Thursday, January 21, 2010

 

1000 Journals

by LuAnn Schindler

I started journaling when I was in high school. Actually, it was in 7th grade when grandma gave me a diary in my Christmas stocking. It had a beautiful white cover with the 'diary' embossed in gold on its cover. As the years progressed, I started myriad journals. In our bedroom closet, one box contains seven volumes of my ramblings through the years. Another six sit on my computer desk.

I'm a journal junkie. I'm not afraid to admit it!

One of the most amazing journal projects I've discovered is 1000 Journals, an ongoing experiment that tries to follow 1000 journals. The stories, artwork, collages gracing the pages provide a random glimpse of society and the creative inspiration everyone has within. The project has been bound into a book and a documentary.

If you're interested in becoming part of the journal project, check out 1001 Journals.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

 

Writing Through Grief

Last week, my boxer, Charlie, died suddenly in his sleep. He was 10, and he led a good life, but it was still completely shocking and totally devastating. In our family, dogs are not just dogs, they are members of our family--our babies--and my parents' grandbabies.

When my husband broke the news to me, I was in the middle of writing a blog post, and I completely stopped. I couldn't finish, of course, and I just closed down my computer and put my stuff away. That night, we continued with our plans to take our other dog to my parents' house, pick up my stepson, and travel 10 hours to my brother-in-law's house for Easter. So, I didn't write the next day either.

For the week we were gone, I wrote nothing but two paragraphs on my blog about Charlie and a few status updates on Facebook. I could barely even turn on my computer. The only thing I could think about was how much I missed Charlie, how much I was worried about Hush Puppy (our Basset Hound), and how horrible it would be when we got back home without my shadow. I was exhausted from trying to be "happy" around my family and celebrate Easter. I hadn't gone a week without writing anything for probably five years. I usually write every day--an article for Bright Hub, a chapter of my novel, or a draft of a poem. But I didn't want to write--not at all--I didn't even miss it.

When we returned home, I forced myself to go to the library and write two articles for Demand Studios--articles that focused on travel tips and didn't make me think about Charlie. I finally returned to work on my novel yesterday, although I just read over a couple chapters and revised them. I'm still only writing during the day, away from home. I can't seem to get in the swing of things at night. I'm finding when your work is creative, it is just plain hard to work through grief.

I've heard people talk about journaling their grief or turning those raw emotions into beautiful poems. But the most I can seem to do is share my story with the world through a couple blog posts. I'm too close to the situation, I guess. I can't even think about the first line of a poem or essay--it's just a big, bundled mess in my brain right now, which is why this blog post is also probably rambling a bit.

I guess my point is that if you experience a great sadness in your life as a writer, give yourself a break. I didn't want to, and I keep worrying that something is wrong with me, that my joy for writing is gone. But it's probably not. This is all normal--and the same methods do not work for every writer. Some people could fill journal page after journal page about their grief or depression; others can produce pages and pages of poetry; I can offer this blog post.

I would love to hear your stories. How did you work through your grief over a loved one (human or animal), and how long did it take your writing to get back on track? The one thing that has really helped me through this process is an old book I found at the library about grieving for pets. Pet owners shared their stories, and I found comfort in hearing others' tales. Maybe we can do the same for each other here.

Margo Dill
http://www.margodill.com/

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

 

Journal Writing: Stuck in a Rut?

I'm an avid journal writer. But, there are time lapses in my multiple journals. It's the same with my blog. Some days I write eloquent essays that probably should've been submitted for publication. And on other days, I just rant about what is happening on the family farm or at speech practice.

Honestly, some days I'm not inspired. Writing is hard work (contrary to what a lot of people tell me) and coming up with fresh ideas can lead to frustration. More often than not, I come up with interesting ideas. But on those days when nothing seems to go my way, how can I acknowledge my existence as a writer? What if I don't think I have anything to say.

Write. Something.

In Note to Self: On Keeping A Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Samara O'Shea, the author compares journal writing to a mix tape. You use other people's words and concepts to express your feelings.

What a great concept! The first journal I ever kept is filled with quotes, song lyrics, poems, and tidbits of trivial information. They document my life at that specific moment in time. When I reread what I wrote, I see an intelligent young woman who was ready to face the world on her own. And I also visualize a scared girl who wasn't always secure in her own skin.

