A Writer’s Net for Catching Ideas: Keeping a Writer’s Journal (What, How, and Why)

Today I’m here to talk about keeping a writer’s journal: what it is, why I do, and why — if you’re a writer — you should too. πŸ˜‰

Nearly nine years ago, on November 17, 2008, I pulled out one of my many hoarded empty journals, and started my first volume of what I called “A Forest of Thought: An Author’s Journal”.

I call it my writer’s notebook/journal these days, but each year since finishing that first journal on December 31, 2010, I’ve started a new Writer’s Journal on January 1st of each year, which means I’m currently on my 8th volume. (I may actually stick with this current one for another year since it has room, but we’ll see.)

So, your question: what is a writer’s journal, and why have one?

Firstly, it is not what I call my writing log (which is where I keep a list of all the writing I do each week, throughout the year) and it’s not a place for journaling in diary-form about what it’s like to be a writer (though occasionally such thoughts will creep in).

For me, at least, it’s my catch-all go-to place for keeping writerly notes.

  • New story idea? Goes in the journal.
  • Cool name I want to save for later? In the journal.
  • Pages of frustration about how I’m stuck in my writing? Journal.
  • Snatches of dialog at 2 a.m. because my characters were talking in my head when I wanted to be asleep? Ditto.(Though these I often type in on my phone and transfer them to my journal in the morning.)
  • Random fact or cool thing I saw that day, or description I jotted down about a building I went by, or an overheard conversation? That goes in the journal too.
  • Writerly to-do lists? Yep, that too.
  • Lists and lists and lists of WIPs? Lots of those.
  • Snatches of poetry? In it goes.
  • Hit an exciting place in my writing (like finishing a story)? That goes in there too.
  • Interesting dreams? Jot ’em down. (Never underestimate the power of dreams for ideas.)
  • And, probably the most common one (besides random ideas), are new plot point flashes of inspiration for any of my dozen or so WIPs. So many breakthroughs.

Basically, this is where I write down all those things that I think “Oh! That’s cool! So cool that I’ll remember it.” Because… I don’t. How many awesome ideas have I had, only to lose them to the mists of mysterious brain fog of forgetfulness, and kicked myself over losing… I’ll tell you, it’s been a LOT.

Which is why I decided to start keeping one journal, specifically for all my writerly thoughts. I’ve had lots of other journals, for writerly or non-writerly purposes, and I still sometimes use other ones for writing-related stuff, but mostly, I stick with these, which makes it handy and easy for me to know where to find my ideas.

The first page of my first Forest of Thought journal. (Please excuse the dubious punctuation. *cough* Also, disclaimer: my handwriting is rarely this neat because I’m usually in a hurry. XD)

Because let me tell you, these journals are a gold mine of ideas. You may not know what to do with an idea when you first have it, but believe me, when you’re about to start a random novel the next day for NaNoWriMo and you’ve never done it before, these notes scribbled down over time are going to be a lifesaver.

I give this example because it’s what I did my first NaNo — I spur-of-the-moment decided to write a book the next month, and I had a vague idea, but flipping through my very first Forest of Thought notebook was when I gathered all the ideas I needed to turn it into more of a book.

The final lines of The Owl of Kedran’s Wood were originally more or less a random snippet I wrote in there one day and had no idea who said it — imagine my surprise when it found its way into the lives of Tare and the Chess Club and formed the perfect ending to book one.

The snatch of song that became so central to my novella The Rose and the Raven was originally jotted down much earlier at random.

The idea for countless of my WIPs began with a few hastily scribbled lines in my Forest of Thought journals.

So many characters have gotten names at the right moment when I needed them because I flipped back through and found the right one I had saved.

If I’m stuck or discouraged, I go to the pages of my notebook and scribble down my thoughts and usually find my way out of the woods, or at least I know what my problem is and feel better.

And there’s no greater way to get re-inspired to go back to working on a project than to be perusing my old notes and find how excited I was about a plot-twist I had scribbled down and semi-forgotten.

But even aside from all the usefulness, it’s just a wonderfully secure feeling to know that even if you don’t actually USE your idea, or won’t for years, that at least you didn’t lose it forever, like if you said you’d remember it and then the next morning — gone. Having that security and peace of mind is fantastic.

It’s also a handy way to keep an eye on the chronicles of your writing career, as for-fun or serious as you want it to be. Each volume of my Forest of Thought journals (I call them FT: Volume 1, Vol 2, etc. and am currently on FT8) has a different flavor, both because they’re all different shapes/sizes/”feels”/looks, and because I go through different books I’m working on or focusing on, and I remember that and associate the different years with those books.

Sometimes if I’m trying to remember when I started a story, I can say “Oh, well I wrote about it in my green journal, which was in 2013, so that must be when I started”. It’s chronicling my journey as a writer, and all while saving great ideas that I periodically go back and glean from the many pages I’ve filled.

