Why I Blog

This is the second February that my little word home has existed. This time of year is a ripe space for contemplation and reflection, and it brought some thoughts to the surface of why I'm still here, clicking away at a keyboard while my toddler says "play with me, Mommy" on loop. (Don't worry, I set a timer and told her I'll color with her when it goes off. The only problem is, she has zero concept of time.) 

Blogging is a world fraught with expectations. I didn't expect much when I carved out this little corner of the internet for myself, and I liked it that way. We writers are known for our love of over-indulgent navel-gazing, which is part of why I enjoyed hitting "publish" without overthinking. Of course, as my readership grew and my knowledge of blogging (and marketing, because of my job) increased, the overthinking developed anyway. 

What's my goal? To get my words in front of as many people as possible? Is that my goal, and if it is—is it even a decent goal? Is it to connect with people? What does that mean? Is my goal to make money? To de-stress? To pad my resume during these years that I'm raising tiny humans? 

The answer is complicated. It's multi-faceted. It's something like this: 

1. I'm Supposed to Write

Yes, this photo is me. Yes, I'm scribbling nonsense with a coffee cup next to me. Yes, there is nothing new under the sun. My mom is going through our old papers right now and has confirmed it: I generated more pages than all four of my sisters combined. 

Why I Blog // emilyfisk.com

I don't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer when I grow up. I'm still waiting for the growing up part, but I'm confident I'm supposed to write. What I've learned is that I don't have to wait to "be a writer," especially in the age of the internet. I don't have to slave away in an attic on a manuscript and then wait on the mercy of a publisher to share my words with you; I can write and share at my whim. This is an incredible gift, and I don't take it for granted. 

That also means that writing and blogging can feel a little cheapened; everyone can do it, so are you really a writer? I've dealt with crushing imposter syndrome every time a post of mine is well-received—I'm just sitting at my kitchen table, stringing some inadequate words together. I'm not a writer the way my idols are. 

But here's what I know about creativity and art: we all start somewhere. I am writer because a writer is someone who sits their butt down at their kitchen table and keeps stringing together words and believes in the craft. A writer is someone who gets past the competing messages in their brain of inadequacy, purposelessness, and imposter syndrome. A writer is someone who cuts through the noise and writes, expectations and guidelines and standards be damned. 

I like to remember what one of the great creatives, Ira Glass, says: 

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Ira Glass on Creativity

2. We All Have Something to Share

I once read a mean-spirit piece about how we're in an age of over-sharing (maybe true) where too many people fancy themselves writers (not true) and there's just too much content written and submitted to publishers (absolutely not true). I realized the writer was operating under a false pretense: that there's not enough room for all of us. 

Here's what I know: writing is a form of communication—a beautiful one—and it connects us. Everyone has something to share. There's enough airspace for every single one of us. So what if someone feels you're just adding to the noise? Someone else probably needed to hear that noise. 

3. I Have an End-Game

Maybe that sounds calculating, or self-promoting, but I do. I have an end-game. Blogging, for me, is a place to play—to test out material, to see how you all react to what I write, to hone my words and my craft. Eventually, this will help me write my first book, whether by providing the groundwork words (groundwords? see how playful I am when I blog?!) or just letting me exercise my publishing muscle. Whatever the case is, I know blogging has made me a better writer. 

If you're writer wondering whether blogging is right for you, I'd encourage you to give it a try. This episode of the Hope*Writers podcast also makes a great case for writers to blog. 

You're a writer, but should you be blogging? Blogging can help develop your writing career, especially if you want to publish a book. Here's one writer's take.

Spring Refresh with JORD

This last week in Boise has been glorious... the temperatures are peaking around 40-50 degrees (heat wave!), the sun is shining, the snow has all but disappeared. I know that the typical February here gives us a tease and then plunges us back down into some gloom and inversion before finally giving way to spring in late March, but I'll take it anyway—tease or not. 

