Tag Archives: journals

A Journaling Celebration


This morning, I picked up my journal and realized I was writing in the last signature.

That’s right. I am now an honest-to-goodness fully committed journaler!

Those of you who’ve known me here for a while now will know that one of my greatest desires has always been to journal every day.

All I ever ended up with, though, were piles and piles of notebooks and journals with a page or four filled.

When it came to journaling, I was always seeking the magic formula. I’d avidly read about other people’s journaling successes, pine with envy when I heard people talk about all the notebooks they’d filled up, groan with frustration when I saw the pictures of their used journals stacked up into a mile-high pile.

I’ve read all the journaling books out there (well, at least, it feels like I’ve read them all!). I’ve felt motivated and inspired as I read, and so sure that this time around, I’d do it.

Nothing ever worked.

And then one day, when I wasn’t looking for the solution to my journaling dilemma, I found my own personal magic key.

Have you ever noticed how solutions are elusive until you stop trying to figure things out? Once you stop, magic happens.

What I realized was this: I hadn’t been ready and willing to journal consistently because I hadn’t been ready and willing to listen to myself, not in that deep, authentic way that journaling means to me.

And guess what? I finally was ready. And with the readiness, as my dear friend Beth was just recently talking to me about, came the willingness. It couldn’t help but come – when I was ready.

So, to celebrate my new journaling identity (it was an early celebration – I went on a shopping spree this past weekend), I bought a three-pack of lined Moleskine notebooks!

I’ve asked this every single time I post about journaling, but the thing is, I love hearing about other people’s journals and journaling habits – so here I go again. Tell me about your journaling? Do you journal? Is it a daily habit, if you do? If you don’t, is it something you think you’d like to do?

[TSS] Reading Breaks

I am nearing the end of a very big indexing assignment – it’s been taking up most of my work time for the past two weeks, and I’m scrambling to finish in time for the Tuesday morning deadline.

One thing I’ve been learning about working productively is the value of taking breaks. And since I’ve been missing out on reading, especially this past week, I’ve decided to make all of my breaks today and tomorrow “reading breaks”.

The only thing is, it’s hard to find books that I can easily consume in ten-minute chunks of time!

So I’ve decided on non-fiction and cartoons.

In the line-up:

This is Going to Be Tougher Than We ThoughtNever a Dry Moment, a Baby Blues book by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott. I saw this at the library last week and knew it would come in handy. I also plucked This is Going to Be Tougher Than We Thought from my own shelves – the more Baby Blues the merrier.

I love this comic strip; after I had Dylan, I had a bit of the post partum blues, and the Baby Blues collection really helped me out. if you have kids, trust me, read Baby Blues and you’ll be nodding your head in total agreement, and laughing. Hard. And as I hit the last stretch of work on this assignment, I’m definitely going to need some laughter to keep me going!

Writing Down Your SoulWriting Down Your Soul, by Janet Connor. I have been journaling daily for the past month. Some of you may remember my past struggles with committing to journaling (it appears I’ve asked, “Do you keep a journal” twice so far in this blog!).

It turned out the answer to my journaling dilemma was quite easy: one day I realized journaling required me to open up to myself. It was something I used to be reluctant to do, but on that day, I had reached a turning point in my life. And ever since then, it’s been easy.

I make it even easier by slotting it into my morning ritual. So now it’s a full-fledged habit.

I’ve read the first few chapters of Writing Down Your Soul, and it’s been very interesting so far. So I’m eager to take of my break time to dive a little bit more into the book.

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 1The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 1. I was passing by one of my bookshelves and saw this, so decided to add it to my reading break pile.

It definitely brings back memories; while not exactly the most politically correct of reads, despite the stereotypes, the Tintin adventures are still rollicking good tales.

And I guess one could say these books were my own first introduction to graphic novels, way before they were actually called graphic novels.

How to Be, Do, or Have AnythingHow to Be, Do or Have Anything: A Practical Guide to Creative Empowerment, by Laurence G. Boldt. I’ve had this book for ages; it’s one of the scores of non-fiction books I keep meaning to get around to.

I began dipping into this book the other day, and found it quite inspiring. It gave me a “why haven’t I already read this” moment, which I then answered with, “well, obviously I wasn’t in the right moment at any time in the past and I am now”.

(This happens to me a lot – asking myself this particular question, and yes, holding this kind of internal dialogue.)