The hardest thing? Getting into the habit of writing in your writer’s journal.

It took me years to find the balance and get so that when I had an idea I would be sure to write it down.

2008 and 2009, I hardly did any writing in my journal — just every few months, if I had a really interesting idea and remembered to write it down, I would sometimes remember. Later in 2010 was when I got more active with it, and by the end of the year I was chronicling my NaNo adventures most days, and managed to fill the last page on December 31st. The opportunity to start a new journal on January 1 was too much to resist, and I’ve done it every year since. I often fill the whole journal and write on the last page on the last day of the year, but sometimes I don’t fill it and end up leaving the final pages blank so I can start a new one, but it’s a tradition of mine that I look forward to the most about the new year: starting my new writing journal the first day of the year. πŸ™‚

It’s hard to turn it into a habit to remember to write in your journal all the time, especially without thinking you need to write something even when you have nothing to scribble, but I think I finally have it down. So far this year and last year, I’ve written something (even if it’s just a single note/jot/name) in my writing notebooks every week except one. (Yes, I keep track of my writing each week in a writing log on my computer, and I noticed this trend and have kept it up.) It hasn’t really been on purpose, but even if it’s just a note to say that I’m stuck on something, it really has become a habit to dip into my journal at least once a week with whatever writerly ideas are on my mind.

But remember, I started this process nearly a decade ago, and it’s only in the last year or two that I’ve gotten better about remembering most of the time — and I still sometimes think of something and don’t jot it down, so the process isn’t perfect. πŸ˜‰ So if you’d like to do something like this, don’t feel discouraged if it doesn’t work out for awhile. Just keep at it and save those ideas!

If you’re not an oldschool journal hoarder like me, try keeping your notes on your phone or in a file on your computer — sometimes I wish I did that because they’d be searchable. XD And at times I do opt for typing my ideas when I have a LOT of them, and so they don’t go into the journal because it’s more efficient. But I do enjoy having a physical place to keep notes with a physical pen — it’s soothing for me, and also handy if I don’t have my laptop with me. But if it’s likely to make you procrastinate keeping notes, then don’t let the idea that it has to be a physical notebook keep you from doing something like this–just do it on your computer, like I said! Just try to make it a habit to keep those ideas, somewhere you can go to save your thoughts.

Later this week, on Friday, I’ll be celebrating 9 years of A Forest of Thought: An Author/Writer’s Journal, and starting (hopefully) on my tenth year keeping a writing journal. My FT volumes have been some of my best friends through my writing years, something in which I can confide my story ideas and struggles. (They of course can’t outdo real, actual writer friends, who are the absolute BEST. ;))

I’m very glad I started back in 2008, and I look forward to much more scribbling. πŸ™‚ I know I wouldn’t be the same writer without them.

I will leave you with the last words from my first volume, penned December 31, 2010:

Onward to new horizons! Horizons never seen, horizons merely dreamt of, horizons that have but been glimpsed — onward!

How about you? How do you save all those little ideas/tidbits/plotbunnies? Thanks for reading! ^_^

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#WIPjoy: The Siren and the Skyship

During October, I was following along (some of the time) with #WIPjoy (Work In Progress Joy) by Bethany Jennings, on Twitter, answering the prompts I wanted to answer, with The Siren and the Skyship, my NaNo novel.

I thought it would be fun to gather my answers and post them all here, for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter or just want to read them all at once! (And, to be honest, so I can see what I said and remember it, for part of my plotting. XD)

I also just figured out how to embed tweets in a post, so I’m feeling technologically advanced. XD Bear with me… *cough*

I’ll be muchly busy with NaNo, and I know I haven’t replied to some comments and haven’t done much blogging because I’ve been busy trying to prep for this month-long writing adventure and had other road blocks like colds and computer issues, BUT I STILL LOVE YOU, I PROMISE. I do have some blog things coming up and hope to catch up on comments and things very soon.

Love you guys!

BRB, have a novel to write.

(And a short story since I’m minorly rebelling for NaNo and starting with a short story…)

Enjoy…

Day 1: Introduce your WIP!

Day 2: Tell us about YOU

Day 5: Ask a question other writers might be able to help with!

Protagonist Week

Day 8: Introduce the MC (share a pic!)

Day 9:Β  How would your MC use Twitter?

Day 14: Who is the MC’s best friend?

Day 19: Your biggest daydream about this WIP’s future.

Day 20: When your WIP is a movie, what would the credits sequence be like?

Character Takeover Week

Day 22: Antagonist – Favorite snack food?

Day 23: Protagonist – Last dream you had?

Day 24: Side character – Is the author evil?

Day 25: Antagonist – What’s something that keeps you up at night?