The spring weather has me thinking about cleaning out, refreshing, and simplifying. I've been cleaning out the kids' toys and paring down my clothes of things I hate wearing and don't wear often. While I was going through our shared jewelry and watches collection, I noticed something that made me laugh... I've given Jason three (yes, THREE) watches over our 8+ year relationship, and all of them are gathering dust, broken. Basically, I owe this man a watch. 

The good news is, I've teamed up with JORD to give him (and one of my readers!) a new watch that's not only going to tick away for a long time, it's always gorgeous, high-quality, and incredibly stylish. Jason likes a thin profile and sleek design, and JORD's wood Frankie 35 watch in Zebrawood and Navy is perfect. 

Check out JORD's watches here

Check out JORD's watches here

This unique watch even comes with its own wood box that's set up like a humidor. It's the best gift I can think of to celebrate our eight Valentine's Day together. 

Giveaway Time!

Now for the giveaway: you guys, one of my readers will win $100 toward a JORD watch of their own (or one for your significant other who has three broken watches sitting around, whichever your prefer)! Everyone who enters will get a $25 eGift Code, whether you win or not! It's super simple to enter: just click here and fill out the form. This giveaway closes March 5th at 11:59pm, so get your name in there ASAP!

Can I Have My Attention?

Mama always said, "I feel like I live in a pinball machine." 

Summed up, adulthood is realizing that your parents' pithy catchphrases are truer than you want them to be. My mom's pinball machine metaphor comes to mind daily. My toddler is one of the many balls launched on tightly-wound springs, and she bounces off every surface, her energy creating a ripple effect that scatters toys and food and my patience around the house. My smartphone—an obstacle my pinball eyes routinely smack against—keeps my head bouncing: up and down, focusing and refocusing, screen and reality. My eyes can't land on anything long in pinball reality; dishes, laundry, fussing, mail, e-mails, errands, life.

The fastest-moving, least stationary ball in my too-bright world of sensory input: my attention. It's wanted everywhere. The morning cries of my children are the initial spring that starts my attention's wild daily careening. There's not enough of me to go around, bodily, emotionally, spiritually. Everything wants attention. And somehow, the technologies around me are stealing too much of it. 

.........

We're a society obsessed with value. Give me the ROI. Analyze the cost-benefit. Calculate my yearly worth for doing these dishes, cleaning these floors, washing these children. I'm valuable because I could be replaced with money. 

Our obsession with worth in terms of bartering and trading comes out in our idioms, and just listen to how we talk about attention: 

We pay attention. 

We give attention. 

We receive attention. 

We need attention. 

Bell Hooks: "Attention is an important resource."

This is how we talk about things that have value—things that we could replace with the right figures behind a dollar sign. And our attention is wildly valuable. 

I'm not saying that metaphorically. Every smart company in the world is battling for today's scarcest (and yet) most prolific commodity: attention. They're battling for your attention. And if my attention is a valuable asset that I own, I'm woefully irresponsible with how I spend it. I track the dollars that flow from my bank account with careful precision, but my attention? I pay it and give it and waste it all day.

I don't mean to; in fact, when my time has slipped by while my attention is arrested by the infinite Facebook newsfeed, I feel robbed. I feel cheated. I feel ashamed that I let myself trade my limited and precious resources of attention and time in exchange for—for what? A cheap pump of dopamine when a red-flagged notification popped up? A sudden sense of angst and anxiety from reading a blood-bath comment section? A fuzzy, fractured mind that can't even remember what I spent my scrolling time seeing? 

I sound addicted, right? I'm doing something I don't want to do, compelled, arrested, powerless. A few times a year—maybe once a month even—I delete my Facebook app, I mute news app notifications, I wean myself off Instagram. That week or so is always a little clearer, my brain seems to function a little better. But eventually I log back in to check on a favorite discussion group or organize my next writing group meeting, and then I'm back—subconsciously unlocking my phone and reading the newest article from The Atlantic before I realized I'd even decided to do so. 