O'Shea writes that writing other's words in your journal can help you find yourself. And I agree! She discusses several options in her book, including:
  • Poetry. When I look through my old journals, I follow the journey of poetry appreciation and notice that when in high school, I found comfort in poems that reflected themes of friendship and young love. When I was 20-something, I must have purchased a lot of "Best of" anthologies because I note several poems that are seemingly unrelated. And now, I study words and phrases by Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and Brian Turner.
  • Song lyrics. In my first journal, only one song is printed among the pages. "Best of My Love" by the Eagles graces one page. While I enjoy music and sing off key to the radio or CMT, the lack of music in some journals tells me that I might have been in a dark period in my life. The music returned to life in one of my last journals. The songs printed on the pages include songs by Three Doors Down, Mercy Me, Hoobastank, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and LeAnn Rimes. What does that say about my life?
  • Quotes. I have quotes from speeches, plays, movies, TV shows and books alongside the words of the famous and not-so-famous. A quote says a lot about the person you are and the person you will eventually be.

If you find yourself stuck in a journal-writing rut, consider penning someone else's words to jumpstart your creativity. It will put words on paper and serve as a benchmark for where you are at on a personal level.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

 

Clearing Your To-Do List...and Your Mind

by LuAnn Schindler

If you are like me, you keep a mental list of everything you need to accomplish. As each day passes, you cross off those items you've taken care of and then the cycle begins again as you add more to-dos. Some of the items on the list are short-term solutions; others might include long-term goals.

I keep my to-do-list on my computer (thanks Vista and Google applications). It's one of the first things I look at in the morning, and I review it every evening before I shut down (literally AND figuratively). The list keeps me on track toward the bigger goals I've established for myself.

Why do I have an easier time developing new ideas? I think it is because I DO write down my to-do list. When you simply think about a potential list of events, articles, and deadlines, your mind draws energy to keep the list fresh. Writing down the bones of the day frees up space in my natural hard drive - my brain.

The same premise works when you consider long-term projects. I use the same technique when I'm preparing for interviews. I write pertinent questions, which allows me to spiderweb my thoughts into even more questions.

I also journal every day. When my fateful day comes, my children will have volumes to read. I hope they enjoy it. But one of the qualities of journaling that I truly enjoy is that once a thought has gone from brain to pen to paper and I've had the opportunity to vent or share joy, the thoughts usually are wiped away. Creative thought continues to develop.

And that is what writing is all about - creating new venues of thought that challenge your creativity. Clearing those thoughts - the to-do list, the grocery list, the character sketch, the new line of a poem you've been working on for days - and putting those words on paper open the path for new ideas, new characters, new stories.

That's the heart of writing.

And I can cross this blog post off my "to-do" list and open the neural pathway to creativity.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

 

Write Your Way To Your Desired Weight

By AnnMarie Kolakowski

I clicked on this news article after reading a teaser on Yahoo.com which said “Study shows people who did this one thing lost twice as much weight as people who didn’t.” I was expecting a miracle drug or an amazing exercise machine to be at the focal point of this study. Boy was I wrong, and gladly!

The study showed only that people who kept a diary of their food intake were more likely to do something about that. It reaffirmed my belief that writing things down is the ultimate path to changing something about ourselves.

I anticipate some people, like me, will click on that article and at first feel a tinge of disappointment. Lots of people are looking for the holy grail of instant weight loss—myself included! It’s normal (if immature) for us to want someone to prescribe us a cure to things that ultimately can’t be cured away.

We don’t want to hear that our goals are completely a product of our planning and output. And writing things down shatters the fantasy world that would tell us our goals are only achievable with this substance or that equipment. But thank God for that! Writing has the ability to free us from our own chains and remind us that the only thing contingent on accomplishing our goals is ourselves.

The fact remains, those people who expect to change through some expensive new diet are not thinking hard enough for themselves and are putting their faith in solutions that somebody else tells them to try. If you want to pay someone to do your thinking for you, the only thing that’s going to get any thinner is your wallet! But the people who keep a diary of their food intake begin to take personal responsibility for it, and because they are more serious and thoughtful about it they are more likely to succeed. The only entities that are making a difference here are thought, determination and choice.