Day 26: Protagonist – How do you like to celebrate your birthday?

Day 27: Side character – Your secret vice?

Day 28:Β  Protagonist – Worst way to die?

End of October Fun!

Day 29: What’s something that’s creepy in your WIP?

Day 30: How do your characters celebrate Halloween (or other holiday), if they do?

Day 31: Your dream cosplay from your WIP!

And there you are!

I hope you enjoyed this mini-look into my Work in Progress — thanks for reading! ^_^

My (Not-So-)Secret Weapons For Surviving NaNoWriMo

So, confession time. It’s Monday, which means I post here (usually). I had an idea for a grand POST TO END ALL POSTS about NaNo and surviving and EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW, IN ONE HANDY POST. Unfortunately, I’ve neither written it, nor have I taken my own advice and gotten prepared for NaNo yet, PLUS I realized that most of my tips are… well… in previous posts?

Therefore! I will mention a handful of new things I’ve discovered that help, and then leave you to peruse my previous NaNo posts (linked at end) for further tips, if you’re so interested.

Because we’re a half a month away from NaNo (WHAAT???) and I’ll be honest: I’m not ready.

I’m so, so not ready.

I need to go spend my time prepping for NaNo, plotting my novel, and trying to conquer my several-miles-long to-do-list. IN TWO WEEKS, MIGHT I ADD. *tries not to collapse and curl up and hide behind a tapestry* Rehashing all the stuff I’ve said about NaNo in previous posts is, sadly, not going to help with that. XD

ANYWAY! Behold, a few of my recently discovered (since my previous posts) not-so-secret weapons for conquering NaNo!

Tools in My NaNo Toolkit

Time

(pinterest)

Time is your enemy during NaNo (TICKING DOWN TO THE END NOOOO) but it can also be your friend.

How?

Well, I’m a long-time advocate of wordwarring (with friends, and with oneself on a timer), but also: during this last Camp NaNo, I discovered the magic of setting a timer for an hour and focusing on writing just for that time. Can take a break afterward, but focusing NOW. Just for an hour.

I can usually write 1K in an hour, which means (theoretically; hear my story laughing at me. XD) it should be a couple of hours per day, yes? *cough*Leavemetomydelusions.*cough*

Make time your ally: use it with timers and word-sprints and chunks of writing time for focusing.

Make it work FOR you.

Scrivener

Screenshots for this year (below, top) and last year’s NaNo (below, bottom)

SCRIVENER IS MAGIC, OKAY. I used it last year and it. was. amazing. I hate buying software and stuff because I’m cheap and like free things, but I tried it free for a month during NaNo last year and loved it so much I got it (half-off with a NaNo coupon).

The plotting and organizing features give me life, and having a word-count goal set on each individual chapter/section/day was SO helpful — and the fluidity of being able to merge or separate them at will was amazing. I also utilized the full-screen writing mode to lessen distractions, and loved to make it a slightly-smaller window to write in, with a small window of my browser open in another part of the screen, showing the counting-down wordsprint tool on the NaNo site. πŸ˜€ SO motivational!

All the planning

This one is both old and new. I’m keeping notes in a dedicated-journal just for this project, which is helpful/inspiring. The journal and the scrivener are the new things, but planning is SUPER IMPORTANT. Unless you’re a pantser, in which case I salute your bravery. I reeeally need to do a braindump scribbling-down of all my ideas (so many scenes and things in my head!) and then organize those and make an outline… But anyhow. Plot plot plot!

Bullet Journal to stay organized

Please note, I keep an “ugly” bullet-journal, which is to say, I don’t make mine a work of art and I don’t actually “journal” much (like talk about what I did; I just mark stuff off).

It’s like a daily/weekly/monthly/planner thing which I use with bullet-points of to-do-lists and things going on, and I usually plan it out a week or a month in advance.

I’ve done stuff like this before, but this is the first time I’ve had an actual bjournal (my abbreviation) to do it with.

I have a page or two of to-do lists for October, and will have one for November. I have a page for a to-do list for each week. And I have a page for every day, with info at the top about stuff going on, and a to-do list. Also daily trackers in a list on one page for keeping track of stuff I should do every day and don’t want to rewrite over and over, and a calendar list so I can keep track of what’s going on.

It doesn’t have to be fancy (in fact, please don’t try!) but both for pre-NaNo-prep, and for NaNo itself, it’s very handy to keep track of stuff!

NaNo runs at an insane pace, and I’m seriously going to need this in order to keep life/writing/ML-ing straight. Not to mention daily wordcount goals listed each day… πŸ˜‰

Draft Zero

Last but not least: Draft Zero.

