Writing consistently helped me discover what I am even writing for.
My morning writing routine is back. Here I sit on day 7 of writing before doing just about anything else (okay, I brushed my teeth and am drinking a glass of water, but before email!). I feel a lot better already. I feel more aligned with one of the identities I hold — writer — and it has also allowed me to connect differently with one of my other identities — soil scientist.
For context, I used to write consistently every morning while working on my dissertation. It was an incredibly empowering time in my life and I wrote more words, pages, papers, posts than I have since. I look back on those times fondly, yet in the last few years, my life has been clouded by transitions and change. It was a lot harder for me to find a routine in those moments. Perhaps I also didn’t have the mental energy, even though looking back now I realize that writing can help give me energy, not drain it.
All that is to say, I have been here before and I know it “works”. Works for my mental health, my job satisfaction, and my productivity. It’s only been 7 days and I can already tell that my old routine is back.
How can I be so sure I’ll be able to stick with it? Now, before I go to bed, I think about what I’m going to write in the morning. I’m thinking about writing all the time. What I’m going to write about, what I wrote about this morning, where I see my writing going. These are in the back of my mind all day. Writing has become a time I look forward to because I have reserved the time for myself before I do anything else in the day.
Sometimes the before bed thoughts become nuggets of inspiration for the next day. Sometimes, I forget to write them down. Sometimes, the thoughts become a fleeting idea that will sit in the back of my mind until it is ready to come out again.
The other night, just as I was nodding off, I wrote a simple question in the Medium app on my phone. I thought of it as a question to answer in a future story. As I look at it now, I realize that this question is instead an essential idea that guides a lot of my thinking and writing.
How can we love soil the same way we so readily love other components of nature?
I have been swirling around this question for years, but I have not been able to articulate it until now. It took consistently writing again and allowing my thoughts to mix during the time I am not writing for this question to become clear. The question emerged when I wasn’t even looking for it.
I won’t be able to answer this question here and now, in one post. As I said, I have been mulling over for years. My previous attempts to answer it have manifested in social media campaigns like #SoilsAreBeautiful, organizations like www.fortheloveofsoil.org, writings about the wonder of soil, encouragement to celebrate soil in your daily life, and art inspired by and painted with soil.
I already love soil, that I know for sure. Yet, the more I study it, the deeper my respect for this natural wonder becomes. Looking at soils through both scientific and artistic lenses has helped me better come to know what soil is and what soil means. I have come so far since my early days as a soil scientist, but I know I still have so far to go on this journey of a life lived through a soil lens.
Science, art, and writing are the tools I’ll use to continue on this path of discovery. Without writing consistently, I realize now that I was missing one of the essential tools of my trade. Like a shovel for ideas, writing helps me dig through my thoughts and discover the story behind them. I am glad to have it back now.
Time to keep digging.
Dr. Yamina Pressler is a soil scientist and educator in San Luis Obispo, CA. She is the co-founder of www.fortheloveofsoil.org, a wildly independent soil science education, communication, and art organization. Learn more about all the ways we celebrate soil and join our community of soil enthusiasts on Instagram @fortheloveofsoil. You can learn more about Yamina’s work at www.yaminapressler.com.