Boldt is also the author of Zen and the Art of Making a Living, another book I actually did read, which I have kicking around here somewhere as well.

Every Day in TuscanyAnd in case I feel like traveling a bit in my ten-minute breaks today and tomorrow, there’s also Every Day in Tuscany, by Frances Mayes, although I’m slightly afraid to dip into this one, because it might have the power of turning those ten minutes of break time into a much longer break than I intend.

I’ve enjoyed Mayes’ previous books, so I’m definitely looking forward to this one. I have to hurry with it, though, because it’s from the library and there’s a wait list for it, so I have no renewals to fall back on.

I’m wishing I had this one in audio, because it’s a book I might actually be able to listen to while working at the same time.

Bird by BirdAnd last but not least, there’s Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which I’m reading for the writer’s reading group I started up a few weeks ago. This coming week we’ll be reading the “Shitty First Draft” chapter, along with two others, and that chapter is one of my favorites from the book.

I’ve been doing well with my 20-minute daily writing goal (adding it to my morning ritual was obviously the right thing to do), and I think this week’s readings from Bird by Bird will be extremely helpful.

So these are my picks for those ten-minute reading breaks I’m promising myself for today and tomorrow.

Have you read any of these books? I know many of you are fiction readers mostly – what nonfiction books do you have up your sleeves, if any?

Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks

I really love it when things show up in my life that are such a good match to something I’ve been pondering, or thinking about doing.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about keeping a journal, and I talked about my idea that I might have luck, finally, with journaling if I just let myself write whatever I wanted in it. I wouldn’t demand consistency from myself; I’d just let the journal take shape with all the scraps of my life and thoughts and imaginings that I might think to jot down.

So after writing that post, I did start journaling, exactly as I mentioned: eclectic snippets of this and that. And I discovered myself also jotting down notes about different story ideas too, because they are so much a part of my daily thoughts.

Then, two days ago, I ran into the library to pick up a few holds and, as I normally do, I checked out the “new books” shelves. And I discovered this book:

Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks

I’m pretty sure I gave a gasp of delight. Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks! I’m a huge Christie fan, and as a writer the thought of reading through her notebooks is so very exciting.

I’ve read the first few chapters and it’s such a delight to see how she worked out her story ideas in her notebooks. What’s even more wonderful is the discovery that Christie used her notebooks in much the same way I’ve just started using my own blank journals:

She employed her Notebooks as diaries, as scribblers, as telephone-message pads, as travel logs, as household accounts ledgers; she used them to draft letters, to list Christmas and birthday presents, to scribble to-do reminders, to record books read and books to read, to scrawl travel directions. She sketched maps of Warmsley Heath (Taken at the Flood) and St. Mary Mead in them; she doodled the jacket design for Sad Cypress and the stage setting for Afternoon at the Seaside in them; she drew diagrams of the plane compartment from Death in the Clouds and the island from Evil under the Sun in them.

Part of the pleasure of working with the Notebooks is derived from the fact that when you turn a page you never know what you will read. The plotting of the latest Poirot novel can be interrupted by a poem written for Rosalind’s birthday; a page headed, optimistically, “Things to do” is sandwiched between the latest Marple and an unfinished stage play. A phone number and message break the flow of a new radio play; a list of new books disrupts the intricacies of a murderer’s timetable; a letter to The Times disturbs the new Westmacott novel.(p. 68-69)

Christie didn’t even stick to just one notebook at a time. She kept a batch of them around, never dated anything, and in one notebook there are notes that span 17 years!

This is the notebook habit that I have just started, and Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks is inspiring me to keep on track with my own eclectic form of  journaling.

And eventually we come to the realisation that, in fact, this very randomness is her method; this is how she worked, how she created, how she wrote. She thrived mentally on chaos, it stimulated her more than neat order; rigidity stifled her creative process. (p. 74)

I’m still digging into this book, and so far it’s been really wonderful to see how she worked on plot ideas amid other snippets of her life; if you’re an Agatha Christie fan and a writer, too, I think this is definitely something you might want to check out. The only thing to keep in mind is that there are, as author John Curran warns, hints to the endings of various of her works scattered throughout. Since I’ve read almost all of Christie’s novels, this isn’t a problem for me; if you haven’t, each chapter very considerately includes, at the beginning, a list of books for which the solutions have been revealed.

