I found out last night that I won my first short story writing contest!! I am over the moon, past the stars, flipping over the milky way galaxy… happy! I participated in my first 24 Hour Short Story Contest over the summer and just had to try again. In the contest over the summer, I earned an honorable mention. But with their fall contest, not only did I win, I won first place.
I took the suspense route with this story with a little twist at the end. When you think you have it all figured out, it hits you like bam… but not like that lol. Once you get to the end, you’ll go back and re-read it again realizing that the clues were there all along.
The first online challenge I ever signed up for was a 28-day fitness challenge. I’m sure you’ve seen one of this brand’s many posts promoting their online fitness program geared toward women and probably rolled your eyes or got annoyed by the amount of ads showing up in your social media timelines. Well, I downloaded their 28-day fitness eBook and didn’t start the challenge until three months later.
When I finally started, I was hooked and it changed my life for the better. And It’s been the reason behind my obsession with taking part in 30-day challenges since then.
Though the idea may seem foreign, taking part in 30-day challenges of any kind is a great way to get your life together if you feel it’s out of whack. We all want the same thing in life which is to live happy and fulfilling lives, we just go about it differently because we have different interests as different people.
I’m here to tell you to stop getting in your way and try something out of the norm. Challenge yourself to complete challenges and watch it trickle into your everyday life. Here’s how to start.
When people think of journaling, the first thought that comes to mind is seeing a bratty teenage girl sitting on her bed and writing “dear diary” before going on to write about how terrible her life is because her crush acts like he doesn’t know she exists. Though this too is a form of journaling, the journaling I’m talking about is a bit different.
In April of last year, I started reading Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. It’s a book written by a writer for writers and artists of all kind who are looking to breathe life into their creativity. Though the book is geared toward writers, it’s actually for anyone who wants to be more creative in life from the homemaker to the plumber. One of the advices Julia gives in her book, is to keep a journal.
Journaling for everyone is going to mean something different. Some writers keep journals to keep track of their novel or non-fiction projects. Others keep it as a form of expression. I keep a journal for a mixture of both. My journal is something of a mind dump in the morning. I live in my head and my thoughts race through my mind faster than Usain Bolt.
If left alone, those thoughts would drive me mad. In fact, it’s been a source of my anxiety and reclusion in the past. I’m not one to share what I’m thinking easily. It takes quite a bit for me to share anything about myself with people I don’t trust. So my journal is the most personal thing to me. It’s my therapist. A place to share my thoughts, ideas, and feelings openly without fear of judgement. Because no one “should” read my journal, I say “should” because though this is the goal sometimes the wrong eyes get on it (speaking from experience), I’m free to write whatever I’m feeling.
My journal is also a marker in time for me. I hardly reread the pages I write, but when I do, it’s like a blast from the past. Being able to see what I was thinking at a certain time in the past is like looking at childhood photos and reminiscing. My journals also help with my writing and being able to get my thoughts out in the way it appears in my mind, which helps with writer’s block.
You’re probably wondering what most people wonder when they read articles suggesting they keep a journal…
What Do You Journal About?
The short answer: anything you want. As I mentioned before, some writers keep journals as a form of daily expression while others have journals that are more specific and focused, and are used to keep record of their progress with their projects. I use my journal for both, but mostly as a form of expression to keep me sane.
I’m a mother, a wife, and a freelance writer. So you can imagine my day is full of stuff to do, people to make happy, and sometimes rejection. Often being the wearer of many hats can be overwhelming and instead of complaining to someone and later wishing I hadn’t, I just put it in my journal. Creatively, I use my journal to map out story and character ideas. My last blog post about my experience rereading The Coldest Winter Ever actually came from an idea that surfaced while writing in my journal the week before.
If journaling has you stumped and writing about your life or projects isn’t appealing, then use prompts. There are tons of options out there in the form of books, websites, or even journal stickers which you can find on Etsy. Most prompts give you a theme to build on so that you have something to write about and this usually flourishes into other ideas. Before you know it, you’re journaling and it feels less like a choir and more like a necessity to keep sane.
If you’re still unsure about what to journal, just write about what you’re grateful for. I close each journal entry with a list of things I’m grateful for and it makes for an amazing day.
3 Tips for Journaling as A Writer
Just do it. Sit your butt in a seat and just write whatever comes to mind. Don’t know what to write? Start by writing the date, what the weather is like today, how you’re feeling, what’s happening outside of your window at that moment, whatever really. Something as simple and elementary as those things can jumpstart your thoughts which will translate into words then pages in your journal. I have no idea what I’m going to write about when I sit down to journal. I just go with the flow. Sometimes I’ll wake up still pissed off about something that happened the day before. Or I’ll have a dream that shook me to my core. Lately, my journals have been about my writing projects and ideas I have. I say all of that just to say this…just write and everything will come to you. It doesn’t have to make sense and it doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect. Just do it boo!
Read a book on creative journaling. It sounds silly to read a book on keeping a journal especially if you have the picture of the teenage girl giving her journal the woe-is-me about her crush. If this is you, I suggest thinking of your journal more as a creative outlet. And if you have trouble figuring that out on your own, a book on creative journaling is a must. A book I’d suggest is Stephanie Dowrick’s Creative Journal Writing. I’d also recommend Julia’s The Artist’s Way since this a book that has helped and still is helping me be more and think more creatively.
