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

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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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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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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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