I SERIOUSLY need to do a post about this, but it’s basically getting the story down in its most basic form. It’s a mix of extreme plotting (but super vague too? It’s hard to explain) and very rough first-draft. It kind of bridges drafting and outlining so that I can Howl* myself into writing without actually writing, and then it’s easy to expand into a real first-draft.

I have so far only done this in segments — like a scene or chapter at a time (often out of order) and then expand it. I used it especially for the ending of my short story Darkling Reflections (actually the last third of it) and my novella The Rose and the Raven. Super helpful.

I WILL post about it someday, but basically don’t worry about spelling/punctuation/sentences; just write down what happens in brief bullet-point order (dialog included!) and throw in descriptions/whatever, whenever you feel like it. Basically give yourself permission to make a mess on the page.

I may try to do this for NaNo, or I may just do it each day as my outline-plotting before turning each chapter into a first-draft chapter day by day. Not sure yet. Either way, it’s my biggest secret weapon, and with it in my toolkit, NaNo-doubt doesn’t have a chance. πŸ˜‰

*Apologies for those who don’t understand this Howl’s Moving Castle reference. It derives from a quote Howl said about being a coward — and the only way he can trick himself into doing things is pretending he’s NOT doing them. I’m very Howl-ish and am a slitherer-outer. XD

***

And there you have my 5 new tips. Thank goodness I only did five because otherwise this post would be enormous. XD

I hope these tips (and the ones below) help you. But you know what? Even if you don’t have tools or secret weapons, even if you’re not prepared for NaNo… you can still do this. If you have a story you want to tell, then that is all you need.

All you REALLY need is to show up each day in November at the screen (or pen/paper) and look in your heart and write.

You’ve got this, writer! I believe in you! Now get out there and conquer this NaNo. πŸ™‚

Check out more tips below. ^_^ THANKS FOR READING, AND GOOD LUCK! ❀

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Augtember Ishness: Steampunk & Star Trek & Beren, Oh My!

August – September 2017

Hello, my Roadlings! It’s October! I don’t actually want to hear that, but, well… such is life. Speaking of life, here are some Ishnesses of mine from the last two months. (Shh, of course Augtember is a legitimate month…)

LIFE

I was mostly busy with Life-ish and some Internet-ish things, but here are a few random things of interest that happened:

Sometimes I art. (Dragon from Jenelle’s Minstrel’s Song series for the Fellowship of Fantasy Fan Art Contest. I didn’t win but a different picture for the same series did. XD)

Sometimes I’m interviewed. This was one of those times. (Thanks, Emily!)

Sometimes I see an eclipse. (“See” is here a vague word. I didn’t look directly at it but the shadows did fascinating things.)

Sometimes I have a blogoversary. (A 4 year one at that!) I was so excited to give away books and celebrate. ‘Twas a blast! ^_^

Sometimes I start getting ready for being an ML (Municipal Liaison) for NaNoWriMo again this year. (‘Twill be my 5th year as an ML and 8th year participated in NaNo. I’m surprised too. What happened to Time, again?)

(Left-to-right: March-June bjournal-the-first, July-September bjournal-the-second, and as-yet-unstarted hopefully-bjournal-the-next. Also known as: whatever the latest journal I found at a library sale was when I needed to start a new bjournal. XD)

Sometimes I finish another bjournal. (Bullet Journal, for those unfamiliar with my bizzare and strangely-Nordic abbreviation.) I’d say “sorry to see you go, Max Out On A Limb” but I’m not actually sorry, because it wasn’t the easiest journal to write in so I’m actually relieved to be finished that one. Time to start the next one… (On my to-do list for today.)

WRITING

pixabay

I took a writing (and blogging) hiatus in August. It was much needed after a very busy July Camp NaNo when I “wrote” 30 hours.

I then proceeded to accidentally take a semi-hiatus from writing for most of September too, because I couldn’t decide what to work on and Life got busy.

Basically, I didn’t do much writing in the last two months. >.> Like… at all.

I did fiddle with a few stories (including Tare’s because he doesn’t ever leave me alone for too long because he’s guilt-trippy considerate like that. ^_^) so it wasn’t a total loss. Hopefully I benefited from the break?

I did, however, after much panicking (see above image. XD), finally decide what I’m writing for NaNoWriMo next month! πŸ˜€ *has minor heart-attack at the words “next month” being used to refer to November*

I’m (hopefully) writing The Siren and the Skyship, a Steampunk-Fantasy Little Mer(man?) retelling, WHICH I AM RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED ABOUT. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it this month and next, so don’t worry, there will be more on this subject sometime. XD

READING

I read 8 new books, re-read 4 (okay, one was read TO me on audiobook and was so fun!), and read a non-fiction too. Much lovely reading these last two months!