Do You Keep a Journal?


I love to write, but I’ve never been good at keeping a journal.

On the other hand, I’ve had some success with what I call “specialty” journals.

For example, I kept a gratitude journal the year after my divorce (and it was very, very helpful).

I’ve also worked on a few art journals, and one year I kept a “mandala journal” which resulted in a wonderful little book filled with gel pen mandalas that I still like to look over every now and then. I found the time I spent creating these little mandalas each day to be incredibly meditative.

Some of my favorite mandalas from that little book:

mandala mandala2 mandala7 mandala8

I’ve had my greatest success, journaling-wise, with “Morning Pages”, from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I did them for about eight years, and toward the end, they, like the mandalas, had become quite a meditative tool. I still have several notebooks crammed on my shelves, even though I occasionally pull a few out to shred them (the whole idea of Morning Pages is that you NEVER reread them, so I’ve had no problems disposing of them).

But I’ve never been able to keep a regular “daily” journal consistently, something that I could pick up and read over older entries, see what I was up to on a certain day in a certain year.

A while back, I wrote about how I was inspired to give journaling a try. In fact, I titled that post much the same as this one!

I never did do anything about my inspiration last time around, though. Those beautiful Moleskine notebooks arrived but I never did anything with them.

Recently, though, I’ve come across a few articles online that have made me think about how wonderful it would be to keep a journal. And during our decluttering these past few weeks, I also decided to pull out the book Creative Journal Writing, by Stephanie Dowrick, from my TBR pile.

Those Moleskine notebooks from last year are still blank, and now I’ve decided I’d like to start using them.

And it occurred to me that maybe the problem I have with journaling is that I am just too eclectic – it’s hard for me to consistently write the same kind of thing every day.

So what if I let myself write whatever I wanted to every day? (Ahem. Much like I’ve been doing here, and thank you all for continuing to read, by the way.)

I’ve been thinking that I could write in it:

  • gratitude lists
  • story ideas
  • conversation snippets overheard or dreamed up
  • my dreams
  • quotes from things I’m reading or see online
  • any of those one-line thoughts that come to me in droves every day

Or anything else that might occur to me. Maybe sometimes I’d even write about what I did that day.

And some days, I might whip out my gel pens and draw something, create a mandala or maybe do a ZenTangle.

I’ve been thinking that this just might work. I might work in my journal consistently if I let the content be as varied as whatever might appeal to me that day.

Do you journal? If you do, do you have any tips for me? And if you don’t, do you ever think about keeping a journal?

Photo credit

A Book Diary for WAVERLEY

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never been any good at keeping a regular journal. Not that I haven’t tried. When I was in grade school, some well-meaning person gave me one of those small five-year diaries, the kind that has two cute little keys and a lock. I found it quite intriguing, and in a spurt of excitement, immediately filled in the little space allotted for that day.

I can’t remember exactly the course of events after that fateful day, but soon after, I lost the keys that came with the diary. Yes, both of them. And you know I locked the thing, because really, wasn’t that the whole charm of it all?

When I was in my teens, I gave the whole personal journal thing another whirl, this time with a small hardcover journal another well-meaning person had given me.

This is what I discovered back then: I would write consistently whenever I was feeling anguished, and I wouldn’t write at all when I was feeling grand or even partially good.

My problem was that, even during the whole hormonal mess of puberty, the days I felt pretty good outnumbered the days I felt angst by a whole lot. Which usually meant months and months would go by before I picked up my journal again.

Nothing changed since my teen years. The fact is (and I’ve finally accepted this, although very reluctantly), I simply do not have the disposition to keep a personal journal. I’ll only ever write in a personal journal when I’m feeling down, and quite frankly, I’ve always been quite an optimistic person.

Where I’ve had success, though, is with “specialized” journals. For example, I stayed faithful to writing daily “Morning Pages” as outlined in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for eight years. I also have a spiritual journal which I find myself coming back to again and again. And the year after my divorce from my first husband, I kept a Gratitude Journal which helped me to keep my spirits up during a nasty custody battle.

Specialized journals work for me. They’ve proven to be rather magical, in fact.

The other day, I came across the idea of writing a book diary at author David Hewson’s blog.

Now, I’ve come across this idea before – in her book Write Away, Elizabeth George prefaces each chapter with an excerpt from her “Journal of a Novel”.

