Me? I feel like I’m a shitty journal keeper. Personal journaling, that is (unless you count Twitter). I’m pretty consistent when it comes to jotting down my thoughts about my writing journey. I opened a journal I started last September. I’ve barely filled a third of it with personal notions. In fact, most of the entries end are about writing (which is great). Some of my personal life seasons the pages, but not enough. But who really decides what is actually enough – the journaler or the possible reader?
The term journaling can be used loosely, meaning anything from penning some brief thoughts to writing down daily gratitude and grievances. A lot of well-known authors have kept journals about their writing process while working on a project (or just in general). Teenagers begin with their diaries, working out their angsty or whimsical points of view (hello, this was totally me as a kid). Some continue into adulthood recording every detail about their lives for their own benefit, and others find their passion for writing and use it as a tool to keep them going or better understand their personal writing process.
Writing has always been therapeutic for me. With that said, I don’t really know what holds me back when it comes to writing about my personal life. I have an empty journal on my bookshelf just waiting for me to write in it the story of my life. There, I could write about all the things I don’t want to talk about with others (although I know I should – honestly, it’s just easier for me to bottle it up, place it on a shelf, and move the fuck on). Maybe I will soon, but maybe I won’t just yet. While I like the idea of a great-grandchild finding my diary several years after I’ve left this life, I’m so undisciplined about writing every detail down in my journal at the start or end of each day. It’s all in my mind, but that’s lousy for those I leave behind after journeying toward the great unknown. I also fear there is nothing exciting about my low-key, fairly drama-free life, but I guess that isn’t up to me to decide in the end.
One thing I know I will do is continue to write about my writing process and journey down this long and crooked path. My struggles with writing fiction as a bred nonfiction writer and poet at heart (even if it is shit) have been a big focus as I’m working on my first serious attempt at substantial piece of fiction. I actually enjoy the complicated process of crafting a well-written story. Yeah, I’m a glutton for punishment… I’ve much room to improve, especially when it comes to structuring the story. My biggest issue is wrangling all the random ideas I have about the project on hand and getting them on paper. I just have to suck it up and try my best to make it happen.
I feel I am becoming better at the fiction writing process. I owe that to the story I am writing and the copious amounts of fiction I read. I think about it all the time’ it needs to come out. I’m desperately coaxing it out of the dark corners of my mind. Some days, I have major breakthroughs and I feel as though nothing can stop me. Other days, life happens and I am at a standstill, which can be discouraging.
I keep writing and I keep reading. Even when I don’t want to, I do it. I feel guilty that I don’t write more; however, actually sticking to a writing schedule is helping ease that guilt. Keep pushing. You’ve got this. Work this story out – it could be really great – just something I tell myself almost daily.
This isn’t a resolution to be better about writing about the everyday. It should be, but I figure if I’m writing something every day, I’m on the right track when it comes to polishing my craft, regardless if it focuses on one genre or another…
…Because writers actually write – every day.
They move their pens, they type on their laptops or typewriters, they push the pencil, and they write shit down every single day. Some have a purpose when they journal and others just free write. Some start with freewriting exercises (writing prompts or whatever they can pull from their mind at the time) and it turns into something profound. That’s me, minus the piece turning into something profound! Pages of prompts could eventually turn into great stories – flash-fiction, a memoir, a novella/novel, poetry, or even online serialized literature. That’s my hope, anyway – it’s enough to keep my pen pressed to the paper.
Holy shit, it’s been a while. When I realized I hadn’t posted all summer, I couldn’t believe it. It’s all good though – it’s been a very busy summer for me. Here are some highlights…
- Traveled for business to Savannah, GA (a city I wanted to visit for the past 15 years and finally had the chance);
- Visited Washington, D.C. (and got engaged! More on that later.);
- Saw my favorite band and had a blast with my best friend (Panda), her daughter, and all our girlfriends who came to town to celebrate summer with DMB;
- Traveled around Indiana for business;
- Worked on my book (no seriously, I’ve finally made some progress!!); and
- Enjoyed some amazing R&R and great family time.
And summer isn’t over yet! That thought alone is making me smile. Now for some randomness about my writing adventures this summer… I mentioned I worked on my book this summer. At the beginning of August, I wrote out a writing schedule, to which I promised I would commit. I’m so happy to report that I’m 100% committed and I’ve made some awesome progress. I finally feel like this story is coming together. As someone who primarily writes nonfiction and poetry, with some prose sprinkled in, I honestly had no idea what I was in for when I just suddenly decided to write fiction. I read a lot of fiction, so I figured I could try my hand at it and give it an honest effort.