As writers, we know that writing things down produces awareness of ourselves and a sense of responsibility for what we see. It also generates ideas and inspiration for what we might do about it. Many times the simple act of writing one thought prompts another. It’s not just about watching calories; it’s about coming up with creative ways to change those habits. Maybe you wake up one morning with a better low-fat idea for cooking your favorite recipe. Maybe you begin to feel a greater determination to hit the gym. Whatever it is, writing will prompt creativity which will prompt change.

In the article, it’s mentioned that Weight Watchers has begun incorporating diaries into their program. That’s great, but again, you don’t have to join Weight Watchers to do this. And you certainly don’t need some Weight Watchers brand diary! But since I understand people’s need for special space and organization, here’s what I suggest: go to any grocery store and buy yourself a two-dollar pocket notebook.

This will be your goal notebook—for the goal of losing weight. You will probably only fill a page every couple of days so consider it a year’s investment. Keep it in your purse, take it out whenever you have a few minutes after lunch or dinner and scribble some notes about what you ate. Try to estimate the calories when you don’t have access to a nutrition guide, and then let your mind’s own creative process do the rest. Your own mind will then be your guide and your trainer to the best weight-loss solutions for you. You will want to try lots of things and experiment. And when you do, write those things into the journal too. Write about your goals, your dream body, your hopes for fitting into that stunning dress…

Be your own personal mentor; your journal will keep you on track. If you are honest with yourself in what you write, your writing will always be a mirror to show you where you are and where you need to be. Try it! Let your creativity take you to achievement and weight loss, totally free of cost.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

 

Journal Insights

Many writers keep a diary or journal, even if they don't write in it consistently. I try to update my journal at least once a week, but sometimes, I only write in it when I'm having a horrible day and I need something to vent to that's not going to judge me or gasp at my choice of bad language. When I have time, I read my old journals and am often surprised by things I had forgotten about or by how much I've changed over the years.

Recently, a friend of mine said she was feeling unmotivated and uninspired to write, so I encouraged her to journal. What she wrote wasn't important, just the fact that she wrote. She could ramble and go off on tangents and not make any sense at all--it's her journal and no one has to see it.

I've found notes for story or novel ideas in mine; life goals I set for myself; resolutions; and a whole lot of rambling nonsense that must have made sense at the time. I love being able to express myself with no reservations in my journals. I write a lot of things in them I wouldn't say out loud. Just writing it down really helps. It's like having a personal therapist, except you don't have to pay by the hour and your appointment is anytime you feel like it. Instead of a therapist offering insights into your personality, however, you have to discover those insights yourself.

If you've kept journals for a long time, go back and read your early ones. You might not only find some ideas and inspiration, you might also find out some things about yourself you didn't know.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

 

Stressed? Try Journaling

Take care of yourself, especially if you take care of others. It is as essential as breathing. Because caregivers spend every spare minute driving to medical appointments, stopping at the pharmacy, cooking, answering questions, paying bills, and helping with matters that used to be private, they often lose site of that fact. They feel trapped in an endless loop.

Journaling relieves stress.

Imagine you are on an airplane. An oxygen mask drops in front of you. You are told to place it over your own nose and mouth and breathe normally before sharing it with anyone. Journaling works in the same way. It lets you breathe before offering help.
Journaling is a caregiver’s oxygen mask.

I began journaling steadily during my first year of “Mom Care,” a name I invented when my mother refused outside help. Journaling let me vent, process, and keep my mouth shut at critical moments from 1994 through 2001. At first, journaling kept me moving forward. Later, it kept me sane.

Journaling gives perspective and restores sanity. It is a lifeline as well as a record. Experts have documented that writing saves lives. Do not underestimate its power.

Use the privacy of a journal to vent, delve into issues, and untangle messes. Analyze and celebrate. Finish a thought without interruption.
Journaling eliminates mental toxins and deepens awareness. It enables you to strip away the daily crap and lets the strong, sane, safe, healthy, hopeful parts of you emerge.

What do you do if you think you have nothing to say? Start anywhere. Look around the room for an image or a sensory detail—the way the sun makes a path on the carpet, the way steam rises off a cup of coffee, carrying the aroma of morning with it. Listen to the high pitched whirring of an omnipresent machine, the tick of the kitchen’s black-and-white, kitty-cat clock—any image at all.