I was particularly excited to re-read The Silmarillion (it had been a few years since I read it last, so this was AMAZING!) and reading the new Beren and Luthien book, which was delightful! ^_^ I’m so pleased to (after far too long) be dipping back into Tolkien! In case anyone’s wondering, The Silmarillion is fabulous and my world from my childhood, and Tolkien’s Beren and Luthien poetry is amazing. ❀

Also The Little White Horse IS AWESOME and everyone needs to read it. And everyone also needs to read “Art and the Bible” if you’re a writer, or want to be a writer, or read, or anything.

I loved pretty much all the rest of the books I read too! πŸ™‚ (Listed below, linked if I reviewed them recently.)

(If you’re interested, links to these books are on my Goodreads challenge page.)

WATCHING

So I watched a lot of things recently, which is rare for me. Maybe since I wasn’t writing?

I’m once again reminded that I don’t actually like to have opinions about movies because then I have to… well have opinions, and movies are my “fun” thing that I don’t do all the time and am not as passionate about as books. So I find I don’t always know what I think of movies, other than generally enjoying them… or something.

Anyway, they included:

  • The Secret of Moonacre — I saw the movie before the book! o.o I know, I’m so horrible. *coughcough* I quite enjoyed it, though I did enjoy the book (The Little White Horse) more once I read it. They’re toootally different, in a way. The film is fun but the book as AMAZING. ❀ (The movie did haveΒ Ioan Gruffudd as the grouchy uncle though, so that was fun. XD)
  • Star Trek — The three new Star Trek movies and a few episodes of the Original Series of Star Trek (I had never seen anything Star-Trek-related before; suddenly I’m understanding SO MANY references. I feel enlightened about cultural references now. XD) both of which were rather fun. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan in general? So, not my faaavorite, but I do find myself rather attached to Kirk and Spock and others. *nodnod* Overall, both the new and old versions were quite fun in their way. πŸ™‚ (Yes, I saw the Tribbles; poor Kirk. XD Yes, I liked the timey-wimey stuff in the first new movie. Yes, Benedict CucumberKahn was interesting. Yes, it was weird that New-Kirk’s dad and mom were Thor and Emma Swann.)
  • Tuck Everlasting — Um. Bittersweet? I was bad again and saw it before reading the book (on my list) but it was kind of fun… kind of… except for some of it… I dunno what I think about it. πŸ˜› The idea was neat and I loved the melody thing… Fun-ish. πŸ™‚
  • Spider-Man — I had never seen anything Spidey-ish, other than his cameo in Captain America 3, but this month I managed to see the first two Tobey Maguire films. Pretty fun, though seemingly unnecessarily focused on “let’s make Spidey’s life miserable”. XD Not my faaave, but again, I feel so cultured now. XD
  • Saw Captain America: Civil War again, and Emma (with Pepper Potts and Obi-Wan; shush, I can call it that) again. That Emma film is quite fun, and I’m only in CA:CW for Bucky and Hawkeye and Bucky. *cough* Basically I want a Bucky and Hawkeye and Agent Hill movie. Is that so much to ask?
  • Aaand I started Once Upon a Time. I’ve seen all of 5 episodes so I’m not very far along. XD But, again, I now feel sooo much like I can start “getting” things. XD Quite fun thus far; curious where it’ll go. πŸ™‚
  • I saw some other stuff but those are the highlights. πŸ™‚ Basically, now I Know Things.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

Attention, everyone!

There’s going to be a blog tour, coming soon (early November) and it’s going to be cool! It’s going to be… Vintage Jane Austen Week! So if you’re a blogger and want to a) interview some awesome authors, b) read and review some of those awesome Jane Austen retellings set in the 1930s that I’ve been flailing about, or c) share the word with a spotlight post . . . then NOW IS THE TIME. The time to sign up, that is! Which you can do HERE. Otherwise, be watching out for that, because there’ll be cool stuff and a giveaway and it’ll be grand, basically. ^_^ (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can find out more about the series here.)

OCTOBER PLANS

Whew! What a busy couple of months, with much reading and watching and not-writing (whoooops) and a lot of lifely things which don’t seem interesting to report but somehow keep me quite busy outside of said mentioned things.

My upcoming plans include:

  • Starting a new bjournal (because how else can I keep track of all the things I need to do and don’t have time for? *coughcough*).
  • Doing ALL THE NANO PLOTTING AAAAHHH.
  • Freaking out about said NaNo’s approach (shhh, we all do it).
  • Trying to read ALL THE THINGS and review them and basically do a few months’ worth of work and projects BEFORE NANO.
  • Because clearly I’m insane. XD
  • *slumps* Yes, it’s that time of year when I’m trying to clear slates and do EVERYTHING, while trying to plot a novel (oh, I capitalized that as Novel when I first typed it. Feeling important, are we?).
  • Which is only slightly less insane than ACTUALLY trying to write a 50,000 word Novel (I did it again; must be reflexes trying to write November, or NaNo. Or a steampunk story with delusions of grandeur) in a month.
  • But we won’t think about that until November, right? RIIIIGHT???
  • [I lie. I’m going to be thinking about it 24/7 for the next month.] Ahem.