My biggest hang up in the beginning?? Making shit up. Oh man, I love making up a good story, but I have always been an honest writer. I finally made myself move past that, though. I literally gave myself a pep talk that went something like this:
“Nicole, you can make this shit up. It’s okay. Let your imagination take over. It will be okay. I promise. Just fucking do it and stop making excuses and make something up. What do you want to read? What kind of story do you want to hear? Write it… now, not later. Polish it later. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? DO IT!”
(Cue that viral Shia LaBeouf video that hit the ‘net earlier this summer).
And it worked. I kicked my ass into gear and I committed to my writing schedule. I’ve solidified my outline and have key plot points ready for chapters. I even have a handful of chapters ready. I have a feeling though, with my planning process complete, this book is going to take a while to complete… but I will make it happen!
I also joined a writing group, thrown together by The Geeky Press. It’s laid back and a great group of people. We just meet up on some pre-scheduled dates (#WritersHack) and hang out for a bit, eat, talk about writing, and write. We hosted our first one-day retreat in July and I think it was a great success. We’re doing another one on November 7 and hosting a weekend retreat in December. My favorite thing about these retreats and hacks is that we actually freaking write. We write whatever we want. The goal is to get words on the page. If you’re interested in joining our shenanigans or want more information on events hosted by The Geeky Press, just check out their website. You don’t have to attend every event nor do you have to pay any dues (the day or weekend retreats have a low cost, though). We just are a group of people who want to write and connect with others who want to do the same.
I have to say, it’s awesome to be back in a community of writers. I’ve missed college mostly for that reason, and now I’ve finally found another place to nurture my talent. I finally stopped procrastinating and became a member of the Indiana Writers Center. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of their member discounts and getting to know the folks there in the coming months.
Speaking of writing communities… this thought brings me to the topic of serialized, web-based literature. Have you heard of websites like Wattpad or Channillo? From what I understand, these sites help you build an audience and network with other readers and writers. You post a chapter at a time. This could be a good thing to do, since I’m getting my feet wet in this category and not quite ready to publish a book just yet, even though I have a solid story plan/outline. I’m considering this route with some of my other fiction (short stories, flash fiction, etc.), but can’t decide if I should with this story or not. If you are familiar with either of these platforms or know of others I should be considering, please let me know in the comments. I want to weigh all my options and could really use some advice!
That’s all for now, folks. I won’t be gone as long as I was before this time… I promise. Peace!
If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive. ― Anne Lamott
Today, our world lost one of the most wonderful souls: Maya Angelou gave up her ghost quietly in her North Carolina home this morning.
Not only was she an accomplished writer, Maya Angelou wore several hats during her 86 years on Earth. Known for her poetry, she was also a civil rights activist, dancer, film producer, television producer, playwright, film director, author, actress, professor (Wikipedia). She published seven autobiographies and was an accomplished poet, in addition to earning several awards and honorary degrees between 1970 and today.
When I say “writing is therapy,” I can’t help but think of Maya Angelou and how she started writing. If you are unfamiliar with her history… she experienced something so traumatic during her early years that prompted her to become mute. Her strength came out in words, giving hope to so many others around the globe.
At age 7, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was later beaten to death in an assault that some believed was carried out by Angelou’s uncles. The trauma of the rape and her assailant’s death left Angelou mute for six years.
She began writing during that silent period. She would chronicle the first 17 years of her life in the 1969 autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which her friend, writer James Baldwin, had encouraged her to write.
The book, which covers the racism Angelou had faced in the 1930s and ’40s and her fantasies of being blond and white, is considered an American classic. (Reuters)
Patrik Henry Bass, an editor at Essence Magazine, says “when we think of her, we often think about her books, of course, and her poems… but in the African-American community, certainly, we heard so much of her work recited, so I think about her voice. You would hear that voice, and that voice would capture a humanity, and that voice would calm you in so many ways through some of the most significant challenges.” (NPR)
Oprah Winfrey, who considered Angelou to be not just her mentor but also a very dear friend, will always remember how she lived her life: “She moved through the world with unshakable calm, confidence, and a fierce grace.”
Harold Augenbraum, the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, stated “we share the gratitude of so many for Dr. Angelou’s contributions to literature, human rights, and social justice. Her legacy is one that all writers and readers across the world can admire and aspire to.”
My favorite Angelou poems will always be Caged Bird and On the Pulse of Morning, which was made famous when she wrote and recited the poem for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. Give these a read/listen. Hear her voice shine through her words. Share your thoughts in the comments section, if you’d like.
Her work and words are forever etched in our history and she will not be forgotten, but remembered and celebrated for generations to come.