Be specific. Include sights, sounds, movements, smells, and the feel of the air. Describing the immediate environment will start your writing. Go wherever an image takes you. Explore fearlessly.

When you write in your journal, it can be all about you. The journal validates your right to be who you are and honors your worth as a caregiver. There is no wrong way to keep a journal. Write anything. Write often. Write every day if you can.

One participant in my first Journaling for Caregivers workshop said, "Writing from the heart seems to be all that is needed." She is exactly right.

Ready to get started? Here are two resources:

You Want Me To Do What? – Journaling for Caregivers is a four-week workshop, conducted by group e-mails. To find out how it helps caregivers process stress, e-mail for information. (Lgood67334@comcast.net) Put “Journaling” in the subject box.

A book, tentatively titled You Want Me To Do What? – Journaling for Caregivers, offers encouragement and over 200 sentence starts. It will be available towards the end of 2008.

Journaling relieves stress. Give it a try.

===

B. Lynn Goodwin is published in Hip Mama, the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, the Danville Weekly, Staying Sane When You’re Dieting, Small Press Review, HeArt’s Desire, Dramatics Magazine and numerous e-zines. Her book, You Want Me To Do What? -- Journaling for Caregivers will be out in the fall. She writes reviews and author interviews for Writer Advice, www.writeradvice, and edits the zine.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

 

PASS IT ON

At the church I attend, a little girl has caught my
eye. She has a sweet demeanor, unless her brothers get
out of hand and she has to straighten them out a bit.
She eagerly looks forward to school each day, and will
be part of a special program for gifted students next
year. She observes the world quietly, huge eyes
missing nothing. And guess what else?

Keyona is a writer. She proudly showed me a poem she
wrote after service one Sunday and it was good.
Extremely good. And when I told her that I wanted a
copy of my own, she hugged me with a delighted giggle.

Keyona shared with me that she wants to be a writer
and have her mother illustrate her books. Her eyes lit
when I told her about journaling, writing
her thoughts and experiences in her own private book,
for her eyes only. She dreams about owning one in
light blue, her favorite color.

Keyona’s mother told me that the nine-year old writes
constantly, about anything and everything, and how
she’s started buying notebooks and writing pads for
her. Her excitement and pride are barely contained and
rightfully so.

Reminds me of another nine-year old who wanted to be a
writer too, but she planned to illustrate her own
books. Her mother kept her liberally supplied with
writing materials, doing whatever she could to help
her child develop her craft, including enrolling her
in a summer writing program. It took a number of
years, but Mom’s investment worked and I’ve begun to
walk in my writing call.

As you invest in your writing, keep an eye out for the
younger writers you may encounter. Spend some time
sharing your experiences with poetry or songwriting.
Point them to the growing numbers of websites
specifically for teen and child writers. Maybe there’s
a short story waiting to be co-written by you and a
young daughter or niece. Books, magazine
subscriptions, courses and conferences related to
writing make great gifts for these young authors.

I look forward to spending more time with Keyona,
passing on the craft.

And hunting for a light blue journal ready to share
secrets with a delightful nine-year old.

Jill Earl

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

 

Keep A Work Journal to Stay On Track

Every day, I start with the best intentions. I devise a 'to-do' list, and after checking email and sipping a cup of brewed tea, I start writing.

And that's when the trouble begins.

"LuAnn, can you run to town for tractor parts?"

"LuAnn, the heifers are out. Yup, all 200 of them. I need your help rounding them up."

"Hon, can you whip up some pancakes and coffee? I'm starved."

Or if it isn't farm and family associated interruptions, it's the ringing phone, the "you've got mail" sound effect, or a restless mind bouncing what seems like a million ideas off each other.

After encountering these interferences, I've learned to restructure my 'to-do' list. Actually, my list is written inside a green journal with wild flowers on the cover. The pages are a crisp honeydew green, and within its pages is tangible proof of my writing career. I learned this technique in Advanced Comp and Creative Writing in college some 20 (or more) years ago. And this simple daily goal listing has helped my productivity and attention span.

I make five entries for each day. First, I write the date and time. By looking at previous entries, I can determine if my schedule is consistent. For the most part - except the days I substitute teach - I begin by 7:30 A.M.

Next, I organize my day and structure my writing time. I read email at specific times: 7:30, 1:30, and 6:30. If the phone rings, I check caller ID to see if answering it is a necessity. This strategy also lets me check voice mail when I need a break or when I check email.

