#WritersLife: How Keeping a journal helps me keep my sanity as a writer

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.

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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.

Why 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.

#WritersLife: Analyzing ‘The Coldest Winter Ever’ 17 Years Later as a 30-Something 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.

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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.

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#BlackHistoryMonth: This Was The Best Black History Month…Ever!

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.

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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.

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#Life: How to grow through life instead of go through life

 

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.

Goal_Setting_SamanthaGWritesBut 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?”

Not quite.

“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.

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#Life: Trigger words and why you need to work on yours for 2016

 

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.

trigger_words-SamanthaGWritesThese 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.

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#Life: Why I randomly turn off my phone and avoid social media (and why you should too!)

 

*This is Day 12 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge*

During this past week, I’ve gone on a mini hiatus from blogging and writing. I’m taking part in this amazing blogging experience, the 30-day blogging challenge, and it is teaching me a lot. But I’m also learning the value of having a life offline.

So many of our phones are practically glued to the palms of our hands that when it isn’t there, we feel naked. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve walked into the bathroom without my cellphone. And the thought of what life was like before them scares me. Perhaps it’s just a millennial thing, but social media has become a big part of how I communicate with others and keep in touch with relatives.

Alone_Time_SamanthaGWrites.ComThe cellphone has gone from being a luxury to being a necessity. Click To Tweet

And it has even gone from being just a phone to a handheld computer. There’s nothing wrong with this so long as there is a balance. If most of our conversations are via texting, Facebook messaging, or Twitter are we really having a conversation? Trust me I get it, it’s easier to text someone versus calling them and having moments where you sit in awkward silence but I kind of miss awkward silence during phone calls. Weird, I know.

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#Blogging: Why I blog

*This is Day 10 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge*

I started blogging in 2008 when blogging was gaining in popularity. Early in my blogging journey, I blogged about music. Specifically R&B and a little Hip Hop. From the time I was little my parents would play R&B music on Sundays. Even after their split when I was five, they still kept to the tradition of playing R&B all day after church. My parents were ultra-old school. It was the classics and only the classics. This is why I knew the words to way too many Marvin Gaye and Chaka Khan songs than the average kindergartner.

samantha_g_writes_4So it made sense to blog about music and all things related to it. Through music blogging, I discovered the joys of writing lifestyle topics, which evolved into me creating my personal blog.

Before personal blogging, I found personal blogs to be blah. The ones I’d read would offer little information besides what the writer ate that day. Nothing wrong with that, I’m sure there are people interested in that kind of stuff but for me, I like to read things for edutainment. So when I thought of creating a personal blog, I was against it at first. I thought to myself who will care about my personal life and the lessons I’ve learned along the way? But personal blogging has proven to be very therapeutic.

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#Life: How to deal with the negative people around you

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Negative people are all around us. Though we can try to avoid them, they’ll always be there either as a friend or a stranger. It’s not you, well at least that’s what I tell myself. Some don’t even know they’re being a negative Nancy or angry Adam but they are and you’ll have to learn how to deal with them.

In my day-to-day life, I’ll come in contact with a negative person or two but when you live in a city filled with different personalities that are going through different things in their lives, it’s to be expected that you’ll be in the company of negativity energy.

Hence, the inspiration behind today’s blog post. As some of you may know, I’m taking part in a 30-Day Blogging Challenge.

I had another topic I wanted to write about today but after an earlier conversation, I wrote this one instead. It wasn’t on the list but I’m realizing that for writing, not everything needs to go according to plan. I’m already doing that with Nanowrimo and I like finally having a blog to blog my thoughts and feelings.

I’m getting a little off topic so let’s get right into some of the ways I deal with negative people.

Don’t take everything so personally

It’s so easy to get in your feelings when someone makes you feel a certain way. I’m a sensitive person. I can admit this at this point in my journey. So I’ve had to learn to let certain things roll off my back and go in one ear and out the other. With this said, don’t lose precious brain power trying to figure out why the negative cashier at your supermarket doesn’t smile and tell you to have a nice day. And don’t feel bad when you don’t receive a warm welcome at the MAC counter. Either avoid these places or learn to co-exist even if it’s for a few minutes. Now, I’m not perfect at this and you’ll probably find this to be difficult, but the sooner you understand this important rule of not taking things personally, the easier it will be to deal with negative people.

Learn to keep your ego in check

You’ve experienced this before, I’m almost sure of it. You’re having a great day. Your coffee came out the way you wanted it and you’re feeling good. You leave your home and boom, someone pisses you off. You’re wondering what you’ve done to deserve they’re attitude but instead of not paying them any attention and walking away, you let your ego take control. Now you’re arguing with this person, albeit stranger or loved one, and at the end of the argument you’re still pissed. In fact, for the rest of the day you can’t stop kicking yourself for allowing this person to ruin your great day. They’ve transferred their negativity on to you and they’ve done that because you let your ego get in the way. The ego is a powerful thing and if you don’t learn to keep it in check it can get you in the unhappy zone. Have control over your ego and when you notice someone trying to test it walk away. No need to win an argument with a negative person when you can win at being the better person.

