The Art of Journaling

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had a journal. I even remember my first one. It was baby pink with a puffy cover and came with a tiny lock and key which I promptly lost. At six or seven I wasn’t much of a writer but I still felt the power of having an outlet. Writing in my journal allowed me to give shape to the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing, and gave me a safe way of exploring my imagination and working out my problems.

Over the years I’ve continued to journal and with some exceptions it’s a practice I’ve kept up consistently. Out of all of my self-care activities I have found journaling to be the most helpful. Keep in mind I do not use this as a diary, or a record of my daily routine (although you’re certainly more than welcome to do so). I use more of a free-writing style; I jot down things that I’m feeling or experiencing, or something I want to remember. Sometimes it’s just whatever pops into my mind.

Sometimes waves of thought rage furiously through my head, one after the other, at a pace so roiling and intense that I’ve felt too overwhelmed to choose the right words, or felt that I couldn’t keep up enough to write anything down. Even then putting down something, anything, can act as a form of release. My entries then become bullet lists to organize the sea of my mind, each bullet a complete thought or feeling, without self-censoring or judgement, and with little regard to linear form. (Brains don’t really work like that, anyways.)

There are other ways of expressing yourself through journaling; I know some who use their bullet journals as both a calendar and personal diary. (Some of them are crazy amazing.) Doodle, use colour or stickers, or change up your writing or printing style (i.e., cursive, all-caps, different sizes, etc.)

If you’re a hardcore journal-writer looking to improve your journaling experience, there are entire websites, blogs and books devoted to journal prompts or ideas for list-making. Some books will even give you ideas on how to transform your journaling- for example, Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, describes this process as writing “morning pages”.

For those who are inexperienced at journaling, there are lots of fun pre-printed journals and books designed for you to destroy, draw all over and make your own. A blank page can be intimidating to even the most seasoned writer, so having your own lists of things to fill out or doodles to finish could be what you need to jumpstart your creativity.

Journaling is a great way to process thoughts and feelings, work out problems, record dreams and experiences and express yourself. It allows yourself to be creative, which helps you with your self-esteem and improves your self-knowledge. Also, journaling has been known to aid in the treatment of depression, anxiety and those suffering from PTSD. If that’s not enough to convince you to pick up a pen and start writing, I don’t know what will!

In this day and age we place so many demands ourselves that sometimes even going about our day-to-day lives is exhausting. As a person who likes to keep busy, I find myself struggling to stay balanced. You can follow my journey here, or click here or here to find more ways to streamline your life to keep it simple.

What are some of the ways that you stay balanced? Give us your advice below, or email your strategies to keepingbusywithb@gmail.com.

You Just Do You

The short version of events is that I freaked out and took down my blog for about a week.

The longer version is slightly more complicated and it goes a little something like this: someone who I genuinely admire and whose opinion I greatly respect found out that I had a blog. Ok, maybe I accidentally let it slip. One thing lead to another which lead to a misunderstanding that made me think he was mocking my work, which really bummed me out. It made me doubt myself and the reasons I was writing in the first place. What was the point exactly? Who was I writing this blog for? If I felt reluctant to share it with people in real life, did that mean that somewhere deep inside I felt that it was worthless? Was I only invested for nostalgia’s sake?

So I took it down. I felt confused and lost. I told no one and nursed all of my secret little hurts inside of me. That is, until some people started to notice my blog was gone.

A lot of people voiced their dismay, but one friend was really honest. After listening to my reasoning she told me, “I get it, but that was kind of a dramatic thing to do.”

Defensive, I asked her why she cared anyway. She didn’t even read my blog. (To be fair, they aren’t really her thing.)

“I don’t read it all the time,” she admitted. “But it’s who you are. It’s so you. I see you all over it- your hard work. Your love. Who cares if I don’t read it? Why is that a reason not to follow your passion?”

I didn’t really have an answer to that and I still don’t. The best answer I could come up with was that there was no good reason. Are you going to stop eating sushi because someone else thinks raw fish is gross? Why give up something you love based on other people’s opinions? What bearing do they have on your life?

Eventually the misunderstanding was cleared up but I still felt conflicted about what to do. Was it a waste of my time? Should I try and improve the things the make me less proud of my work?

