Writing about writing

Posts tagged ‘journal’

The Writing Retreat was a Failure…no, it was a success

Why is it that the anticipation of something is quite often better than the actual something?

I know. I know. That’s awfully deep for a Tuesday afternoon.

Sorry. Not sorry.

As you know if you read my previous entry, I had a writing retreat this past weekend. I had been wanting to do something like that for years–ever since my husband gave me a 3-day writing retreat over the Christmas holidays sixteen years ago. I went somewhere with no internet (you have NO idea how horrible that was), no television, no cell service, and no communication with others or the outside world. It was at a chalet in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the beauty of nature: birds [singing], squirrels, a stream heavy with recent rains, trees newly budded, and even a few adorable bunny rabbits hopping around!

Thankfully the only snakes were dead in the middle of the road.


The first day, Wednesday, was awesome. We ran errands throughout the morning and arrived at our destination at exactly check-in time. The newness of the situation along with the quiet and beauty of the noise and silence only nature itself creates to instill calm and peace deep within one’s very being. I wrote in my journal. I read for awhile. And I wrote some more in my journal.

The newness of the situation along with the quiet and beauty of the noise and silence only nature itself creates to instill calm and peace deep within one’s very being. I wrote in my journal. I read for awhile. And I wrote some more in my journal.

I had to sleep in a bed. Considering the fact that I haven’t slept in a bed for more than seven years, it was a challenge, but I was able to get enough sleep that I only needed one or two naps on day two.

Throughout day two, I read, wrote–outlined, read, wrote some more–outlined, journaled, and read some more. My friend and I worked on editing an amazing story she is currently working on to be published.

Towards the end of day two, I started to feel “off.” It’s difficult to explain unless you have experienced the feeling, but I began to wonder if I just needed more sleep, if I needed to eat more than I was eating, or if there was something in the air that needed refreshing. By the time I woke up on the third day, I was in trouble.

Even looking at a computer screen let alone paper (or even holding a pen in my hand) made me dizzy and nauseous, so no writing was done at all from the evening of day two on for me.

I began throwing up within half an hour after eating breakfast and continued to throw up every few minutes throughout the next several hours.

My friend continued working on her story while I alternately slept, read, and threw up. Misery is a nice word for how much I felt like death warmed over. Honestly, death would have been preferable to how I felt.

Needless to say, we had to leave in the middle of the afternoon on Day #3, Friday. Thankfully my friend was with me and able to drive me back down the mountain while I spent the drive heaving into a throw-up bag I had left over from December when I was in the hospital having my gallbladder removed.

I spent the next two and a half days hugging the porcelain throne, praying for death to ease my suffering.



Dang it.


To make my retreat that much more wonderful, my carpal tunnel decided to rear its ugly head and I was at the orthopedic doctor by Monday afternoon getting a steroid shot.

One thing I have realized during this writing retreat is that I do not really want to write a BOOK. I love journaling and writing blog entries. I can’t stand the whole idea, process, etc. of putting together a book. While I have a number of drafts of books that are workable and possibly good enough to be published–after careful editing, of course, I am not so sure that publishing a whole book is the direction I want to continue working towards anymore.

I love the whole process of relatively short essays and journal-style entries. I love that they are “easy” for me to write and edit and publish. I love that they do not take my readers all that long to read–except for entries like this one when I simply have a lot to say. ūüėČ

I am not so sure that I want to work towards publishing my memoir as a book–as one entity–any longer. I’m thinking that I might continue blogging my memoir and stay with blogging as my medium of sharing rather than sallying forth with a whole book.

The other option that I am considering seriously is to move almost completely into writing Bible Studies–as I discussed in a previous blog (the one about moving into unchartered territory–writing without a net).

For now, I will not make any firm decisions because I realize that such decisions could be coming out of the desperate awfulness of being so very sick and a desire not to do anything at all–writing or otherwise. But these are some possible considerations that I am beginning to consider and pray about.

So my writing retreat was a failure because we had to leave early and I was so very sick, sadly. But it may also be considered a success because I may have realized my real writing focus that works best for ME rather than pushing myself into something I’ve been fighting because it really isn’t the writing format that is RIGHT for ME…



Last day of NaJoWriMo for October 2015

NaJoWriMo, Day #31‚ÄĒSaturday, October 31, 2015

Today’s Prompt

tumblr_meqrmvGB6v1re99nqo1_400 (1)This being the last day of NaJoWriMo, write a letter to your journal about the last 31 days of journal writing. Write about the challenges, what you learned along the way, and how your thoughts changed about what creativity means in your personal life. 