ANYWAY. That’s it for today! Thanks for reading my (dubiously interesting?) rambles about the ishnesseseses (precioussss) of my last one-sixth-of-a-year (goodness, that sounds long, where have I been?) — and have a splendiferous October, friends! It’s Fall and almost NaNo and we don’t know what to do about it, but let’s have a glorious fun mess of a time, shall we? *gives out cupcakes and throws Fall(en?) leaves and NaNo-prep-papers like confetti*

P.S. I may or may not be sharing tidbits about The Siren and the Skyship on Twitter all month for #WIPjoy. And also may or may not be participating in #Drachtober as well. You know, if I have time to keep up with both, which is dubious. XD Also, in regard to Drachtober, Jenelle is having a short story challenge on her blog, so check it out.

P.P.S. Thanks for reading! (Again.)

P.P.P.S. I feel like Gandalf now. This is marvelous. (Never resist the urge to use several postscripts. Embrace your inner Gandalf! And you will never be late! Or something. Because… wizards? *laughs at own joke* …Yeah, okay, I’m done now.)

12 Tips for Depressed Writers

Dear writers who feel depressed,

I know you’re out there. I know because you’re in here, too — in me, sometimes.

Listen, because I have something to say.

Maybe sometimes you don’t feel like a writer. Maybe sometimes you feel like a depressed wannabe-writer who doesn’t-actually-want-to because you feel so down. Maybe you feel depressed that you haven’t finished that first draft, haven’t written in six months (or longer), don’t know how to start, or haven’t perfected your editing skills yet.

Dear writers, I have been there. We have all been depressed writers from time to time. And it’s sad. It should not define us, but sometimes it’s hard to see past it. I understand, but I also believe in hope.

Here are some tips I have for helping you shake off that heavy mantle of depression that’s tripping you up on the road up your mountain of writing.

(pixabay)

I’m hardly ever this serious about things on my blog, but it’s a serious topic and my heart bleeds for each of you who is struggling. Because I’ve felt it. So I decided to put my heart out there and say something, for once. Even if nobody wants my heart, at least I’ve tried to give it, right? πŸ™‚

I’m not saying I have all the answers. I definitely don’t. But if even one of these touches your heart and helps you lift your head and move forward a little stronger, to write and do great things, then I will be so very happy. πŸ™‚ Some may seem very simple and obvious, but maybe give them a try anyway.

These are things I’ve been learning help me to shake off depressed-writer moments, and are largely to remind myself of them. Most of them can apply to life-in-general as well, but I’m applying them to writing today, because I’m a writer. πŸ˜‰

They’ve helped me from time to time. I hope they will help you as well.

(And if you don’t have time to read this whole post, skip to the end and read the ending. :))


Take care of your health.

Yes, this does matter. I say it as one who neglects my own health far too often. Get enough sleep, remember to eat halfway nutritious meals, and be sure to drink enough water. (I could have made this into three separate points, but I’m generalizing and putting these together. Sleep. Food. Water. Most important after air, yes? πŸ˜‰ Sounds simple, I know, but sometimes I at least don’t take them seriously enough!) Living on caffeine and adrenaline can work for short time periods, but if you do it too much you’re going to burn out, get tired, and not feel the motivation to write. I started drinking ten glasses of water every day, and I’ve felt so much better since then (I used to get headaches a lot, and now I have them much less. And I can’t write with a headache. :P). I know it’s easy to neglect one’s health, because I do it ALL. THE. TIME. Do not be me. Let’s all try to do better about it, okay? Because we’re doing this living-on-this-Earth thing and that seems to require taking care of ourselves… much as I’d like to just read or write 24/7. XD


Move around.

Yes, this can definitely include going on inspirational walks. Always, always. So much inspiration out there! But it’s more than that, too. We writers, and anyone whose job is sitting at a computer most of the day, do not move around enough. It’s a proven fact that most people nowadays in this digital age do not move enough out of our repeated, unvaried motions, and it’s taken a toll on our musculoskeletal alignment. (Like that word? :P) Have you noticed that your neck and head lean forward most of the time, even when you’re standing? No wonder we’re depressed writers! We’re constantly in postures of dejected sadness, and that DOES send a message to our body to be sad. Try walking around with your head up for a bit and see what happens. I betcha you’ll feel happier. Until relaxing back into our habitual slump. Because unfortunately we can’t just fix this by trying to have better posture; it has to go deeper than that, which is where moving comes in. I’ve only gotten over this at times by doing enough varied stretches, which I learned about after messing my back up in a major way. I managed to escape the pain and fix my back by doing exercises from this book: Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. (Or this one: Pain Free at Your PC.) I recommend it for anyone who uses computers. πŸ™‚ Or… really anyone. I admit I’m not the best about doing it every day, but it makes me feel great, inspires me to move, and that in turn gets me more writing inspiration.