But I also know it's not all my weakness and lack of discipline to blame. If you sometimes feel that the technological deck is stacked against your mental health's favor, you're not wrong. In the attention economy, apps and websites and screens are designed to keep you scrolling, to foster a strong sense of urgency and immediacy, to keep your FOMO alive and well. And since we use our technologies for useful tasks—keeping up with friends, coordinating social groups, planning our days, reading our news—it can feel impossible to find balance. All-or-nothing hardly works, not for long, when nothing leaves us isolated and all leaves us feeling isolated. 

.........

So, back to my pinball machine home. I want a calm heart, a clear mind, a ready hand for my family and friends. I want to stop feeling that my attention is stolen from me—I want to give it and pay it like I give and pay my money: (mostly) through my own choice. 

When I began to think of my attention as a resource, I started to feel angry. My attention is being wrested from me, and I miss it. I miss giving undivided attention to anything. I miss thinking while I'm stuck in line at the post office, instead of checking out. I miss feeling in control. I miss creating instead of consuming. I don't want to divorce myself from social media and technology. I love my Facebook moms group; I use my list app daily for groceries and other information. I value my Instagram community, and would be lost at times without Google. 

But can't I use them instead of them using me? 

emilyfisk.com

Mary Oliver writes, "Attention is the beginning of devotion." I want my attention to center devotion on my children, the natural world, things that bring me joy and peace and connect me to others. I'm tired of waiting for Silicon Valley's conscience to kick in and help me disconnect when I need to; I'm taking back control myself. 

On a practical level, this spells habit changes. No all-or-nothing, no ultimatums, no account deactivations. I've deleted apps to certain social media sites (Facebook is the number one offender) to put a barrier to access—the mobile site requires more conscious thought than the easy-to-use app. I've started using a strict no-scroll policy on sites that leave me feeling depressed, frustrated, or tempted to compare.

Instead, I use websites and apps the way I used them back before tech companies started finding ways to stop us from leaving (and I’m suddenly nostalgic for 2006): I check in. I glance at my notifications. I navigate to peoples' profiles when I want to see what they're up to. I search for a recipe instead of scrolling through edited photos of white-on-white-on-perfect kitchens. I visit websites to skim the headlines, hearkening back to a day when we sat down with a newspaper—a finite, contained dose of daily information—and read the news I need when I'm ready to digest it, instead of when it breaks. I limit technology's omnipresence by quarantining it to controlled moments of my day. It's the difference between browsing a store for impulse buys and going in with a list and a purpose: you'll spend fewer of your resources, you'll get what you wanted, you'll be a smarter consumer.

One of the best new habits I've adopted? Leaving my phone plugged in. We used to lose our cordless phone daily in the late 90s, and once my little sister lamented, "Why don't they invent a phone that's attached to the wall so you don't lose it?" (We all laughed.) Now I attach my phone to the wall so I can finally stop having constant physical awareness of its presence. I want to lose my phone.

 

.........

My youngest daughter loves attention. Sometimes we say this about people in a negative way: he's only doing this for attention; she's addicted to the attention. But my daughter, she knows the value of look-you-in-the-eye moments in a way that's not encumbered by dollars and cents. She doesn't want to be tummy-to-tummy, faces pointed over backs—she doesn't want to be toted around on our shoulders. She wants eyes met, noses close, mouths mirroring twin smiles. She watches us while we flutter around the house, busy with unnecessary necessities, waiting for that magical moment when our lines of sight match up, and then her face succumbs to an overjoyed smile.

There it is. Attention.


When I asked my Instagram friends to share their resources for healthy disconnecting, they (of course), came through. Here are some tips, tricks, and resources. 

