Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Journal It.

Wow, there's been all sorts of good news going around here with Kristen's book deal. I can't tell you how very exciting it is -- not only for Kristen, of course, but for the rest of us as well. I think it adds a sense of validation that publication Can Happen when someone you know, someone you've worked with and been friends with for a really long time, is able to reach that pinnacle of success. I couldn't be happier for her. Yay, Kristen! You rock, girl!

In the comments of my post last week, I mentioned that I keep a journal. I'll be honest, I haven't written in it for a while now, mostly because I haven't had much time for writing (real life is INSANE at the moment). But when I'm actively writing, I try to jot down thoughts and notes in it as much as possible. Not only do I use it to document certain ideas I might have, about both my current and future books, but I also use it as a...Jen, You Don't Completely Suck Pep Kit.

Say wha?

I'm a neurotic writer. I am. There, I said it. I have unbelievable highs and lows when I'm writing. One minute I will be soaring in the upper stratosphere, the next I will be crashing to the ground, where I'll lay like a lump. A big ole' hot mess that no one wants to deal with. Just ask my writing buds what it's like when I'm in the heat of writing/revisions. I can't tell you how many times my peeps have talked me down from the proverbial cliff. I've convinced myself more times than I care to remember that I'm not a good writer, that I need to find a new hobby, that publication will never happen, and that I should never be unleashed on the poor, unsuspecting reading public.

If there's a negative thought to be had, I've had it.

I've also thought the direct opposite on just about every front (occasionally), but that's not what I want to focus on right now.

Let's face it. We are our own worst enemies along the journey to publication. We put ourselves down, we create obstacles for ourselves, we make excuses, excuses, excuses and then some MORE excuses as to why we're just not good enough to be professional writers.

"Such and such is a much better writer than I am. Why am I bothering at all?"

"My story is too similar to such and such book, and not even close to being as good. What's the point?"

"I've tried writing this scene in so many different ways and none of them are good. I'll never get this."

I've learned over the years that just about anything can throw me into a downward spiral. A negative crit. A positive crit (yes, it happens). A crit that is too fast in coming...a crit that is too slow in coming. No comments on an excerpt..a ton of comments on an excerpt that all sound a little too similar (it's gotta be group psychosis making them say these things).. It's ridiculous.

You know, a lot of writers go around saying that everything is sunshine and daisies for them. I don't buy it. Now, I'm not saying that every writer is as neurotic as I sometimes feel, but EVERYONE has their down moments when you need someone or something to pick you back up again. To help remind you that you DO NOT suck.

That is where my journal comes in.

When I first told someone about this, I think it came across as rather vain. But let me assure you, vanity has nothing to do with it. I simply know myself well, and know that these down moments are going to happen. To help curb the severity of these "episodes", my journal does double duty as a scrapbook of sorts. If I receive a really glowing crit or comment from someone--something that made me think, even for a fleeting moment, that I know what the hell I'm doing, I print it out and put it in the book. The same goes for when I simply have a really good writing session. I journal about it to remind myself that an hour ago, a day ago, maybe even several months ago, I felt confident in what I was doing. Then, when I'm having a bad day, I flip through these little clippings/passages and they sometimes help jog me out of the funk. Not foolproof, no, but it definitely has its benefits more often than not.

I'd share a snip, but my journal is for my eyes only. :)

Does anyone else do this? If not, what do you do to get yourself out of those inevitable funks?


  1. I haven't been a serious writer for too long, so I haven't had much funk experience. But when the writing does come hard, I just keep going. Giving up makes it worse and allows me to categorize it as a failure. I like your advice, I'll have to try it soon!

  2. I like this idea! I was a super-faithful journal-keeper from age 14 to age 20. It might be nice to pick it up again—if I can find the time!

  3. I give myself a break, drink some champagne, and wait till I'm back in my happy place. Then I get back to my WIP. LOL.

  4. I'm just like you, I've had allllllll those thoughts plus others. I don't have a journal but, don't laugh, I bookmarked the thread where I posted my first snip on Compuserve. Everyone was very encouraging and supportive and, even if they were only being nice to a newbie, when I get really down I go read the nice comments.

  5. Ah, Jen, those writers who say everything is sunshine and daisies are either lying or on very good medication. :-P
    EVERYONE thinks the same thoughts you do, at one time or another. Your journal is a great way to way to fight off the funks. Me? I've printed out a few bits of praise I've got from time to time on the Books & Writers Forum, and have a quiet read through when I'm down that well. It always helps.