But it wasn’t until I read David Hewson’s thoughts about keeping a book diary that I felt really inspired to give it a try – the fact that I’m deep into WAVERLEY for NaNoWriMo is probably a factor, too.

Here’s what Hewson does with his book diary (he starts a new one for each book). It’s the place where:

…I note down ideas, concerns and, at the end of every week, a tally of the word count and any general feelings I have about the project. My wake-up thought this morning has gone into that diary already. So I know where to find it and it will stare up at me until I either accept or reject it.

While Hewson recommends the software program he uses, I always like to find free or shareware alternatives whenever possible. After a lot of searching around and trying out several different free and not-so-free programs (it was, after all, a nice way to procrastinate – not to mention, I ended up finding a lot of sweet-looking software that had very little to do with journaling), I decided on Efficient Diary. While there’s a paid version, the free version has all the features that I think I’ll need.

What I was looking for, mainly, was the ability to create several different diaries, the ability to print out my diary, and the ability to search diary entries. I also wanted to be able to add a picture if a diary entry felt like it needed one, as well as links.

What Efficient Diary lacks is the ability to use tags but since it has a search function, I figure I can just manually type in any necessary tags at the end of an entry (like “Revision”, “Edit”, “Chapter 9”) and I’ll find what I want eventually.

I suspect my book diary for WAVERLEY will be a success. I’ve only been doing this for a few days so far, but what I’ve been finding is that at the end of a writing session, the first thing I think of doing is opening up Efficient Diary, and jotting down my thoughts, fresh from the completion of a writing session.

There will, I trust, also be days when I open my book diary to add thoughts that come to me about certain revisions I’d like to make to WAVERLEY.

I may eventually move on to a paid journaling software – there are several on the market, and the company that makes the one that Hewson recommends (a Mac-based one) also makes a Windows-based one that looks pretty good.

But for now, I’m thrilled (and inspired!) by the idea of keeping a book diary of my thoughts while writing WAVERLEY.

What about you? Do you journal about your personal life? If you’re a writer, do you keep a book diary, or “journal of a novel”?


And now for my NaNoWriMo update: I went for three days without writing, because of the dinner party we had this past Saturday, and then a deadline that ended up dragging into Monday. So I’m about a day behind.

My total word count right now is 28,449 words.

I plan to do two writing sessions tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll get all caught up!

On Writing: Do You Keep a Journal?

Yesterday’s word count: 0

NANTUCKET total word count:  60,874

HARPER total word count: 5,435 words

I didn’t make my writing goal yesterday; I didn’t even attempt it. At 1:30 am I was still working on my deadline, and the choice was there: keep plugging away and be free and clear for the next three days, or put the assignment away and write. I decided it would be better all around for me and my stress levels to have three days to clean the house for the housesitter (now I understand those of you who clean your house in preparation for your cleaning person) and get ready and packed for our road trip.


So I’ve been wondering – whether you like to write or just like to read books, do you keep a journal?

Journaling is something I’ve never been able to do consistently. But with my recent success at writing my novel every day (well, nearly everyday), I’ve been thinking about giving journaling a try again.

Sometimes I think it would be lovely to have notebooks all lined up on a shelf in chronological order, documenting my life through the ages. On the other hand, I know this would never work for me. I have a wonderful life, but let’s face it: it’s kind of boring.

Where the real excitement happens is in my mind. I always have lots going on in there. I think that’s why I had such success writing Morning Pages, the exercise in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I wrote Morning Pages every day for eight years. The reason why this was so successful for me was because you’re not supposed to read your Morning Pages, ever: it’s just a brain dump.

From there I moved on to what I called my “spiritual” journal. This was a couple of years ago, and I only kept it for about two months, but I have gone back and re-read this journal several times and it always gives me a lift.

So I’ve decided to begin a journal that will be all about whatever happens to be going on in my mind. I’m going to commit to writing in it every morning, because that’s what I did with my Morning Pages and getting things off my mind was a huge help to my day. But unlike Morning Pages, I want to go back and re-read this journal, so it will be more like my spiritual journal.

And what perfect timing – I ordered some Moleskin journals over the weekend. They arrived today!

What about you? Do you keep a journal? Do you record the events of your life in it, your thoughts, or a combination of both? How long have you been keeping a journal. Do you have any tips for me, on how to become a dedicated journal writer?