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How to Renew You!

What is something that you love to do?

Maybe it's partaking in a favorite hobby, eating a good meal, or taking time to catch up with some old friends. It can be anything really, as long as it's something you love. A small slice of the human experience that gives you a sense of peace and satisfaction.

Now, when was the last time you did that something?

If you simply Googled the word “renewal,” you would find that it’s “an instance of resuming an activity or state after an interruption.” It’s not a drastic transformation, a revolutionary reinvention of self, or even a simple change in routine. It is merely a return to form. Yet the idea of renewal calls to something very special. It’s not defined as a great change within yourself, but it CAN be if you want.

However, when was the last time you experienced a renewal? Let’s face it: it was probably for a streaming service, Patreon pledge, or some other online subscription. Nothing meaningful. Nothing personal. Nothing truly, deeply for you.

Even more likely, those rudimentary routine renewals might be the only ones that you have had lately. We are all busy people faced with a multitude of responsibilities and expectations. We can’t go and change everything about our identity on a whim. That’s okay. It happens. We lose the flair for the new, sticking to routine and habit. That excitement and ambition for what we could become are replaced by the acceptance and complacency of what we are now.

But at what point did those routines and habits begin? Did they replace something within us? Something more important? I’ve been asking myself all month about these things, pondering over what my next great blog post would be. Well, hopefully it will be my next great blog post.

For many people, it's easy to get lost in the norm. To burrow into the mundanity of life. But don’t get me wrong, routines can be great. Without routines, we likely wouldn’t do all that we do in a day, like going to work, attending school, and, for some of us, brushing our teeth. A routine life is a stable life. But a renewal has to be deeper than that. Renewals need to break the norm. It has to be a near soulful shift within yourself. Almost as if the idea of renewal was an evocative movement. That’s why you need to find AND achieve renewal in your life. So I ask you again:

What is something that you love to do?

And when was the last time you did it?

To achieve renewal, we have to see what part of our life we can regain. Something that we lost in one way or another. Be it due to our changing situations, new responsibilities, or a sudden spurt of instability. To best illustrate this, I think it's best to share a personal story. It’s a very recent struggle of mine to find and achieve my own renewal. A quick story about the writer that didn’t have the time to read.

Some background information first. I have spent the past few years studying English in university, as I previously discussed in this post here. That fortunate incident was one of the most significant transformations I have ever undergone. Since I was a young kid, I have been mystified by the written word. Its power and purpose in spreading ideas, information, and inspiration. My greatest pride has been in being able to pursue an education in this field. For me, I have always had this sense of awe with writing. The idea that anyone could express their thoughts, beliefs, and even specific perceptions about the world around them through pen and paper is fairly mind blowing. A great piece of writing is perceived as being elevated. Usually, we call this “classic literature,” like Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Writing also carries an immense sense of grandeur with it. Like it's some type of great undertaking. Which it is. Prose and poems to a skilled writer are like canvas and paint to a skilled painter. It can take an insane amount of dedication to write something truly grandiose. Even though I still consider myself an amateur writer, I am well aware of how much effort it takes to write. I’ve spent pretty much every weekend this year writing either a blog for my internship or an essay for a class. I even try to squeeze in a few words for my own personal projects from time to time. When you’re following a dream, you need to have dedication. The desire to always grow, to always become greater than who you are now.

However, despite my best efforts, I feel that I am missing something. Something that is holding me back from taking my next great step as a writer. Like many of us, I had fallen into a rut. The routine of my work was taking over. Now more than ever, I needed a renewal. But I didn’t think I would have been able to do that fabled reinvention that renewal can inspire. So, I had to think smaller by removing my feelings of grandeur. Writing is very important to me, but maybe the change I needed was something simple. So I began to think, what am I missing? What is something that I gave up while pursuing my current endeavors?