Let go of the past and your guilt and forgive yourself.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve had long stretches of time where you haven’t written, and you’ve felt guilty about it. Well, the past is the past, our past failures are OVER, and while of course there will be future failures because we’re all human, they don’t have to be the same ones, and they don’t have to be taken for granted and expected and feared. Any time I think “Well, I haven’t succeeded in finishing a novel in so many years that I guess I won’t be able to do so ever again”, I need to stop and say NO. Our past mistakes and failures do not define us, and we have stepped to the present, toward a future where we don’t have to live in our failures. We can try again, and again, and again, as many times as necessary, but we can’t try if we don’t believe there’s even a chance of succeeding; if we let our pasts define us. FORGIVE YOURSELF. Start over. Writing should be a joy; LIVING should be a joy. No matter the hardships, don’t let your mistakes or struggles define you. This is true of many things, not just writing. Let yourself be more than your past failures.


Just start.

Starting is the hardest. I know this, because most of the time that I don’t write, I don’t write because I don’t know how to start. As long as you realize this is one of the hardest things, then you can fight it, and at least TRY. Set a timer or something to trick yourself into starting. Tell yourself it doesn’t have to be perfect (because it doesn’t). Just start.


Keep going and don’t you dare ever ever give up.

Remember I said starting is the hardest? Well, keeping going is possibly in that top spot as well. (Shush, they can share and be twins.) I’m not saying you can’t take breaks (because you definitely should), and I’m definitely not saying that if you don’t write for awhile, you should feel guilty. NOT AT ALL. But don’t give up the dream. Keep showing up to write, even if it’s only once a month, even if you find you can’t write for months together because of college or work or family or that amazing multi-volume series you’re reading. But come back. Don’t give up. Don’t say “I don’t think I’m a writer so I shouldn’t try.” That’s rubbish. It may feel like it sometimes — oh, so many times; I know; I’ve been there — but don’t give in to that. Take a break, or accept that in this season of your life, you can’t write at the moment; but do come back. And just keep writing. After starting, continuing is the next-hardest. But do NOT believe that you are a no-good writer who shouldn’t even try anymore, because that is so far from true, and if even a tiny part of you wants to be a writer, then you ARE one. Don’t give in to the doubts. Don’t give up. Keep showing up to write, even if you can’t do it every day (and let’s face it, not many of us can. But we can keep going all the same).


Don’t be afraid.

Another reason, besides the starting issue, that I don’t write much, is that I’m afraid. Of so many things. That I won’t get it right, that I won’t know how to start, that I’ll mess it up somehow, that I won’t know what to say, that I’m neglecting all the potentiality of the story, that someone will interrupt me, etc. etc. etc. So much fear. So don’t be. What’s the worst that happens? So it’s not as good as it could have been? Then keep trying, and it will get better, with time and patience and practice and courage. We writers can be a courageous bunch if we try, braving tired fingers, late nights, harrowing quests, mind-numbing plot-hole construction, battering against writers’ block, wrangling unruly characters, letting others read our hearts on paper, putting one word after another…

WRITER, YOU ARE BRAVE. I believe this, as I believe few other things. So be brave, and do not fear. The darkness cannot have you, because you are shining a light of story in defiance against it.


Get some sunlight.

This might be controversial but just stick with me briefly. Getting a bit of sunshine and Vitamin D is SO IMPORTANT. People who live in cold, northerly places don’t get enough sun in the winter and can get super depressed, so if you’re a writer who spends a lot of time indoors, you are probably not getting enough sun. (*raises hand* Guilty.) Believe it or not, this insufficiency really affects our emotions and can leave us feeling super depressed, which in turn can affect the rest of our lives, including our writing. The sun does NOT actually kill you, I promise. I don’t go outside enough and I know I get depressed when I haven’t had enough sun, which does not help my writing. -_- We were not built to live in caves with no sun; like plants, we need it, people. I don’t believe in sun lotion etc. because I’m a very natural person and I don’t want all sorts of ingredients on my skin because who knows where they’ve been. But if you’re afraid of sunburns, believe me, so am I; I sunburn REALLY bad, but I use coconut oil on my skin and it burns less, and I also use it afterward if I do happen to get a burn, and it really helps. (Coconut oil is amazing. <3) And I get all that lovely sun, which makes me feel so much better. πŸ™‚ And I’m way less likely to want to write if I’m feeling depressed. πŸ˜› (I know I sound like a health-and-outdoors commercial in some of this post, which is hilarious and/or ironic because usually I don’t take care of myself or leave my little writer lair, but I know that I SHOULD, and when I do, it tends to help. πŸ˜› Remember, this post is to tell me things, too!)