Living on a dairy farm means that there are farm-life parameters I need to follow. Having lunch on the table at noon makes my farmer happy. So I know I need at least 45 minutes to prepare a meal.

What does that leave? It leaves from approximately 8:00 - 11:15 for researching, interviewing, blogging, querying, and editing.

I resume office hours around 1:30 and write for three hours, at a minimum. I spend time editing and re-writing, if necessary.

Then I pen specific goals for the day. Generic statements like "work on character development" don't cut it for me. Instead, my list looks something like this: research how cinnamon improves health, query AARP re: cinnamon research, edit article for The Denver Post, write effective lead for the turkey industry article.

I try to stick to my list of goals, but sometimes my writing genius kicks into overdrive and I realize I have a good idea for the structure of an article, so I follow my instincts and fine tune that area.

The key: be flexible while accomplishing a goal.

After that, I reflect on the day, although a writer's day never ends, does it? I note what I've completed or started or stalled on throughout the day. If I don't get everything done, I list reasons that held me back. Maybe I'm battling a cold and cough and I just couldn't focus on the computer screen. Or maybe there were 15 calls from the dairy barn, and after call number three, I knew I needed to answer the phone. Every time. Or maybe today turned into an idea-only day after I started researching, and now those ideas for possible articles or stories are scattered across my desk.

But no matter what I do or don't complete, this journal forces me to be accountable for my writing.

Finally, I take note of tomorrow's schedule and list when I plan to begin writing and a general notation of what I will work on. It's a daily date with my planner; a reminder that yes, I have to write tomorrow.

Twenty years ago, an old college prof told me that writers lead a double life: they possess a creative side and they run a business. You need to handle both to experience success. That's when he taught us this technique, hoping we would realize that writing isn't always a glamorous life.

I've found that I have more of a sense of responsibility to my writing and my career. There's more of a structure to this business, which can change with a phone call, an email, or a husband who is hungry and wants some homemade cookies for a mid-afternoon snack.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

 

Journaling to Better Health


"I will write myself into well being." ~ Nancy Mair

Most people consider their work to be stressful. But many writers consider their work a pleasure and, at times, therapeutic.

Journaling, for one, is considered a healthy habit. I don’t find the time to journal every day. Sometimes, my entries go at least a month apart; yet, I make sure I continue to fill my pages. Recently, I glimpsed a local news article about the various benefits of journaling. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then I sat down and discovered the benefits are numerous. Journaling helps with:

• Stress management
• Therapy
• Recording memories
• Self exploration – discovering patterns, achievements, strengths, weaknesses
• Clarity
• Problem solving
• Sparking imagination
• Preventing foot-in-mouth mistakes

This is just a quick list, and I’m sure more advantages exist.

If you’re not a journal writer, but you’d like to give it a try, here are a few prompts to get you started:

• Write about a goal that you made into a reality.
• Choose one of the worst times of your life, and write about the best that came from it.
• Write about your biggest fear and how you could overcome it, even if it means visiting a hypnotist.
• Describe a memorable rejection from a publication.
• List out all the parts of your life for which you are truly grateful.
• Make a list of the people in your life for whom you feel the most grateful.
• What’s the weirdest memory you have? Chronicle it from beginning to end.
• Make a list of all the dreams you wish to come true before you die.
• Describe the strangest dream you can recall, or a recurring one.
• Write about the biggest, best, or most memorable party of your life.
• Spark a story for fiction from an amazing or unbelievable memory.
• Write about the last time you laughed so hard that you cried.
• Reflect on one of the most blissful moments in your life.
• Reveal a random act of kindness in great detail.
• What’s your best quality?

If these prompts don’t spark a series of word streams, then just write whatever pops into your mind. If you feel comfortable, send your journal entry here to put on the blog, even if you want to post anonymously. Let us know. This could be a lot of fun.

One of the best parts of journaling: there are no rules or guidelines to follow. You create your own path.

Now, if we could only walk or hike while we write in our journals, then we’d improve our physical health, too. Unfortunately, I don’t know a single person who can walk and write without bumping a wall, stumbling, or falling down.

Hmmm. Maybe I should ask for a voice recorder for the holidays. ;-)

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