  1. Apps: Several people had luck with apps that help you disconnect, like the Freedom app (and web extension), Checky, or Moment. There are also browser extensions such as Facebook Disconnect for Chrome. 
  2. Habits: A lot of people have done similar things to what I wrote about to change their habits. Many said they leave their phone upstairs or in their bedroom, delete their Facebook apps, and give themselves "rules" about when they are allowed to check social media or websites. I particularly like habits that are doable—i.e. you can still hear if someone is calling you, but you don't have any notifications set for social media. 
  3. Tricks: Sometimes, it's easy to trick your brain into doing what you want. In some ways, that's what our phones are already doing: tricking our brains into thinking this is something we want to do (hence the subconscious scrolling). James Hamblin suggests turning your phone screen monochrome, and I actually love it. A black-and-white screen does not have the same appeal, and when it's black-and-white I immediately consciously realize, "I don't want to be checking my phone right now." 

What do you use to disconnect?

6 Ways to Deal with the Winter Blues

January is the worst.

Somehow, the cold that made me feel cozy in December chills me right through in January; the lights that looked festive a month before now seem dim and kitschy; the warm sweaters I loved to wear through fall and Christmas are suddenly restrictive straight jackets. There's a reason that the curse C.S. Lewis dreamed up in his Chronicles of Narnia series was "always winter, never Christmas." Because if you're like me, the sole redeeming quality that winter has to offer is Christmas. 

Well, folks. Christmas is over. The letdown can be rough, particularly if you're stuck inside after all the family time after the gauntlet of the holidays. If you struggle at all with seasonal depression, this could be the time it sets in—when it's cold and dreary and spring seems like a far-off impossibility. Sometimes, while I'm bundled up on my couch staring out the window at even more snow, I wonder out loud to my kids, "Will I ever be warm again?" Yeah, I'm a little dramatic.

The other day, I wrote two lists. One was titled "Why January Sucks," and the other "What Can I Even Do About January?" It was my coping mechanism—let's plan this out and make the middle of frozen winter a little warmer. The best decision I made in my planning was to turn to my Instagram friends (man, I love those people—jump on board if you want to join in this incredible community). 

These smart people came through and had some solid ideas for me, and I've already implemented a few of them. In the spirit of sharing the wisdom, I've put their ideas and my own together into a list for you. 

1. Embrace What's Good About Winter

Several of my Insta friends suggested getting outside for some winter-only fun like skiing and sledding. I'm not a skier (*looks toward two children, deadpans to camera*), but we have gotten out to sled with the kids and the squeals were worth the cold. There are other things, of course, that you can celebrate about winter without going outside: favorite knit sweaters, long evenings inside by candlelight, being snowed in with family, more time to read... I'm trying here, you guys. 

2. Cozy Up 

Maybe you've heard about the Danish tradition of "hygge," the intentional choice to cozy up, rest, and enjoy simple pleasures. This video makes me feel like winter isn't so bad after all, as long as I have nice socks and hot beverages and a warm living room. Even just lighting a candle, pouring some tea, and using the cold as an excuse to snuggle can make the frigid temperatures bearable. 

3. Think Green

Green things are coming. Spring is on its way (somewhere under the frozen tundra). Remind yourself of that with a few new house plants. This is the time of year that I visit my favorite local plant nursery and stroll their greenhouse—it's like visiting an oasis. Bring home a few bulbs to watch grow, force some paper whites. There's plenty of research to support this—nature has been proven to lift our moods and ease depression. 

4. Seek Sun

Where I live, we have this nasty word that comes up at least once a year: inversion. We live in a valley, and "inversion" is the meteorologist's term for "tears wept into your soup in January." Or, put another way: you won't see the sun for a few weeks. Luckily, we can get out of the inversion by driving a few hours out of the valley and gaining some elevation. If there's an option for you to go somewhere sunny, do it. If not, consider buying a "happy light" or another light therapy lamp to get some indoor rays. 