Then I remembered something a writer once told me about making the decision to write a book, despite having no formal training or connections in the publishing industry. I asked him how he ended up doing it. He shrugged and grinned. “I don’t know,” he said. “I just did it.”

And then I remembered why I blog- because I just do. Because I love to write. Because it’s a form of release. I write because I have to, because it’s a part of me, and not having that in my life was like losing the thread that wove all of the parts of myself into the fabric that makes up my being. Why would I let someone take that away from? Why would I take that away from myself?

So here I am to tell you that no one is allowed to criticize the things you love or make up the real you. Your passion will not always be the path to success but it will always be the path back to yourself. Do the things that bring you catharsis, that bring you joy. Do the things that allow you to express the real you. Let it out. Be free. Be weird. Dare.

My blog is not everyone’s cup of tea but it doesn’t matter; if you the love the things I love, maybe you’ll like it. Or maybe you won’t. I hope that you do but in the end there’s nothing that I could really change or do differently. This is who I am, not perfect, but the best version of my myself I can possibly be. I’m just doing me.

And you just do you.

Great Readers Make Great Writers

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This post goes out to those poor souls attempting the NaNoWriMo challenge this month! (That’s National Novel Writing Month if you’re not in the know, and you can find out more about it here.)

There’s this old adage about great readers making great writers, and like most old adages, I find this one to be true. (Hence the title of this post.)

Reading and writing are kind of like bread and butter. (Unless you can think of a more G-free metaphor-peanut butter and jelly?) The more authors, genres and styles you experience as a reader can help you develop your own voice and spark your own creativity.

I’m the kind of reader that has to read absolutely everything (okay, maybe there are some exceptions). As a writer, too, it comes as no surprise that a book about writing finds its way onto my bookshelves. In many ways, I find reading about writing oddly inspiring and- dare I say it- helpful to me as a writer. Here are some of the titles that have stood out:

Writing can be an isolating activity and if you don’t have a fellow scribe to talk to it can start to feel a little lonely. Natalie Goldberg, critically-acclaimed writer, poet and teacher has written a lovely little collection of thoughts and stories about writing called Writing Down the Bones that feels more like a series of letters to fellow writers than it does a book. As such, don’t be afraid to read this book in an untraditional way- it’s the kind of book you stash on your shelf and revisit from time to time, picking a selection at random whenever you’re looking for inspiration or just a chance to connect with someone who knows what you’re going through. At the end, you’ve kind of feel like you’ve made a new friend.

Even if you’re not a fan of chick lit, you may be surprised at how much you’ll enjoy Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel by Cathy Yardley. Aspiring fiction authors everywhere will get a kick at exploring the major story themes and character archetypes of the genre, and it provides fascinating insight into the minds of the writers and publishers who have the chick lit novel down to a fine science.

If you’re looking to unlock your creativity, the legendary book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron may be a good way to start. It’s not necessarily just about writing, although many of the exercises included are designed to help you develop your craft. Instead, The Artist’s Way is about finding a way to express the creativity that Cameron believes is locked inside each of us, no matter which art form you choose. The goal here is not to become a famous author but to find a way to express yourself without fear, anxiety or guilt.

If you feel like your ideas and voice are developed, but you’re struggling with cultivating a writing routine, then How to Write a Lot by Paul J. Silva is for you. Originally conceived with the academic writer in mind, I still found this book an extremely practical guide for incorporating writing into your everyday routine, plus it has some great tips for getting those creative juices flowing.

Finally, if you don’t know where to start, I suggest starting at the beginning with a copy of Three Genres by Stephen Minot. It’s the quintessential guide to- you guessed it- the three genres of writing: prose, poetry and plays. Pick your favorite section to get a crash course, or read the whole thing from cover to cover to gain a better understanding of story structure and language. I loved this textbook so much in high school I almost stole it when I graduated. That’s how invaluable it was to me!

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And of course, this list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t give an honorable mention to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. (I gush all about it here, if you’re interested.) It’s not necessarily about writing, or for writers, but it was an important reminder for me to keep on creating for the sake of my own joy and self-expression.

Happy reading and writing!

B

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What are some of the books that have helped you in your writing process? I’d love to know! Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and I may include your suggestions in an updated version of this post!

I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) Don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads either! Btw: These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company.