Dear Precious Journal,

I have enjoyed this past month with you so very much. While I don‚Äôt typically need journal prompts in order to write in my journal, I have enjoyed almost all of the prompts for October 2015. I especially have enjoyed the fact that some friends and students have been participating this month as well! A few of them have shared their journal entries with me, but obviously journals are meant to be personal and not everyone feels comfortable sharing their journals‚ÄĒas it should be. I just tend to be someone who is willing to share it ALL for some reason without fear! I just like to. That‚Äôs the way it is‚ÄĒfor me.

I wish every month was National Journal Writing Month. It should just be National Journal Writing Year! LOL! Regardless of whether or not we‚Äôre ‚Äúcelebrating‚ÄĚ National Journal Writing month, I plan to continue writing in my journal every single day.

One thing I discovered this month while writing my journal entries using Microsoft Word has been that instead of just including a picture as part of my journal entries, I can actually use a picture as the background‚ÄĒa watermark‚ÄĒfor my whole page for my journal entry! I wish I could do that with my digital journal, Penzu. The one negative about doing it that way is that if I want a separate watermark for each entry, I have to leave each entry as its own Word document rather than putting them all together as one month-long document. But that‚Äôs ok.

Up until this past week, I even printed out my daily journal entries and glued them into my printed journal! The only reason I quit doing that is because I finished that journal! My new one isn’t designed to be able to do that as nicely as the previous one. At least I can still print them all out and put them in a book if I still want to do that with all of them into one.

Because of my background studying the works of Julia Cameron, I‚Äôve been learning more and more every year that I am a very creative being. I‚Äôve never really thought of myself as such because my scrapbooks aren‚Äôt as creative as some of the ones by my scrapbooking friends, I can‚Äôt create anything like wreaths or such like, I hate decorating‚ÄĒyes, even for Christmas‚ÄĒeven though I love all the decorations, and I simply don‚Äôt make visually creative STUFF.

But the reality is that because of my love of writing and the fact that it brings me joy, plain and simply, makes me Creative. It doesn’t matter if I prefer to write nonfiction rather than fiction. The important thing is that I love to write. I have fun writing and I honestly do feel creative when I write.

I can‚Äôt wait until the next NaJoWriMo‚ÄĒApril, I do believe!!!

Participating in National Journal Writing Month


When I first happened upon National Journal Writing Month (NaJoWriMo), I quickly learned that “NaJoWriMo will be held four times year:¬†January,¬†April,¬†July, and¬†October.” The first time I participated was in July of 2015 and I LOVED it. I’ve been journaling almost every day for several years, and I typically don’t need a topic when it comes to journaling. It is very rare that I don’t already have something I want to write about! ūüôā But¬†Bakari Chavanu¬†created topics that I thoroughly enjoyed writing about. I especially loved that he had a theme for the whole month for the journal topics. I had a wonderful time in July participating and I couldn’t wait until October so I could participate again!

We’re now in the 10th day of NaJoWriMo for October 2015 and I am enjoying this month as much as I did July’s. I was able to talk a few friends to participate with me. I’m not sure how they’re doing; they’re not all sharing their journal entries with me at this point, but that’s fine. Not everyone is willing (or able) to share their journal entries. I have come to a place where there are very few things I’m not willing to share with the world, so I willingly share most of my entries with these friends. Bakari is writing a book about doing NaJoWriMo, so there is a link in his website for NaJoWriMo participants to share their daily entries. (Yes, I’ve shared most days of this month! I don’t even care if he uses my entries or not! I just don’t mind sharing.)

I am an avid journaler and I honestly do believe that EVERYONE should keep a journal. I’m not artistically inclined as far as drawing is concerned, so most of my journal entries don’t include any artwork–unless I download a picture from Google Images! LOL. My point is, though, that if writing is not your “thing,” find a way of journaling that is your “thing.” If you like to draw, draw in your journal. If you write music, use your journal as a means of song-writing. Poetry. Short stories. Recipes. Anything that you enjoy can become journaling for you. It doesn’t have to be just writing or even have any writing at all. The object of journaling is to CREATE–to take what’s inside of you and put it on the outside.

Journaling is incredibly person, so most of the time, we tend not to share too many journal entries with others unless we feel that we are able and willing to put ourselves out for the world to see. I read once that sharing something we’ve written (or done creatively) is the same as standing naked in public, so we should only share journal entries that we are comfortable sharing. It’s honestly one of the reasons why I like Bakari’s writing themes for NaJoWriMo: I tend to be more apt to share what I’ve written when it’s based on an outside topic.

So whether you choose to participate in NaJoWriMo in January, April, July, and/or October, I hope you will begin to keep a journal….feel free to share you thoughts with me!


Handwriting vs. typing

The old debate rears its ugly head again: ¬†handwriting vs. typing–especially in regards to journaling. ¬†Which do you do? ¬†Which do you prefer? ¬†Why?