5. Fight the Hibernation Urge (a little...)

I need to take this advice to heart right now because (whoa) I haven't left the house since Monday. It's Friday. (Hubs and I share a car at the moment, so I haven't been able to get out, and we've had a snowpocalypse.) It's tempting to stay inside, cancel all plans, and go under the blankets until spring. Sure, stay comfortable, but don't let yourself get too cabin feverish. Have some friends over if you can't bear to leave the house, or head down to a coffee shop and get something warm to drink. Get outside, if you can, even for a short 10-minute walk. I promise you'll feel better.  

6. Tread Lightly With Resolutions

I've found that the expectations I set for myself are correlated with how content I am with my life. If my expectations are sky-high and unrealistic, even a decent day or week will leave me deflated. This time of year is like candied poison for a type-A overachiever like me since it seems like I now have the power to plot out a "perfect" year full of lofty goals. It's good to stay focused and goal-oriented; it's harmful to overwhelm yourself with visions of unachievable ideals. Maybe give yourself some time to think about what you want your year to look like, or better yet, reflect on lessons from your previous year and move forward with intentions instead of terrifying plans. Whatever you do, be gentle with yourself. 

Spring is coming, friends. We'll make it. Until then, come sit on my couch with me—feel free to bring wine. 

Winter can be a tough time, especially if you're struggling with any seasonal depression. These ideas can help you get through till spring with a cozy, positive attitude.

If you're struggling with more than a case of the winter blues, please know that there's help. The third Monday of January is called "Blue Monday," a recognized phenomenon, and a time that sees a spike in suicide rates. You're not alone. If you're struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please, seek help. The suicide prevention hotline is always available: 1-800-273-8255. These words from Sam Lamott are also so true. 

I Want to Write a Psalm

I want to write a psalm. 

Like David, crippled with anguish, running with fear. I want to throw on some sackcloth and ashes and write a lament—how long, oh Lord? Have you forgotten me? Don't turn your face away, please. 

I want to write a psalm. But I'm no David. David fled a vindictive, jealous friend-turned-powerful-enemy. My friends stand around me, let me cry on their shoulders. David sheltered in caves, feared for his life. I set a thermostat to my comfort level, enjoy a body free of pain. David—after God's own heart. Me—maybe I'm just weak. 

I Want to Write a Psalm // emilyfisk.com

Besides, children are dying in Aleppo. Friends are preparing for first holidays without dead parents. Lonely divorces, sick spouses, injustice, violence—they're all there, reminding me I'm privileged, that maybe I won some cosmic lottery of birth and place and I'll never know some dark truths the way others do. There are countless thousands with resumes of suffering far more impressive than mine. 

Clearly, I'm under qualified to write a psalm.

But His eye is on the sparrow—right? He loves to give good gifts, so I've read. I could use a good gift tonight. I can't quite wrap my head around it, but my heart tells me He has no litmus test for whose pain He'll give ear to. I'm in pain, and maybe the guilt I'm adding on (the guilt that says: you're fine, get over it, stop and move on) isn't helping. Maybe if I can't believe He cares about my bumps and bruises and skinned knees (in the grand scheme of creation) then I can't accept His offered comfort. 

So I'll write a psalm. And it'll say:

 

Deliver me, O Lord.

My children are well but

most days I can't love them

like I should.

 

Deliver me, O Lord.

The bills and the worries and the guilt pile up

and threaten to pull me under 

dark waves of overwhelm. 

 

Deliver me, O Lord.

I'm weak and uncoordinated 

in my attempts at selflessness. 

I falter under the burdens

I want to shoulder bravely.

 

Deliver me, O Lord.

I have these four walls surrounding me, 

but some days they're a prison, 

and I'm a frantic animal, wide-eyed within them.

 

Deliver me, O Lord.

Forgive me for seeking only human approval; 

a potent anesthetic, I'm 

delirious and numb with it. 

 

Deliver me, O Lord.

You're merciful, so you'll 

look past my pettiness, my underdeveloped 

spiritual muscles, won't you? 

You'll hear me, though my problems

fail to impress?

 

Deliver me, O Lord.

 

You are a God who rescues.

 

Selah.