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I read an email from a life coach recently where he was discussing how we as human beings spend too much time ruminating about our past and not moving on. He urged those of us who read his advice to move out of the world of “should’a, could’a, would’as” and move forward. He compared the act of rumination to what cows do–chewing their cud over and over.

Not a pretty image, but good advice because we all have places in our lives that tend to stick to us like gum on your shoe and are just as hard to get past, and continually chewing on them only keeps them lodged in our heart.

He advised all of us to watch out for ruminating thoughts and move past them quickly, focusing on what is good and useful in our lives. Great advice, unless you are a writer.

You see, rumination is at the heart of what one does as a writer. I chew over stories for months, often years before I sit down to write them. To me, rumination is as important as the writing. I collect ideas for the plot from everyday life, I clip photos and bits from the newspaper that will, or in most cases, will not, go into the actual telling. All these pieces, fragments get chewed over, and over, and over until finally I decide whether or not to keep them.

So for me, as good as that advice is, I must ruminate. Chew on those characters and story ideas until all the pieces have had their chance to be weighed and measured, checked and chewed.

My family is used to me doing this—staring off into space, talking to myself–hands gesturing, lost in my own world. I’m currently starting a new story and doing lots of this. Pulling all the pieces that have been rattling around for over a year now and trying to pull them all together. This is when it gets fun.

Now I just need to work on the getting over the other things. The ones that hold me back. We all have those, and the letting go isn’t fun, but oh so necessary. So no more ruminating on things I can’t change (or can but have been too lazy to get to work)  and move forward. At least that is what I’ve been thinking about.

Do you think ruminating in our personal lives holds us back? What are your strategies for moving on?

4 comments to “Ruminations”

  1. Jamie
    August 13th, 2009 at 4:09 am · Link

    I have problems with self confidence. It comes from not only being the youngest of two bossy sisters, but also other people in my life that made me feel like I was nothing. When I was in my 20s I had some friends that said – don’t let people push you around, but I can push you around. Things like that hold me back and I think in a sense I expect them from people, which holds me back more.

    Your ruminations with your reading is a good example of it. Why it is all right to do it, mine is I think what your life coach was talking about.

    I try to think positive and have found that music and quotes help. Comedy IS the best medicine for me. There is this quote that Bill Murray says in Meatballs that is very true and should be followed – It just doesn’t matter. Most of the things that get in and mess up my psyche are little things that don’t matter.

    So, for you, when it is about your writing. ruminating is a good thing. When you are bothering about your personal life and how you are going to deal with your life – go with those little sayings from movies and follow Monty Python’s song – Bright Side of Life.

    • Elizaeth
      August 13th, 2009 at 11:14 am · Link

      Jamie, that is great advice and positive as well. I think what gives me confidence is when I go out and conquer something I want to learn–even if it is small. I took a class recently on a knitting technique that I’ve always wanted to learn and felt so empowered by the time the class was over and I’d mastered it. Small, but a victory nonetheless. Look for those and grow from there!

  2. Tai Smith
    August 13th, 2009 at 6:31 pm · Link

    I agree that ruminating on a subject can be effective. It is how I choose to think about it, and to what purpose. I have had several traumatic experiences both in my childhood and teen years that I used to dwell on constantly. But the way I thought about those events was emotionally and mentally harmful to me. I learned to think about them as a way to face how I was hurt and the legitimacy of my feelings, thus learning to accept myself. And taking some of the power to hurt and debilitate my ability to live effectively that that experience caused in me.
    I aspire to write too and I have stories in my head that have been there for years that I am trying to nail down.

  3. Lana
    August 14th, 2009 at 8:57 am · Link

    I don’t know, I think there’s often too large of a focus on ‘moving on’ to the point that people are pressing you to move on before you’ve come to terms with whatever grief or emotions you’re feeling. Which isn’t to say you should lock yourself away and mope for years – there is a time to move on. But far too often, I think the focus on moving on makes people feel guilty for taking time to feel and ruminate and process, which only leads to unhealthy repression of emotion in my opinion…

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