Journaling as Meditation

writing_flickrAt nine years old, I put gel pen to Hello Kitty notebook paper and created my first journal entry. I wish I still owned that little notebook to see what issues weighed heavily on my young mind, but I distinctly remember the feelings of freedom and secrecy this simple act unlocked.

I kept a journal quite regularly for many years, only coming to a screeching halt when my parents read the one I’d kept from ages 14—15. I promptly trashed that journal, never wanting to re-read the same thoughts my parents had picked apart.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college, when the pull to have a private space where I could record my thoughts crept up on me in English class. The professor declared it an important practice to keep a journal and part of our homework was to keep a reflection notebook during the class.

Now, as an aspiring writer, logging my thoughts is one of the most important aspects of my writing routine. Every morning I write three pages with stream of consciousness thought — a practice called “morning pages” I learned from the book “Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Getting my often jumbled thoughts down first thing in the morning leaves me clear-headed for the rest of the day.

Still not convinced? Here are some benefits of journaling that might make you want to pick up your pen:

Increased creativity. Sitting down to write regularly will help free your mind from any pesky thoughts that could be blocking creative inspiration. Journaling also lets us view life in a more precise way, because we’re slowing down to internally process our thoughts. Sitting down to mindfully write for a few moments allows the brain to empty onto the page, reset and be recharged for the rest of the day.

Lessened anxiety. Many therapists recommend journaling to ease anxious thoughts. Writing down my worries helps me work through them as they materialize on paper.
If something has been weighing heavily on your mind, write about it, read it over and see if your perception has changed. If you can, take a negative thought you’ve been struggling with and counteract it with (small) steps you can take to fix the problem. Problems often seem overwhelmingly large in our thoughts, but when we write it down it’s easier to accept and find a solution.

Memories. Just as we love looking back at old photos (throwback Thursday, anyone?), reading entries you wrote several years ago is nostalgic and a way to see how far you’ve grown. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read what was important to you five, or even 10 years ago?

Improved Writing Skills. Journaling on a regular basis will help you discover your writing voice. If you get to the point where you’ve filled up several notebooks over the years, looking back on old notebooks will show you how far you’ve come in your writing style. Nobody will read and critique your journal unless you give them permission, so there’s no need to worry about having perfect punctuation or proper grammar. However, if you gain a better understanding of those rules during the course of journaling it’s an added bonus!

Accomplishment. Over time, you can look back and see growth. At the very least, you’ll have a notebook completely filled with your own original thoughts. If you keep with it, you might have a bookshelf filled with musings and the goings-on of your life.

Now that you know the benefits, here are some ideas on how to get started:

Pick out your supplies. This is my favorite part! Did I mention I tend to hoard pens and notebooks? Find a notebook you like enough to use it every day. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive; there are countless inexpensive options online, at a local bookshop or in the office aisle of a retail store.

Make time to write. Personally, I like to journal in the morning. If I’m anxious about something later that day, it helps me to process and plan for the event. If I don’t have anything planned that particular day, I might write down a few goals to accomplish so I start the day on a productive note. Some people prefer to write before bed, to wind down at the end of the day. Find the right time for yourself and it will be much easier to keep the habit going.

Get creative. If the blank page is too intimidating, try writing a list. Maybe it’s a list of goals you want to accomplish by the end of the day, or the top things on your mind at the moment. Or, you could write down all the things you’re grateful for right now — gratitude journals are particularly uplifting.

However you choose to approach journaling, know that you are, at the very least, taking time out of your day for self care. Once you get into a routine of treating your thoughts with the importance they deserve, you’ll become a more authentic and open version of yourself.

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Mama, Bare

mamabareIt’s been a little over a year since my son was born. As his first birthday approached I found myself reflecting on those first few weeks with him. I’d prepared for months — nine long, uncomfortable months of pregnancy leading up to his birth. I wanted everything to be perfect, an annoying type-a tendency of mine. I read the books on how to have the best birth experience, I wanted to go natural, to delay the newborn tests so we could have skin-to-skin first, all the things I’d learned from the countless blogs, books and documentaries.

