Keeping a Journal

Journaling. As Martha Stewart says, “It’s a good thing.” I’ve attempted many times over the years. For some reason, I never stick to it. 

I didn’t realize there are tremendous benefits to spending as little as five minutes, three times per week putting your thoughts or dreams on paper. People from all walks of life are journaling and quietly reaping the rewards.

Recently I enrolled in a writing class and the first assignment was to write in a journal a minimum of three times per week. Getting started was difficult, but after about six entries, it didn’t feel so intimidating. 

The top five reasons for me keeping a journal are: to boost memory and comprehension, to strengthen self-discipline, to spark creativity, to achieve my goals, and to solve problems.

Boosting memory and comprehension.  When you write something down, you’ve told your brain it’s important. It can be your hopes and dreams or something less exciting. Boosting memory and comprehension goes hand-in-hand with sparking creativity. 

Strengthen Self-discipline.  When you actually commit to writing in your journal (make an appointment if you have to), you are putting value to your writing. You’ve made it a priority. Not only for writing in your journal, but that same self-discipline can spill over into other aspects of your life. 

Spark Creativity. Writing in a journal the old-fashioned way (pen and paper) helps to spark ideas. There is a correlation between the hand and brain that typing on a keyboard does not capture. This is why many writers prefer to hand write their first draft. 

Many times, journaling drums up old memories and feelings. These can be bouncing-off points for that novel you’re working on. Once you start writing, the ideas seem to come at you more freely.  

Achieve Goals.  When you write out your goals, it’s like a plan of action. You know more about which direction to go to make it happen. You will discover what you are truly passionate about and pursue it.

Solve problems. Many times writing things down will help you to see the big picture. Maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought. Seeing your problems in written words may give you the courage to tackle problems head on. Maybe it will give you the will to forgive or to fight. Whatever the case may be, many therapists recommend journaling as a coping mechanism. 

These are only a few of the benefits of journaling. Other benefits are:  you may feel calmer, gain clarity, build empathy, decrease the symptoms of arthritis, counteract stress, and heal physically and psychologically. People from all walks of life are journaling. It’s the “in” thing. 

With so many wonderful advantages to keeping a journal, why would you NOT do it?

Happy journaling!

Read Like a Writer, Picture Books

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Here are a few things I’ve learned about picture books by reading picture books:

Picture books don’t have to rhyme.

Picture books can rhyme.  The rhymes don’t have to be formal, but they do have to sing. Read Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s What Can a Crane Pick Up? and Tammi Sauer’s Mary Had a Little Glam.

Picture books don’t need a whole lot of words, but as in a poem, every word must count.  Here’s an example of what a writer can accomplish with less than 100 words: Extraordinary Jane, Hannah E. Harrison

When you are finally ready to submit a picture book manuscript, don’t include illustrator notes unless some small tidbit is essential to your story. You have to leave things open for the illustrator. See how Tammi says just enough and leaves the rest up to the artist:  Making a Friend, Tammi Sauer

Sometimes, the illustrations tell a completely…

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Frankenstein Lives!

When I was a much younger chick, my daughter and I traveled to Germany to see my husband who was serving in the U.S. Air Force. Four countries in two weeks is exhausting, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

One thing we saw was castles. Lots of castles. That entire region of the world was rich in history and nothing like I’d ever seen. When we saw Frankenstein’s Castle, I thought the name was intriguing. Since there was so much else to see, I really didn’t give much thought to Frankenstein’s Castle after that. It was almost like the episode in Chevy Chase’s Vacation where they visited the Grand Canyon. Nod and move on. Many other things to see.

Here I am twenty years later revisiting a memory that was jarred partly because it’s the Halloween season, and partly because I’d heard a snippet on the news.

Two hundred years ago, Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein was published. Mary was a mere twenty-one years old and the book was published anonymously. Five years later, the second edition came out with Mary Shelley’s name on the cover.

According to history and some folklore, Mary Shelley and her husband, a poet, loved hearing and telling spooky stories by the fire when they entertained. Their circle of friends challenged one another to write such a story. Only Mary completed the task and  Frankenstein was born! But how did she come up with the idea? As a writer, I know that’s a question that comes up frequently. Did she just “dream” it up or was it sparked another way?

It seems Mary Shelley and her husband had traveled through the region where Frankenstein’s Castle was. She may or may not have seen or visited the actual castle. There were rumors circulating about Conrad Dippel, born at the castle in 1673, a scientist (mad scientist perhaps). Dippel was the inventor of the color Prussian Blue. He had many other interests. It seems he experimented on cadavers attempting to transfer the soul from one to another. As well as playing with dead humans, he experimented on dead animals, and even had been said to have been a grave robber. All of the activities he participated in were done at Frankenstein’s Castle. Sounds somewhat familiar, huh?

Years after the book Frankenstein was published, Mary Shelley denied visiting the castle or hearing rumors of past goings on at Frankenstein’s Castle. Once again, as a writer, I know you have to be very careful about things. Sometimes you see something on television or you read something and it’s like a little seed planted in your brain. You don’t recall any knowledge of it coming from another source. It’s original to your thought process. Where Mary Shelley got the idea of Frankenstein is not relevant to me. What I am impressed with, is after TWO HUNDRED years, the story of Frankenstein is still going strong. It proves that if you have a good story, it will stand the time. As a writer, I’m waiting for my Mary Shelley story. I’m sure the royalty payments are totally different nowadays.

Happy Halloween and Happy Writing!

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Write from the Heart

Blog“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”  Louis L’Amour

“Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”                                                                                   William Zinsser