Writing about writing

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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…



Writing without a Net

Over the many years I have been writing, most of it has been for personal use only–journaling, participation in NaNoWriMo without any intentions of doing anything with my novel, blogging, or for school purposes (as an English Instructor, it’s impossible not to write). I have never feared my writing–what I write, how I write, the physical presentation of what I write, and so on. I have always written mostly for myself and in a manner that pleases me, myself, and I–since I had no intentions of publishing anything I wrote.

But in recent months (ok, years), I’ve determined to finish my memoir and publish it. (Still vacillating between self-publishing and going the traditional route.) In doing research on memoirs and the publication of memoirs (because that’s what we’re supposed to do before publishing, right? research the genre to see what else is available?), I have discovered that the memoir genre is wide open for methods in presentations. The memoir genre is currently hot in the world of reading as is evidenced by the fact that we can’t really do a search of any kind on a subject without running across a memoir on that subject.

The good news is that means that my memoir fits right in with the current demand. The bad news is that so many people are writing and publishing their memoirs. That means then that I have to find a way to write my memoir in such a way as to make it stand out from the rest, to make it similar enough to other memoirs so I don’t scare away potential readers, but different enough so that readers don’t toss it aside with a groan because it’s “just another memoir.”

I feel fairly confident that I have found a way to put my memoir together in such a way as to be just different enough to be cutting edge and just similar enough that readers will be glad to pick it up to read.

One idea I have about my memoir that is very different from other memoirs is that I would like to include or publish alongside my memoir a Bible Study. This is where I’m thrown for a loop. While I have read and completed many Bible Studies over the years, I have never even thought of let alone attempted to write one. As I have begun researching how to write (put together) a Bible Study for publication, I have discovered that there is NO information on “how to write [and publish] a Bible Study.” There are dozens if not hundreds of books, websites, etc. about how to write and publish a memoir (or just about any other genre you can name or imagine), but there is NOTHING on writing/putting together a Bible Study!

Considering the fact that I am writing in unchartered territory, I was hoping for at least a little guidance in writing a Bible Study–as I have had over the years when writing fiction or basic non-fiction. But there is NOTHING. At least not anything that I have found at this point.

I have come to the conclusion then that there are no rules or guidelines that are expected to be followed when it comes to writing a Bible Study. I’m sure there are some because obviously writing a Bible Study involves using the Bible itself and must be faith-based, but are there rules or guidelines regarding the expected translation? Are there guidelines regarding physical appearance on the page?

What makes things even more interesting, if you will allow me to use that term, is that I want to write a JOURNALING Bible Study and maybe even include pictures to color!!!! Are there any rules or guidelines regarding journaling Bible Studies or including pictures to color in a Bible Study??

The good news is that no two Bible Studies that I have ever done have ever been exactly the same style or set-up (except those that are published by the same group or organization, but even within the group, the set-up is unique to each). The bad news is that means that I have to “invent” my own style or set-up.

The good news is that this means that I GET to “invent” my own style or set-up for my JOURNALING BIBLE STUDY/Memoir!!!!


I just want to write

I have this almost insane desire to WRITE, but I have absotively posolutely NOTHING to write about. I’m tapped. No fresh topics. No story ideas. Nothing funny or witty or even worth saying, but I want to WRITE and WRITE and WRITE and WRITE and WRITE!!! So I’m going to take 10 minutes and use this blog to freewrite and see if anything comes of it. It is 9:50 pm; I will write until 10:00 pm–nonstop.


Yep. I still have absolutely nothing to say. I haven’t been doing a lot of writing outside of my journal lately. I love to write, but I just haven’t done much. I do love journaling, so at least I am writing something right now. I’m participating, again, in NaNoJoWriMo–National Journal Writing Month. I really love it. Honestly, even though it’s Month, Bakari does it 4 times a year–January, April, July, & October. This month makes exactly one year that I have participated in each month and I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every month I have participated.

I am so glad Bakari started this! I will continue to participate for as long as he does it. And if he ever decides to pass the mantle, I wouldn’t mind if he chose me!