Take their criticisms with a grain of salt

Negative people are always primed and ready to criticize whether you’ve asked them for critiques or not. I’m not a fan of criticisms, and few of us are. But there are also many individuals out there who take people’s criticisms to make themselves better. Be more like these people. I like to separate criticisms into two categories: constructive criticisms and reckless criticisms. Reckless criticism can be related to you building your sandcastle on the beach and a negative Nancy coming through and calling your sandcastle ugly, stomping all over it, and then walking away. While constructive criticism is that same person calling your sandcastle ugly then giving you advice on how you can rebuild a bigger and better one without them needing to damage the one you’ve already built. If there is anything you take from this post, take this one. Take negative people’s criticisms lightly because chances are they don’t really want to see you win, they just like seeing you frown.

Spend as little time with them as possible

Saved the best for last. Sometimes we can’t get rid of certain negative Nancys or Nathans because they work in the cubicle next to us, they’re our own friends or worse are members of our own family. We put up with their negativity because we have to and kicking them out of our life is damn near impossible. In cases like this, reduce the amount of your time you spend with them. Listen, your joy should be one of your top priorities, if not your number one priority. People spewing negativity can be toxic and can have a damaging effect on how you see yourself and your own happiness. It’s important that you are selective with the time you spend with them.

But before pulling a disappearing act on them, it’s important that you talk to them first if you haven’t already. Tell them about their negativity and how it’s affecting your relationship with them. As I mentioned before, some negative people don’t even realize they’re being negative. They really believe they are keeping it real. You can’t really fault these negative people. But if the negative person in your life isn’t trying to hear it, you have to do what’s best for you. So if holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and funerals are the only time you’ll see or speak to them, so be it. Your happiness is important, protect it like a baby.

Image credit: Dollar Photo Club/Trimbaldi

#Turning30: 7 ways to cope with not being where you thought you’d be at 30

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Three weeks ago, I celebrated my 30th birthday. I told myself on my 21st birthday I would be in Las Vegas the moment the clock struck midnight on October 16, 2015. That didn’t happen. If you asked that little girl in the photo above where she thinks she’ll be at 30, she’d say rich, living in a house the size of a mansion, and retired because 30 is old. That didn’t happen either lol.

This is a natural feeling wanting more in your life and not being 100% satisfied with where you are. That’s what leads you to seek better and live the life you truly believe you deserve.

There is a lot of 30+-year-olds who are where I am. Wishing they had more and dealing with the fact they are in a new decade of their life not having accomplished the things they thought they would have, or worse just settling for the way things are. This can be a source of unhappiness. But I’ve discovered that there are ways to cope and fix this.

Here are 7 ways I’m coping with not being where I thought I’d be at 30. Hopefully these tips will help you too.

Come to terms with the fact you want more

The first step to recovery in anything in life is to admit that there is a problem. The longer you say you’re fine or pretend to be happy is the longer it’s going to take to get to your goal. I drowned myself in positive quotes when I was in my 20s. But I didn’t work on making sure my inner happiness was on point so that what I read really stuck with me. You can curate a fabulous life on Instagram, Facebook, twitter or wherever else you publish your thoughts and doings on social media, but once you turn off your computer or put your phone down and are left alone with your thoughts, the truth of knowing you want more from your life can be suffocating when you’re in denial. Come to terms you want more, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.

Understand that it takes time and dedication to make necessary changes

Time is a commodity. I know this more than ever now as a mother. I have so much more respect for my time now. Something simple like running in the park alone with myself for an hour is a treat. To reach the goals you didn’t achieve in your 20s, you’ve got to stick through it in your 30s. It may take 2 months or it could take 2 years to get where you want to be. As long as you’re working towards it, that’s all that matters. Sign up for the gym and keep going, you won’t see results next week, but 8 weeks or more from now you’ll fit into those jeans you haven’t worn since you were 23. Or apply for your bachelors or masters. You won’t graduate next year but four (maybe more, maybe less) years from now you’ll have that job you really want. Whatever your goal is, understand it takes time to get it. It’s the hard work you put in that makes you appreciate how far you’ve come. Plus the time you are spending working on your goal is preparation for you maintaining your new lifestyle.

Write a list of things you are grateful for and that you’ve accomplished

Wanting more is great, but let’s not forget how grateful we are for the things we have in our lives now. Are you breathing on your own? Can you see? Did you turn on your faucet this morning and water came out of it? Then boo, you’re blessed! No matter how small the thing you are grateful for is, speak it into the universe and you will get blessings tenfold. The best way to do this is first thing in the morning or last thing at night. You can sit at a table and write it pen to paper or use the notepad on your phone. Personally, I find it resonates more with me when I write it down because I’m thinking and jotting down my gratitude. Do the same for your accomplishments. Promotions, new baby, helped your best friend plan an epic wedding – write any and everything you’ve done that made you feel great.

