A Semester in Review + My Unannounced Break From Blogging

I nervously sit down to write today.

Why? (You might ask.)

Because my latest post “Top Five Best books on My Shelf, Ranked“… was posted over two months ago.

Yeah… two months is a long time to go without new content.

Why did you drop off the planet, Erin? (You might ask.)

I’m not entirely sure why.

One day, I sat down to write for the blog and found I didn’t have anything good to say.

Of course I tried to write something good. I wrote several full length posts before realizing if I was a reader, I wouldn’t choose to spend my personal time reading those articles. (Oof.)

I tried waiting for inspiration to strike. But then one missed Monday turned into two… then three… then eight.

And then a few weeks ago I realized I had taken an unannounced, unplanned, extensive sabbatical from The Paper Trail and I didn’t really feel bad about it.

I would feel worse if I spent the last two months writing and publishing articles that didn’t matter. If I had pushed myself to blog consistently, even when it didn’t really bring me joy. If I had taken away time from my developing relationships and real life events in order to sit down and write out my opinions on random topics.

Yet, since the start of this blog in 2019, I haven’t missed an “In Review” post, so here I am again, reviewing a season you, dear reader, didn’t hear much about because I disappeared from this website without warning.

Recall the Purpose of The Paper Trail

Since the beginning, The Paper Trail has documented my adventures and growth. I personally think I’ve developed a lot since the 17-year-old high school senior who first spontaneously created this blog with the same URL (though not the same website design) you see today.

The goal has always been to look back and see a positive change.

So here we are again, after a period of silence, to think about the past few months and consider what has changed, hopefully for the better.

As I detail my semester, I hope you’ll think a little bit about yours.

Drop in the comments one accomplishment you reached this season – I’d love to hear about your adventures!

Things I’ve Done Since August

1. Started my junior year of college

And man has it been one consistent, unwavering season of “what am I gonna do with my life? I only have three semesters left to decide. Ahhhhhhhh.”

This semester, I returned to my tutoring and Sunday school jobs.

But I also started a new position: research assistant for a preschool math language study. Three times a week, I go to preschools and play “games” with kids – AKA ask them to count things and name shapes and pretend they’re games but they’re really educational assessments with stickers as rewards.

I’ve been in a season of a lot of different opportunities, all culminating at once.

Working as a writing tutor, I get to help writers in all stages of development. I brainstorm and edit and encourage. And I’m learning more about how to write well and give good feedback.

As a Sunday school coordinator, I work with children in my church every week. I plan fun lessons – and they’re getting more and more elaborate (we’ve now added Bible story related games) – and get to watch kids learn more about God every week.

Doing research is definitely a different experience. I’m becoming more interested in psychological research methods and might get the opportunity to do my own data analysis with the lab soon.

At the same time as all of these enlightening positions, I’ve also questioned my majors at least 17 times and joked about dropping out of college 42 times. (Don’t worry – I’m going to get my degrees. I just might not enjoy it). It’s definitely been a semester of seeing new interests enter my life… and career angst take up residence.

2. Made new friends

At the beginning of this semester, my goal was to make new friends. You might recall that one of my closest friendships ended in March (read all about that here), which prompted me to reevaluate who I’m surrounding myself with.

I think this goal is still a work in progress, but I’ve met some really great people in the last few months and I can’t wait to see what the next semester holds.

3. Not write my book

I also had the goal of writing my sixth novel (it’s currently untitled, but you can read about it in the Writing Projects tab).

… I have not gotten very far.

I’m about 25% of the way into it, which is definitely one of the slowest starts I’ve ever had for a WIP.

I’ve struggled a lot with my writing recently. I suffered from writer’s burnout in 2021 and then the beginning of 2022 was a pretty rough start. Over the summer, I began dreaming up novel #6 but didn’t have the courage to start writing it until August.

And then… I let myself get busy. I was too nervous to write, so I did homework instead. I’d pull up my draft only to feel severe imposter’s syndrome, so I’d clean my kitchen. I questioned my joy in writing so much that I spent more time analyzing whether I should write than actually writing.