I’m thinking of attempting to start something similar to National Journal Writing Month, but make it very Biblically-based. I’m not really sure how I would go about doing it–if there’s something I need to do according to the law or at least the “law of the internet.” And I don’t want to steal from what Bakari does, but it will be very similar to his premise. The biggest difference would be that each prompt would begin with a Bible verse or verses and then move forward with a brief comment about the passage–a short Bible study, maybe–and then a topic based on the passage and/or Bible study.

Journaling4life¬†(edit: it’s actually Journaling4faith) does something similar, as well, but they send out topics something like once a week or once a month. I can’t remember right this moment and since I’m freewriting and I’ve promised myself I won’t stop for 10 full minutes, I’m not going to go look. As soon as I get to 10:00, I will look it up and tag the link so you can go check them out for yourselves. I really like what they have going on, too.

I absolutely love to writing. It truly is not only a passion of mine, but something that I have to do the same as I have to breathe. When I don’t write for an extended period of time, I feel lost–adrift at sea with no rescue in sight. Once I start writing again, even if it is a freewrite like this, I have found a small ship to take me in and give me sustenance and keep me healthy for a time.

Writing is simply something I do regardless of whether I want to or not. Some people paint. Some do woodwork. Some color. Man, I’m jealous of the ability of some people to color and make their pictures works or art. Regardless, I do love to color, but I am not all that artistic. Some people find their passion in music, whether that be singing, writing, and/or playing….

And it’s 10:00 pm…..541 words in 10 minutes.

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!


NaJoWriMo–July 2015

I had no idea that National Journal Writing Month (NaJoWriMo) was a thing. ¬†Then one day, out of the blue, it showed up in my newsfeed on Facebook. ¬†I have no idea how or why because none of my friends posted it, but it was there. ¬†Of course, anything to do with journaling, I’m all over it, so it was a no-brainer for me to participate in NaJoWriMo for July 2015. ¬†I enjoyed it throughout the month!

I chose to write by hand this time. ¬†I’ve been writing by hand for several months now and I just wanted to continue with that for a while longer. ¬†I wrote in my cool purple journal with a purple pen every day of the month!

The them this year was one of “Journey” which I found fortuitous because just a few days prior to seeing the original Facebook post on NaJoWriMo, I had been writing about my Joy Journey!!! ¬†The NaJoWriMo was a different journey, but the theme was the same, so I found it right up my alley!

The last entry for July is to write about my journey for the month of NaJoWriMo….

One thing I can say about my journey this month is that while I don’t normally like having prompts for my journal entries, I liked having them for NaJoWriMo. ¬†I liked that there was a theme to the journal entries rather than just being random journal topics to write about. ¬†Some journal entries went for several pages while others barely made it to half a page in length. ¬†Some journal entries this month were easy and didn’t make much of a difference in my psyche to write while others delved deep into my psyche and made me dig deeper into the original topic. ¬†(Those were my favorite, btw.)

I’m not going to share any of my entries for the month because all of them were quite personal. ¬†I will ask¬†if you aren’t journaling yourself, Why aren’t you????

Having a Routine and Sticking to It

Before the last several weeks, I would have sworn to you that I do NOT have nor do I keep any measure of a Routine. ¬†My schedule changes every several months–I teach at a community college, so I never have a consistent schedule for very long. ¬†I am one of those moms who never put my son on any sort of schedule or Routine–if he was hungry, he ate (when he was a baby)–ok, and even now that’s true (he’s currently 14). ¬†I don’t have a dinner schedule, a house-cleaning schedule, a particular day or time to do laundry, a specific day/time to go to the grocery store, and the list goes on and on. ¬†I have just never thought of myself as someone who has much of a Routine.

But recent events have made me realize that I am very much a woman of Routine and when my Routine is interrupted, I do not handle it very well.

