• Melissa Olson

Habits, Words that Shape Us


Yesterday, I listened to a great podcast on the show Hidden Brain about making new year resolutions stick and it really resonated with what I experienced this past year. Basically, what the podcast came down to was the importance of making the changes you want habitual. That way, like driving or anything else that comes naturally after years of practice, you don’t really think about it anymore, you just DO IT!

Creating a writing routine can be daunting. It was one thing when I was focusing full-time on writing. I could easily, joyfully spend 5+ hours a day writing, editing and researching. That was my routine for 2.5 years, before Steve and I had a child. In that time, I finished a novel and made it through a first full revision. Since my daughter was born 16 years ago, coinciding that same year with an increase in caregiving and later with going back to work, a regular writing routine has eluded me. That changed this year, however, after my mom’s passing in June. Sticking to a routine has been really helpful during this time of grief.

My new routine developed slowly, after my friend Sally invited me to weekly writing sessions every Wednesday at Ziggy’s in Ypsilanti. It made me see that I can go to work during the day and still have energy some nights to work on my novels and short stories. I typically also write on weekends and days like today, when I have a bit of free time.

I’ve also discovered that it’s ok to only spend an hour or two at the keyboard. In the past, if that’s all the time I had, I would talk myself out of sitting down to write. Now I steal every hour I can to try to move my writing projects forward. In doing so, I find I’m actually more focused at work and more present at home. It’s a win/win/win!

Dealing with my emotions this year has not been easy. In fact, it’s been pretty darn complicated. I miss my mom terribly – her smile, laugh, holding her hand, asking for her advice and knowing that, without a shadow of a doubt, she loved me more than life itself.

With as close as we were, I’ve felt guilty about the relief I’ve experienced since her passing. But that’s the hard truth I’ve had to contend with and recognize that it does not diminish the love we had for each other.

I do NOT miss having to spend every weekend driving to her nursing home, spending hours and hours with her there, watching her lose her physical and mental functions. I don’t miss the constant worry that dulls every special life event, knowing that your loved one is ill and not able to enjoy those events with you. I don’t miss seeing my loved ones suffer.

That weight has been lifted. Not the grief, but the weight of caregiving. I didn’t fully understand what that weight has done, over the years, in terms of my relationships, career and writing until my caregiving days came to an end. I can actually feel my creative energy returning. I’m having more spontaneous ideas about both work and new story projects. I am energized in a way I haven’t been for years.

That’s why this year, my word is “more.” What MORE can I learn? What MORE can I give to my family, friends and community? How much MORE time can I set aside to write and work on my second novel? I also hope to get back to blogging more and have some really fun interviews planned with new and old friends that I’m looking forward to in the next few months.

I took the idea of focusing on one word each year came from Melinda Gates, a woman I greatly admire. Last year, my word was GRACE. That was helpful at both home and work and, especially in remembering to give myself grace which I struggle with. Do you have a word, scripture, quote or poem you use to keep focused? Please share!

With 2019 now in the rearview mirror, I’m very excited for the year to come. I hope you are, too!

CREDIT: The artwork is by my daughter, Leah, who was inspired by a Radiohead quote:)


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