  6. I'm a neurotic person as well. My confidence routinely suffers from my own harpooning. I like the idea of a place to go when you feel a bit down.

    I have a friend who journals daily and found that looking back through her journals was depressing. So, she created a good thoughts journal for when she needs a pep talk. She purchased one with Wonder Woman on the cover. Anytime something great happens or she feels good...she puts it in the Wonder Woman journal.

  7. I have a journal but I don't write in it very much anymore, only from time to time. I definitely tell my journal when I feel like giving up writing. Then I spend an evening trying to figure out what I would focus on. Then I go back to writing. :)

  8. LOL! I resemble this post! Negative thoughts 'R us. : D

  9. I have to admit, I don't journal...at all. Now, I'm asking myself why? Because hey, I hit those writing lows too sometimes...and every once in a while a pep talk is exactly what I need to keep myself going!

  10. I don't write it in a journal but that's a great idea. I certainly have had my fair share of those thoughts, though. Thanks for sharing this, I really might have to give it a try.

  11. I have something similar I call my Encouragement File. So, no, you're not alone in doing this!

  12. That's a great idea Jen! I really should start doing that for those days - who am I kidding, it's at least once an hour - when I think "I suck and none of this will ever amount to anything!"

  13. Ah, the dreaded Writer's Funk! My cure is ice cream.

    No, seriously, the journal sounds fabulous. A very level-headed way of reminding yourself that not all is hopeless and sometimes it's damn good. And a journal is certainly less fattening!


  14. Jen, I've always journalled as I write- I have at least a dozen 200-page lined notebooks that I've filled over the last ten years. I run across all topics, from just brainstorming what I'm writing, to how I feel about the process. I never read back over them, though- it's more like a way to get it out of my head and stop fussing with it. The scrapbook idea, though? Genius! Why haven't I thought of that? I've gotta start one like that for the "you suck" moments.

  15. @Madeline -- Congrats on starting the crazy journey of being a writer. :) Here's hoping you don't have the neurotic moments some of the rest of us experience. But if you do, as they say, be prepared. (g)

  16. @Jordan -- I hear you. Most days I feel like I don't have the mental capacity or time to write a post-it note, let alone a coherent piece of writing. :) Then again, it's nice to just open up my head and let it spill onto a page without having to worry about anyone ever reading it. Freedom. :)

    @Trisha -- Too much wine means Jen attempts one her really crappy sexy scenes. (g) But yeah, definitely never a bad idea. lol

  17. S.P -- LOL!! I've done the exact same thing. I've even...heh...printed out pages of nice comments to give myself a much needed boost. It's especially nice to have comments from a writer you respect, and there are LOADS of them over at the forum. :)

    Rachel -- Ah, yes, me too. There's a particularly lovely thread that I like to go back to -- I believe it was the first five pages of FI that drew some very nice compliments. Reading them always helps lift my spirits. :)

  18. Kari -- Ohhh...Wonder Woman. Too cool! That sounds like a fabulous idea. My journal is pretty boring on the outside... maybe it's time to liven it up with some scratch n' sniffs or something. (g)

    Libby -- Yes, very important to get back on the horse as fast as possible. One thing about journals is that they're also a great way to keep track of what sparks a downward spiral. (For me, that would be just about anything. LOL.)

  19. @Zan Marie -- We should have a logo. (vbg) And yeah...those pesky negative thoughts. We can only hope one day they'll just go away. :)

    E.C.-- I was NEVER a journal writer. I might've spewed out a page or two every now and then, but consistent journaling never really caught on. I'm still not great at it. But when I need it, I use it. No telling what might happen if you tried, tho. You might love it.

  20. @Michelle -- Let us know how it goes if you do. :) Pictures...quotes... you can put anything in it. Hope it goes well!

    @Beth -- WHEW! :) It always sounds so weird when you consider talking about this stuff. lol. But it's so good to know that others do it too.

  21. Deniz -- Girl, I am right there in the trenches with you. :)

    Susan -- LOL! I love me some ice cream, too. A little too much. :)

    Claire -- Wow, Claire. LOL! I can definitely see your point. I've read that journaling is a great way to get things off your mind so you can be at ease. I'll admit I'm not the greatest at it, and perhaps that's part of the reason I'm constantly stressed out. (g) Maybe I'll try to integrate a little more journal time into my schedule. Calm the raging waves. (g)