And yet, this story persists in my heart. It won’t die off. It refuses to go unwritten.

So I’m going to keep writing it, even if it’s at a snail’s pace. Even if my anxiety smashes my allotted writing time to pieces. Even if I don’t feel like I’m a good enough writer to tell this story.

I didn’t write my book this semester. But 24,000 more words exist in that story world than they did in July.

4. Kinda addressed my anxiety

Back in August, I had the goal of addressing the crippling anxiety that destroyed my summer.

Just like writing my book, this goal fell through.

I tried my hand at therapy. It didn’t quite pan out the way I expected.

And yet, I feel less anxious than I did in July. Although my anxiety spikes on the daily, I don’t ruminate about things I can’t fix anymore.

Instead, I’ve been spending my time doing things that are life-giving. My Bookstagram is one of my favorite things. I get to post about my book collection and bookish adventures and everything in-between with no one to tell me to stop. I’ve spent more time with my church, involved in Bible studies and meeting great Christian people. And I’ve become a novice interior designer with too many extravagant ideas for my college apartment.

5. Dropped off the blog for awhile…

And last and most importantly, I stopped blogging for a large chunk of this semester.

I don’t really know what to tell you about that. The Paper Trail just went cold. Oops.

Things I Will Do Next Semester

Enough about the past. Let’s look ahead to the next season, full of brand new opportunity and fresh starts. A world where I can actually accomplish my goals and do stuff (I’m sure…).

1. Definitely Finish My Book

I am definitely, probably, at least 60% sure I will finish my book by May 2023.

Whether I think my book is good is another matter entirely.

This next semester, I’m going to have more free time. And with the help of an accountability partner, I’ll hopefully commit to writing multiple times a week and my snail-like writing speed might increase to that of an overweight guinea pig’s.

My story, still untitled, has been a hard one to fall in love with. I’ve put a lot of expectations on this novel and I struggle when my expectations don’t reflect reality. But I think the version of me in this stage of life needs to write this book, so I will.

And I hope I’ll be able to report success soon.

2. Exercise

This is me forcing myself to exercise because I’ve now written on the internet that I’m going to do it.

Exercising has been a personal goal of mine for the past few years. And there’s only one small, narrow, easily missed portion of my life where I actually did exercise for real and I liked it.

This next semester, I’m chasing the joy of exercise and maybe, just maybe, I’ll find it. (Wish me luck – I have serious doubts about this one).

3. Read More Books (and things)

I’m also going to include reading in my routine more consistently. I adore reading… but I am a slower reader than I am a writer, which is quite an impressive accomplishment.

My to-be-read stack of books I already own now spans three giant shelves that I stole from my sister. If I’m going to keep acquiring books, I need to pick up the reading pace to justify my new collecting habits.

So, more book reading.

And more other reading too.

Hopefully I can get back into reading writing theory resources and find a more consistent Bible reading routine. I might take a stab at the backlog of New Yorker magazines (specifically the poems and short stories) taking up residence under my bed.

The goal here is to spend less time watching TV that doesn’t matter and more time absorbing good writing, which in extension, would inspire me to write my own stories.

Notice, I’m not promising I’ll blog more consistently. I’m not promising I’ll figure out what my career is going to be. I’m not making 12 unreachable goals so that in May I can consider myself a failure.

I’m trying to be realistic here.

I hope blogging stays consistent. But I also hope that if it doesn’t, I’ll write up a message telling you what’s going on.

But until that day comes, I hope you’ll keep an eye out in your inbox for regularly scheduled Paper Trail content from me. (And if you aren’t subscribed, you totally should!)

Happy holidays!


3 thoughts on “A Semester in Review + My Unannounced Break From Blogging

  1. I’ve missed your posts Erin! What a great surprise to see your email this morning signifying a new post. One accomplishment for me? – I’m pretty sure I’m going to meet my reading goal for the year of 160 books read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy reading your blogs, but if that’s something you no longer enjoy, then maybe you are just growing in a different direction. Glad to hear you’ve met new friends and witnessing to an even larger audience. Have a wonderful break in Tucson.

    Liked by 1 person

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