When my son was approximately two years old, we were invited by some close friends–at the last minute–to go camping with them over the weekend of the 4th. ¬†On a whim, we agreed to go. ¬†Don’t judge me, but my son was still using a bottle at night to help him get to sleep. ¬†Yeah. ¬†In all the hustle and bustle and flurry of getting ready at the last minute, yes, we forgot to pack a bottle. ¬†We got to the campsite; we set up camp; the kids all went swimming; we had supper and cooked marshmallows and had s’mores. ¬†It was perfect. ¬†My son fell asleep in my arms as we all enjoyed each others’ company around the campfire. ¬†I put him in the tent and then spent another hour or so chatting with my friends. ¬†It wasn’t too long before my son woke up and wanted his bottle. ¬†Oops. ¬†So I sat with him on my lap for a while, believing that he would settle down and go to sleep. ¬†Before I knew it, he and I were sitting in our Jeep with the lights on while he clawed me and jumped [on me] at every tiny noise. ¬†The following morning, as soon as the gates to the park were open, I made my husband take us home–he had to go back to pack up all of our gear. ¬†We weren’t in the car 5 minutes before my son was sound asleep. ¬†He slept the whole way home. ¬†And guess who was wide awake once we were home and my husband left to go back to the campsite?! ¬†Needless to say, I have only been camping one other time in the past 14 years.

That experience taught me that I am NOT a woman who likes or is able to be spontanuous.  When I am asked to do something last minute, I tend to say No.  I refuse to find myself in such a situation every again.

You would think that lesson alone would have taught me that I am a woman who prefers Routine.  But no; I still believed that I was NOT a woman of Routine.

Every day, I spend time reading my Bible, doing a devotion, writing in my journal, and just reading. ¬†Whenever I have gone home to visit family, I don’t do any of those things–except read. ¬†When we went to Disney World two years ago, not only did I not do those things while we were on vacation, I also didn’t do them for the rest of the year once we got back home. ¬†When my parents, my son, and I went to Pigeon Forge this past week, in spite of taking my Bible, devotional, journal, and my book with me, I didn’t open a single one the whole trip.

I also don’t eat any salads or other fruits and vegetables when I’m traveling. ¬†It’s just so much easier to eat junk food and imagejpeg_osnacks. ¬†Nor do I exercise in any way–unless you count going swimming (which I don’t because I usually just get in the pool to get wet and cool off rather than doing any actual swimming). ¬†And once I’m home, rather than going to the gym the very next day, it’s several days later before I get back to going.

Now that we have been home for two-and-a-half days, I am finding it a pure and complete pleasure to be able to get back into my Routine….I have caught up with my Bible reading (I’m reading the Bible through in a year, so I have a plan I’m trying to stick to), I’m writing in my journal again, and all the rest! ¬†And I love it. ¬†I’m finding that I really missed THIS part of my days. ¬†While going on vacation and/or visiting family are things that I love and want to do, I am finding that I would much rather stay home–mostly because in staying home, I am able to stay in my Routine!

What does any of this have to do with writing? ¬†Everything. ¬†I didn’t do any writing–journaling or otherwise–while I was on vacation/visiting family. ¬†It just seems rude to go to a private place and be by myself even for just an hour to do the things that I so love to do and that are a part of my regular daily Routine–when I’m home.

I am either going to have to find a way to continue my regular daily Routine no matter where I am or what I’m doing, or I’m going to have to quit going on vacation!!! ¬†It’s no wonder, though, that I’m not getting the writing done that I so desperately want to do. ¬†Once I get out of my daily Routine, it takes me several days to get back into it. ¬†So not only do I lose the days I am actually ON vacation, but I also lose several days afterwards as I attempt to acclimate myself back into my regular Routine.

Needless to say, I have learned something important about myself and I am going to use this as a positive learning experience. ¬†Just because I leave my home does not have to mean leaving my whole Routine at home. ¬†These things that I do on a daily basis are important and shouldn’t be swept aside just because I am not in MY Routine for a few days. ¬†I have to make a CONSCIOUS effort to keep doing the important things I need–and want–to do.

My mom and I at the TITANIC museum in Pigeon Forge, TN.

My mom and I at the TITANIC museum in Pigeon Forge, TN.

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