Create a list of things you want in life and things you want to change about your life

Lists are everything! They help you organize and paint a clear picture of what exactly needs to get done. The most successful people in the world swear by lists and create lists for all facets of their lives. Writing for me is therapeutic and having my stuff together and right in my face in list form is an amazing habit. Ok, now back to creating your list. Create this list when you have little to no distractions. I like to write my lists when my son and husband are asleep that way I don’t have to stop doing what I’m doing to get something for someone or help the other look for his tie lol. Set up your area so it’s super Zen. Light a candle, burn incense, or meditate. Whatever you got to do to get you in the mood to create the list that will change your life, do it. Everything you want in life no matter how big, silly or crazy it may be, if you want it, write it. If your list is just one page that’s fine, if it’s 10 pages, that’s fine too. You make your own rules, this is all you, so be nice to yourself.

Next, write everything you want to change about yourself. Sometimes you have to look deep for this. At one point I wanted to change that I was selfish. Admitting I was selfish was hard because I associate selfishness with being a bad person and I think I’m a sweetheart. But you’ve got to be honest with yourself. You’re great just the way you are, but you could be better. We all can. Click To Tweet So if you feel you could lose a little weight, switch up your hair, change the way you think from always seeing the bad in people to seeing the good too, then write it down. Anything, and I mean ANYTHING you want to change, write it down. Another helpful way to do this, is to think back to negative things others have said about you. Don’t consider it all because people can be petty and some of their criticisms could be their own flaws they refuse to deal with. But consider the negatives that have been said about you and see if it is also an issue for you. Be honest with yourself and this list can be a godsend.

Draft a step-by-step plan of how you will get the things you want and how you will change certain things about yourself

Now this is my favorite part! We all got a lot of problems, but not enough solutions. This step-by-step plan will be your solutions! I got this idea from my husband who is militant about making plans. You don’t have to be about yours but you need to create one. So let’s take a simple example for instance. Let’s say one of your goals is to get your driver’s license. The plan you would make would go a little something like this:

Step 1: Learners permit
Step 2: Take 5-hour class
Step 3: Sign up for lessons
Step 4: Take those lessons
Step 5: Schedule road test
Step 6: Pass the road test, the end.

You’ll also want to set realistic deadlines for when you will complete each step. Just as simple as that plan is to set up that’s how simple it will be for you. Pick five wants from your list and write a step-by-step plan. Or pick more wants and write steps for them. Go at your own pace. Know how you want to get these things and set yourself up for success. This task may take a day or maybe even a month, but once you have your plan, you’ll have an agenda every day and anything that doesn’t align with your plan or goals will be seen as a waste of time for you and not even worth it. It’s a really liberating feeling. And if you see that your plan isn’t working for you, revise it as many times as it takes until it does. The more proactive you are in planning, the better things will unfold for you.

Share your plans with the ones who support you

The last part of the tip is important. There are real dream killers walking the streets. So you can’t share your plans with just anybody. People’s thoughts can be toxic and your mind is like fertile ground. Those toxic thoughts can mess with your drive and influence your decisions, and not for the best. It’s important to share your plans with people who support you because they care about your growth and progression towards happiness. They will also hold you accountable because you can bet they will ask you how things are going with whatever you have plans to accomplish. These people are gems. They’ve showed their support for you in other things and they are the ones clapping hard and loud for you when you win at whatever you work hard for. The smaller your support group, the better, so if you only have one or three people, that’s fine. Share your plans with the ones who really support you.

Just do it

Nike isn’t the top selling brand with sustained brand loyalty for no reason. They’re slogan is so powerful for just three words that are less than five letters each. Once you’ve done coming to terms with wanting more, understanding the time it takes, creating lists, plans, and telling the supportive friends or family what you plan to do, you need to just do them. Don’t wait until December 31 to say that next year will be your year. It won’t if you keep procrastinating. Tomorrow is unknown and today is a prize. Click To Tweet The more you put things off the longer it’ll take for you to get to where you really want to be. I wanted to get in shape and not look like I was in my 30s, so I decided I wanted to become a runner. I came up with a plan, downloaded and bought the tools, and was outside on the day I said I would be and have been out there three days a week ever since. I won’t lie to you – the first day you do any of the things you planned will be hard. You’ll face obstacles and feel like giving up. But the more you do it, the easier it will be. Experts and professionals don’t become that way overnight. Work on your goal every day and you’ll get better at it. I told myself in 2008 that I wanted to get paid for writing. It took time, but now I’ve got clients, I’m getting paid to contribute to websites, and I even landed a gig on TV once. Now I want to be paid more for my writing and receive residual income from it, and I will make that happen by first coming to terms with the fact that I want more.