I then embarked on a great journey to find my source of renewal. It was a bit like running a momentous science experiment, although without the potential for catastrophic outcomes. The only real risks I could have happened upon were frustration and a loss of time.

I began small by changing where I write. Since the weather has become more agreeable, I decided to sit outside. I picked the exposed third-story seating area on one of the buildings on my college campus. Though bolstered with a new view and fresh air, I was immediately met with regret, as the glare on my laptop’s screen and lack of Wi-Fi made it too much to bear. So, I went to the nearby coffee shop. A seemingly perfect spot for any writer, with its romanticized aroma of a fresh roast, and the ever-present commercialized sonata of workers going about the business of their business. But I soon became annoyed at living a cliche, especially a tired one at that. I then remembered the nice natural wood tables and tall stools located just outside the establishment. The perfect comfortable locale. I wrangled the first empty spot I saw. But again, the only part of my writing experience that went above the surface level was the seating. Renewal was nowhere to be found. Maybe my renewal would remain a fickle frivolous thing.

And then, it hit me. It was something that every aspiring writer needs to do. One thing that every teacher motivates their students to do. Especially if they want to become the next great writer.

I was not taking the time to read outside of work.

Yeah, it was that simple.

Now, if you're a writer, you’re probably thinking, “What kind of writer doesn’t also read?” And if you’re not, then you might be wondering why this matters. That’s because creatives should always try to expose themselves to the things that others have made. An artist should view others’ art, a musician different types of music, et cetera et cetera. Reading others’ work is the most important and repeated piece of writing advice any writer could ever receive. It’s repeated into triteness, because what kind of writer wouldn’t take the opportunity to rejuvenate their skills by gaining insight from others? To learn those skills invented and mastered by others? To learn the different types of ideas and perspectives that could be expressed through serious literature.

Well, that would be me.

I first noticed it by how many writers’ names I had started to not recognize. In many of my English classes, my classmates and I would discuss various writers. Stephen King, Amiri Baraka, Flannery O’Connor, and countless other legendary authors. Yet, I could hardly relate to them. I soon realized how little I actually read from these greats. And how little I knew about modern authors. Sure, I had my favorites like Neil Gaiman and Anthony Veasna So. But even then, I could barely recall any hot new writers on the scene. Instantly, I became self-conscious about my writing skills and the legitimacy I had as an aspiring writer. The last time I read a book for my own pleasure was likely during my last winter break. Even then, I highly doubt that I even finished it. I can’t even recall its title. All I know is that whatever it was, it’s now languishing on the shelves of my miniature personal library, lightly layered with dust.

If I wanted to be great, I knew I needed to make a change. Renewal was imminent. So, I went back to my library to find a new spark of inspiration. I found it in Henry Crawford’s poetry collection Binary Planet. A neat little blend of poetic language and computer science lingo, this book was a gift from a good friend of mine. Though time has only permitted me to read a few excerpts, I have still enjoyed my experience nonetheless. I’ve even regained some of my confidence. Some of which I’ve used in my school work, professional writing, and even in this very blog post.

With one book, I have begun my great journey of renewal. It introduced me to a new author who specializes in current concerns, as well as reminded me of the ever-growing horizons that literature constantly pushes. If just one book could have inspired me in such a way, then imagine what else currently exists in the literary landscape. This renewed vigor will surely continue as summer vacation beckons me. As the seasons shift from a shivering winter to a warmer spring heading into a liberating summer, now is the time to start looking for renewal. As I’ve said, a renewal can be both big and small. Life-changing or simply rejuvenating. All too often we fall into routine and mundanity, so much so we lose the spice of life. We neglect what we need as prosperous people.

So I ask you again:

What is something that you love to do?

And when was the last time you did it?

About the Author

Leonard Brattoli is a sophomore Honors student majoring in English. He offers to the Foundation his writing skills as one of its newest Newsletter and Blog Writers. His background is varied, including experience in creative writing, academic papers, review work, and collaboration.

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