Be disciplined about it. I don’t play with my mornings. I make sure I’m in bed at a certain time so that I’m up and have enough time for my morning routines which includes writing in my journal. My journaling gets done when everyone is still asleep. I need to be clear headed and uninterrupted so that my thoughts and ideas flow. Everything else can be random in my day but I need to know I’m writing at least three pages in the morning no matter what. Even when I’m not feeling it and I have the imaginary little troll on my shoulder telling me to just go back to sleep. I pull myself out of bed and still get it done. Motivation is great but discipline is the hallmark to being better at everything.
Whatever way you decide to go about journaling, do it because you enjoy it like everything else in life. When you stick with it, journaling can be rewarding. It forces you to be present in the moment and consistent creatively, two things you’ll need to keep sane as a writer.
After completing the second edit of my novel, I decided to re-read the one novel that inspired me to be a novelist. I first read The Coldest Winter Ever while in high school and finished it in two days. And since I chose to re-read it again then blog about it right now, it’s obvious TCWE is a book I’ve never been able to forget.
The protagonist, Winter Santiaga, was a girl I felt I knew well. She lived next door and I rode the train with her to school, well sometimes because she was hardly ever in school because her parents were cool and mine weren’t. I didn’t grow up in the projects like Winter, I also didn’t sport diamond jewelry until my late 20s. But I could identify with this smart and cunning character and as a 30-something writer I realize why.
As Black History Month comes to a close, can we take a moment to acknowledge and applaud the efforts of this generation? For as long as I’ve remembered, Black History Month was a time to remember all the great things Civil Rights pioneers like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and Rosa Parks to name a few did. How they fearlessly fought for the rights of blacks to be seen as equals. To be given enough respect to sit anywhere they pleased on a bus, to vote, to drink from the same water fountains and use the same bathrooms as their white peers.
But this month, we made history ourselves. Instead of just learning from the greatness of the past, we made some incredibly powerful noise this month. I think we can agree that February 2016 was the best Black History Month ever. So good, we got an extra day!
Urban pop culture gets a bad rap for perpetuating stereotypes and putting value in the wrong things, but I think it was used for good this February 2016.
As a writer, it’s important to know your worth. By this I mean knowing how much your work is worth and having respect for your great commodity, time. Earlier this month I was reminded why I should follow my gut and be selective when caving in to how much I charge to write for clients.
I made the mistake of compromising in pay when I knew that the amount of money I was charging was right for the work this client was asking for. Yet and still, I went against my better judgement and dropped my rate. I love writing like the next person, but it’s not a hobby for me.
Besides freelancing, I’m a content marketer/strategist and a ghostwriter. I write for money. And any writer who calls themselves a freelance writer should write for money too.
Instead of having breakfast at Tiffany’s last December, I had breakfast and an epiphany. For close to 30 years, I must admit with much embarrassment I have been going through life without real goals. I’d make the occasional New Year’s Resolution because it was the thing to do but then by February I had forgotten all about the stuff I said I wanted to do and focused on the things I had to do.
But then it hit me. The only reason I had a laser focus on the things I had to do was because I was letting life dictate my next moves. I’d read about goal setting but I never really understood what it entailed.
“So, you have something in mind you want and then you say you want it and then you’ll get it… DONE! Right?”
“Ok, so then I say what I want and then I get it, right?”
Close, but you’re just missing one little but very important step.
Whenever the New Year comes around, I take the time to get rid of things emotionally and physically. I get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose, that are taking up space, and are blocking the way for more important things. And the apps and photos on my phone are not excluded from this purge.
Speaking of apps, there are a few apps, five in particular, that I believe all writers should have to stay organized in writing and life this year. These apps have helped me keep things in perspective, get work done, and feel productive throughout the day.
With similar features to their desktop version, Microsoft office suite for your phone will be a lifesaver. For me, I’m able to get a lot done with no need to log onto my computer. And I’m sure we all have those days where sitting in front of a computer is just not what we want to do. But we still need to get ish done and having this baby on your phone is a must if you want to stay on top of writing assignments. Now to get this app, I think you have to have the suite for your desktop since you must request the download link by email or text under your Microsoft account.
There are officially three weeks left in the year so a lot of us are making plans and promises for the New Year. Resolutions are the thing that most of us create as soon as December rolls around and either you or someone you know will say that 2016 will be their year. And they or you may be right, but you won’t be happy if you don’t work on your trigger words. What are trigger words you ask? It’s those words that really get under your skin. The mislabels that people give you when they’re ready to act like a Judge Judy.
These are the words that set us off and make us angry and react like we don’t have the good sense the lord gave us. I have trigger words. They’ve been reduced after having a child. I think this is because being a parent requires the patience and dignity that a nun would need in a Las Vegas nightclub. But seriously, in order for us to make it through 2016 and every year after that is for us to work on and then distance ourselves from our trigger words. My trigger words used to be insults about my writing but I now appreciate those.
Your trigger words may be something like someone calling you ghetto or even insecure because you don’t like your spouse having friends of the opposite sex. Pretty much any negative label or personal attack that can encourage a verbal (or physical) altercation, damage relationships, or ruin your day are trigger words. The way I’ve learned to deal with my trigger words is by not taking it personal or taking the people using them seriously. But deeper than that, separating myself from the words that set me off began with knowing myself. If you know that you are not what you are being negatively labeled then let those words roll right off your back.