’s through ‘where my heart resides,’ that I came across Coffee and Crumbs and then the most amazing podcasts. All three have impacted my life in an amazing way and can be partly blamed for a MOPS group that I’m starting!
    Whichever way you decide to go, you have left an imprint on many lives through this blog. Thanks.

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