My first shock back to reality came with my last o.b. appointment and my doctor’s order to have a cesarean the very next morning. Thankfully Julian was born just fine and perfectly healthy. The next month, however, it became clear that our lives were forever changed. It was challenging, sometimes overwhelming and of course filled with so much love, but the constantly crying baby and intense sleep deprivation took a toll on all of us.

I felt like a failure. Now I know this is common and I wish I’d prepared more for that first month instead of focusing all my energy on unattainable perfection.

Anyway, all this to say that I wrote about the first month of motherhood and our story was included in a book! It’s called “Mama, Bare” and is available for purchase on Amazon, or as a digital download here. The stories are raw, painful, beautiful and ultimately healing.

If you or someone close to you is a new mama I certainly recommend reading this book. It gives a sense of community — something so desperately needed when we give birth to our babies and, ultimately, our new selves.

Moments

naturefairytaledoorwayLife is full of electric moments. You know the ones: time stands still, every sense is heightened, and your spirit is split wide open absorbing the moment like a sponge.

I live for those moments. They are spontaneous, yet I find myself attempting to create them, or trying to grasp onto them and stretch time so I can revel in the bubble a little longer.

The first time I experienced this was when I was very young, riding in the backseat of the family car, the windows rolled down on a summer evening. I can still feel the humid air on my face, carrying the scents of honeysuckle and fresh cut grass and dense foliage. I wanted to suspend time so I could keep experiencing the magic.

Nowadays nature still elicits the same response, as does my son’s laughter, or when I’m deep in a writing project, or I hear a beautiful song.

What triggers electric moments for you?

Favorite Books on Writing

Lately I’ve read some great books on writing and it led me to make a list of my favorites so far. I highly recommend the following four titles for anyone who could use some writing inspiration!

birdbybirdBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
This was the first book I read on the topic of a writer’s lifestyle and it didn’t disappoint. I’ve read several of Lamott’s books and when one of my Goodreads friends posted a review of Bird by Bird, I had to get my hands on a copy. It’s a relatively short read (237 pages) and I finished it in one evening, hanging onto every word. Lamott’s writing style may not be for everyone, but I love her conversational tone and emotional honesty.

Favorite quote: “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.”

onwritingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I’m not a huge fan of Stephen King’s work, but there’s no denying the man has an enviable work ethic. King has published more than 50 books — that’s insane! As the title suggests, the book is part memoir, part writing advice. He made a point of mentioning all the rejections he collected in his early days as a writer, and I was inspired by his ability to use those rejections as a decision to work even harder instead of becoming discouraged.
This book should be a must read for every writer.

Favorite quote: “Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

writingdownbonesWriting Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
I’d never heard of Natalie Goldberg before having this book recommended to me. Let me just say that I wanted to highlight and take notes throughout this whole book. It was inspiring, her words were incredibly encouraging, and I know I’ll pick this book up again and again. She has several other books about writing that I’m eager to check out next!

Favorite quote: “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

zenZen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s enthusiasm for writing immediately jumps off the page. His passion for the craft reignites my own flame and that is my ultimate goal when reading books like this. He urges writers to get serious and stretch out of the comfort zone. I particularly liked his advice to write down the nouns bouncing around in your mind. A list like: “The Meadow. The Toy Chest. The Monster” would then become a prompt for a story.

Favorite quote: “You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can’t sleep at night, because your best-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.”

Have you read any of these books? Any not on this list that you think I should check out? Leave a comment and let me know!

My Writing Space

My desk is one of my favorite places. As a writer I spend countless hours sitting at it, either typing on my laptop, writing by hand in a notebook, or procrastinating any number of ways.