Over the years, I have read various articles debating the benefits of both handwriting and typing our journals. ¬†I see and value both, truly. ¬†Don’t believe me? ¬†Check out the hoard of hand-written journals cluttered around my house as well as my office at school as well as my online Penzu journal account wherein I wrote more than 150,000 words in one year!

When I type my journal, I love typing my journal. ¬†I love being able to use images in my journal. ¬†Pictures are always just a click away and so easy to insert where I want them within my journal entry. ¬†I can type pretty fast, so it takes me much less time to get down what I want to say when I type. ¬†I also just love the feel of the keys under my fingers. ¬†It’s almost like playing a piano, you know? ¬†It’s just so cool how my fingers type what I want to say without my having to think about placement of my hands or fingers on the keys. ¬†I’ve just been typing long enough now that my fingers do all the work without my having to think about it!


But wait a sec….the same is true when I hand-write something. ¬†I’ve been writing since before I ever started school, so watching the words appear on the written page is pretty awesome because my hand (my fingers) with my pen (usually pink) is flying across the page faster than I can think the words. ¬†I can write in pretty colors, like pink or purple! ¬†(But when I type my journal, I can change my font to a pretty color, too.) ¬†I do not hand-write as quickly as I type. ¬†What may take me only minutes to type will typically take me at least three times as long by hand. ¬†I do love the feel of my favorite pen in my hand and my notebook beneath as well as the sound of the scratching of my pen across the page. ¬†And the smell of a journal is as sweet as the smell of a new book! ¬†Plus, it’s so much fun to pick out a new notebook to use as a journal! ¬†I actually just bought a new purple journal the other week that I can’t wait to fill in using my new purple pen!

So which is better? ¬†Neither. ¬†Both. ¬†UGH! ¬†When I’m typing, I love typing. ¬†When I’m writing by hand, I love writing by hand! ¬†So how to choose?

One major benefit of handwriting my journal is that I have my own personal handwriting on the written page. ¬†When I am angry, it shows in my writing. ¬†When I am sad, it shows. ¬†You can literally see the smudges from my tears or the breaks when I’m frustrated or even the holes in the page where I’ve gotten so angry, I’ve smashed my pen through the paper. ¬†My emotions are not only revealed by the words I put down on the page, but even more importantly by the actual look (physical appearance) of the words on the page. ¬†The physical appearance of my hand-writing often says so much more than the words I wrote.

One negative of handwriting my journal is that I deal with carpal tunnel, so my right hand gets really sore when I write for long stretches–and yes, I typically write for no less than thirty minutes which can be interpreted as a long time in one sitting for a journal entry, I think. ¬†I try to wear my brace, but if I write by hand a lot, even my hand brace doesn’t help. ¬†I have even had to go to an orthopedic doctor to have cortisone shots in order to attempt to alleviate the pain in my wrist. ¬†Being in pain makes it extremely difficult to keep writing by hand.

Another negative of writing by hand–and a major benefit of typing–is two-fold: ¬†a digital copy of my journal is automatically created when I type my journal and I save a ton of space when typing rather than having a bunch of notebooks taking up shelf space in my home–or in my office. ¬†I like being able to open last year’s online journal and search for an entry and find it at the stroke of a few keys. ¬†With my hand-written journals, I have to try to remember which notebook I wrote in and then dig through every single page of the 100+ page of the notebook in an attempt to find what I might be looking for.

Several years ago, I wrote a story by hand. ¬†Do you think I can find that story now?! ¬†I KNOW I hand-wrote it. ¬†I remember the emotions I was feeling as my hand flew across the page. ¬†I remember how the story wrote itself because it was so powerful and meaningful for me. ¬†It is driving me absolutely nutso that I can not find it! ¬†I have searched through every single hand-written journal I have–that I can find….nothing! ¬†UGH! ¬†If I had typed it, the story would be in my database where I could do a quick search and find it!

Part of what makes that story so powerful in my memory, though, is the appearance of it on the written page. ¬†I was in such an incredibly deep emotional state of despair when I wrote that story and it shows visibly on the page. ¬†I think, more than anything else, that is why I want to find it. ¬†If I had typed the story, I don’t know that I would have had the same powerful and memorable emotions in the writing of it.

So what have I chosen? ¬†To type or to hand-write….Neither. ¬†When I feel like typing my journal, I type it. ¬†When I feel like writing by hand, I write by hand. ¬†I might go months doing one over the other. ¬†All I have to do now is figure out how to make my hand-written journals digital……!Handwriting_feature

My writing in 2014

Pen Zu online journal: 409 entries with 250,000+ words total for 2014!!!! Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever written that much! Feels good! Feels REAL good!