Get some metaphorical sunlight too.

And by metaphorical sunlight, I mean some happiness and joy. I know books thrive on the scary and the darkness and all the problems for the protagonists. I know many readers enjoy dark tales, and many writers delight in penning those darkest nights in their stories. But don’t forget the dawn. Don’t forget about metaphorical light. Don’t forget that sometimes we need happy endings. Happy endings — and, well, happiness in general — have gone out of fashion in the world of late. (Though that’s, perhaps, a topic for another time.) But if we focus always on the bad, the dark, the depressing — no wonder everyone’s depressed! So don’t always think only about the darkness — remember that there is light, too, and joy and love and goodness. Read a lighthearted book, or throw in some jokes or an unexpected happy moment for your protagonist, or just think about good things from time to time. It helps. If all you think about is the fact that you’re a depressed writer, you won’t know how to be anything else. So find that sunlight!

β€œThere goes Mig with her happy endings again,” Chris said. But I don’t care. I like happy endings. And I asked Chris why something should be truer just because it’s unhappy. He couldn’t answer.


Pray.

I’ll briefly touch on this one. For Christian writers, who are depressed about writing etc., try asking God to help you with it. It does make a difference, I promise. πŸ™‚ Pray that you’ll know what to write, that you’ll not feel as down or worried. This is something I neglect often, I’m afraid, but it’s super important. If you’re not the praying type, at least try thinking positively about your writing, okay? It can make a huge difference. πŸ™‚


Take a break.

This may seem counter-intuitive. And sometimes, for me at least, I’m pretty depressed about my writing because I’ve taken too long of an (accidental) break and haven’t written in too long. Writing makes me happy, and I get pretty down if I haven’t in awhile. But sometimes, especially when we’re stuck or not feeling it… take a PURPOSEFUL break. Decide you are not going to write for this week, or this month, or whatever; set that time, and relax and notwrite GUILT-FREE. Just don’t allow yourself to write, and usually (at least for me), we will end up inspired and re-energized and itching to write again once that time is up. Even if it doesn’t happen quite that way, it’s still important to take time where you don’t write and where it’s okay. Recharging is a good thing. So rest sometimes. And don’t worry about it. Come back to writing when you’re done, but do rest.


Know that your story matters.

You matter, and your story matters, and nobody can tell your story like you can. It’s not just your little unimportant scribbling. Subcreating and telling stories and being poets is IMPORTANT. Stories have been around as long as there have been words to tell them with, and something seemingly “frivolous” and “unimportant” as that would. not. be. around. still. if they were not extremely important. I know sometimes our little tales just don’t seem like they matter, but they DO. So do not give in to doubts. Know that writing matters and whether it’s for just yourself, or your family and friends, or the whole world, no matter how big or how small, it’s important, and it’s important to keep telling good stories. I know it’s easy to sink into the trap of thinking that nobody will care, that if we just quietly fade away and don’t write, that it’s okay. But if you have a passion for telling stories, it’s far more important than you believe. So just do your best, and don’t believe in your niggling worries that none of it matters, because it DOES. You are the only you there is out there. Just remember that. πŸ™‚


Don’t try to do it alone.

I forget about this one all too often, but it’s so important. Especially if you’re feeling depressed about your writing (or anything else for that matter), find some good writer friends, or a sister, or somebody, who will be there for you and listen and encourage you. If you don’t think you have anybody, you might be surprised — I know I have. In my darkest, loneliest times as a writer, is when I feel the most alone, but that’s when I discover that I’m not alone after all. When I turn elsewhere for help, that’s when I find it — but you have to look for it — you have to ask. I’m very bad at that, and I’m very much a loner (Tare and I have that in common. *cough*), so if I’m stressed about my writing, I don’t always remember that I have beautiful, kind friends who will listen and encourage me and tell me it’s going to be okay. I don’t usually post about such problems on my blog, but when I have, I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness, love, and support I’ve received from so many of you, and I can’t thank you enough. ❀ Don’t do this writer thing alone — find somebody who will exchange emails with you about your writing, or talk over a coffee about it, or respond to a snippet you’ve written, or just tell you to keep going. Writing can be a solitary business, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. So don’t try to do it on your own. Find someone, or several someones, who will walk that path with you, and lift you up when you fall. πŸ™‚


Fin

That’s all I have to say today. Thank you so much for reading.

Dear writers who feel depressed:

I love you. Be loved. Know that you are loved.

And write. Tell stories. Live. Be brave.

Look for the light, because it’s out there. πŸ™‚