I’ve always been fascinated by seeing other writer’s spaces. When I was around 11 years old, my family took me on a short road trip to visit the home of author Gene Stratton-Porter in Rome, Indiana. I’ll never forget that trip, because it’s when I first felt the inspiration of peeking into another writer’s life. Gene’s home in Wildflower Woods is insanely gorgeous and I remember thinking it was the ideal writing space. I still feel that way, and am planning another visit to her memorial soon!

In Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, she writes; “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I agree with this, but am currently writing from one side of the bedroom I share with my husband. I had my own writing room when we first moved to this house, but after a year it turned into my son’s nursery. Someday I’ll have my very own space, and until then I’m very thankful for my cozy corner.

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This is my desk on a tidy day. It usually looks like this, although sometimes it gets bogged down with flurries of papers and coffee cups.

On the far left side of the desk I have two magazine organizers which I use to hold notebooks I’m currently using, my sketchbook and a couple of file folders with important documents. Then, the first row of books are some of my favorite about writing that I own, and the second row are library books I’m working my way through.

That typewriter was a thrift store find for only $10. It came with the 1960 user manual, and I just had to replace the ink ribbon to get it working. I mostly use that pink laptop for all my writing projects and keep notes and lists in notebooks.

Not pictured: my extensive collection of pens and notebooks. That could be a standalone post since I have so many and am particular about which products I prefer.

Happy writing!

Ohio Book Store: a book lover’s paradise

The moment I walked into Ohio Book Store on Main Street, I knew I’d found something special.

My husband heard about the store from a friend, and when he relayed the information to me — five floors of used books in an old building — a visit was inevitable. Our 11-month-old son woke us up extra early yesterday, so we decided to head downtown and check it out.

It paid off to go in the morning because we practically had the place to ourselves. The owner of the bookstore greeted us when we walked in, and one gentleman was browsing on the first floor. So, we set off to explore!

ob_aisle

The view from an aisle in the juvenile section.

The sheer amount of books was overwhelming at first. The shelves towered over me, crammed with jewels waiting to be discovered and toted home. Books spilled out over tables and stacks hunkered haphazardly on the floor or atop the shelves. Vintage crates and boxes held still more treasure, tucked away for who knows how long.

ob_boxesI stopped short in surprise at this sight — an entire aisle of my favorite magazine — National Geographic!

An entire aisle of National Geographic magazines.

An entire aisle of National Geographic magazines.

The oldest copy I found was dated March of 1920.

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I spent the most time perusing these magazines. I could have spent hours in this one section if we’d had more time to spare.

I love the repurposed scotch crates holding all those bright yellow spines.

I love the repurposed scotch crates holding all those bright yellow spines.

Unfortunately we had to leave all too soon. We barely scratched the surface of exploring this incredible place. I already can’t wait to visit again and purchase a few of the titles I saw, if they’re still there!

ob_ngradiator

Aside from having more than 300,000 books and magazines for sale, the bookstore also specializes in custom book binding and restoration. Click here for more information.

If you ever get a chance to check out the Ohio Book Store I highly recommend it. I think it would be the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind gifts for anyone, including yourself, of course!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015

campnano

Have you heard of Camp NaNoWriMo? It’s an online community where 12 people are sorted into a writing group called a cabin. Then, for the month of April, you’re encouraged to consistently work on whatever project you’re itching to finish. I’m going to use the month to edit the novel I wrote during my first NaNoWriMo in 2013.

I’ve won two NaNoWriMos and this will be my first Camp NaNoWriMo. The difference between the two programs is the Camp version is supposed to be more laid back. You can write in any genre and any word count is allowed.

I love joining a community of other writers a few times a year – camps in April and July, regular Nano in November – it inspires me to write daily and the sense of accomplishment at the end is so nice!

There’s exactly one week left to prepare. So far I’ve filled out my camper profile, and started a to-do list of how I can whip my old novel into shape. I’ll probably write a few updates on here about my progress with my NaNo project and I’d love to hear if you’re participating!