It is amazing how much writing I did in 2014. ¬†Wow. ¬†As I look at that number, 250,000, I am shocked that I was able to write that much in a year especially a year that was very busy for me. ¬†If I counted the assignments, emails, and other documents that I write for school–my job–that number would jump up at least to 300k, I’m sure. ¬†But I chose to count only the words I wrote in my journal throughout the year.

10461998_859100954118822_4151280915876541090_nDo you journal? ¬†You should, you know. ¬†I require my Freshman Composition students to keep an online blog for our class. ¬†Many of them balk at it and complain a lot, but by the end of the semester, there are always a few who are glad they participated in it. ¬†Every once in awhile, it is a means to draw the students in the classroom closer together–to create a sense of community that we can’t get via any other method. ¬†I love that. ¬†I personally believe that students are more open to learning and the learning process when they are comfortable in the classroom–when the classroom is a safe place where they can share without judgment. ¬†And that non-judgment includes NOT looking at or worrying about their grammar in their blog entries. ¬†They can simply what they want.

Of course it’s not a perfect system. ¬†Some students wait until the last minute to post their blog entries and that doesn’t do anything at all except give them a grade–a lower grades, but still a grade. ¬†I still have students who hate the whole process but do it because they want a good grade. ¬†And every once in a while, I have students who post things that make me wonder…..about a lot of things.

But more often than not, their blog entries are fun to read as well as worth reading. ¬†I am glad to do it. ¬†I wish I could make everyone I know write/keep a journal. ¬†I wish every single person I know would GET how healing, awesome, powerful, wonderful, and just plain cool a journal is. ¬†I know I’m in a small class of people who actually LOVE to write. ¬†I accept that truth. ¬†And regardless of whether or not anyone reads what I write or even cares about what I write, I will keep writing because I am writing for myself more than I am writing for anyone else anyway.

Just keep writing……


Speaking of loving to Write…..

I keep a journal that I attempt to write in every day. ¬†I don’t make it every single day, but this is the first year where I have written in my journal almost every day compared to previous years. ¬†Look!!!


Several years ago, I first picked up Julia Cameron’s book, The Writing Diet. ¬†I ate that book up! ¬†(See what I did there?!) ¬†Anyway, in that book, Julia speaks of her daily writing activity she calls “Morning Pages.” ¬†She discusses Morning Pages in greater detail in her other book, The Artist’s Way, but I first read about them in The writing Diet. ¬†Morning Pages are nothing more than writing three full pages every single morning–freewriting. ¬†I loved the idea, so I gave Morning Pages a shot. ¬†More often than not, I ended up doing my “Morning” Pages in the evening rather than the morning.

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I felt guilty that I couldn’t get my writing done in the mornings. ¬†I wanted so much to do Morning Pages just as Julia Cameron suggested. ¬†I loved every single part of the whole idea and I wanted to be successful with it. ¬†But I could not get up early enough to do my Morning Pages in the mornings.

Then I read Mari McCarthy’s Dark Chocolate for the Journaler’s Soul wherein one of the writers shared that she, too, struggled with writing in the mornings, so she simply starting doing “Night Notes” instead.


Huh. ¬†So I didn’t HAVE to do my writing in the mornings!!! ¬†And I didn’t have to feel guilty for it! ¬†So now I write in the evenings. ¬†I prefer to type. ¬†I did a few practice entries by hand so I could give myself an estimate of the total number of words I wrote in three pages (Julia’s guidelines for Morning Pages). ¬†I found that I could write approximately 750 words in three pages, so I try to write 750 words every day in my online journal. ¬†I don’t beat myself up if I don’t make it to 750 words, mainly because there are some days when I simply do not have a lot to say, but there are other days when I write way beyond 750 words! ¬†I wish my chain would show the days I have written more than once because I have several days when I wrote two or three entries and each entry was more than 750 words.

Currently, I have written approximately 170,000 words just in my online journal this year!!!!!  I will easily hit 200,000 words before the year is out!  Penzu (the online journal I use) sent me a message a few months ago when I first hit 100,000 words so I can have a free year of Penzu Pro next year!  So cool!  (Penzu basic is free, but if you go Pro, of course, there are many options, one of which is the ability to create several journals rather than just have one.  I have divided my by year as well as by other categories as I choose!)

If I am able to win NaNoWriMo, I will easily have at least 250,000 words for the year! ¬†That’s a LOT of writing!!!!! ¬†And I LOVE every last bit of it!!!! ¬†None of the numbers I’ve shared includes any of the writing I do daily for work; I teach English at a community college! ¬†And now I also have this blog as well as two other main ones that I keep! ¬†(See the link at the top of the page, “Joy Regardless.”)


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