Like a lot of young girls growing up, I once kept a diary, similar to the one shown in the picture to the right. The small, royal blue imitation leather book with gold trimmed pages had a silver plated lock on the side, and came with a matching tiny silver key so I could "lock up" my deepest thoughts and most private secrets inside. It was my "BFF" (best friend forever), my confidant, and the only other one (besides God) who knew my innermost feelings. My diary was MORE than just a book of a young girl's daily musings - it was my LIFE; an innocent rumination of mixed up, naive and confused teenage thoughts bled deep into it's narrow lined pages. Whenever I felt the need to purge my heart and soul of weighty teenage matters, or just gush about my most recent teenage crush, I would huddle in my tiny bedroom closet, and with just enough light trickling in from the nearby window or nightstand lamp, I would sit all alone - sometimes for hours - and pour out my innermost thoughts and feelings into the empty pages of that little blue book. It was an almost daily ritual, and a habit that no doubt started my love of writing.
I hid my little blue diary in my bedroom closet, stuffed deep down inside a cardboard box of teenage odds and ends.I hid the tiny matching key in a ballerina jewelry box I kept on my dresser. From time to time, I'd have to change my hiding place, lest my two nosy, and often mischievous brothers would find it and threaten to divulge my most private thoughts to the outside world. Any girl with brothers knew it was a very REAL threat, and if carried out, would have been a mortifying teenage nightmare! In fact, I do remember a time or two my older brother got hold of it and waved it high in the air, taunting, teasing and threatening me that he was going to reveal its contents, only to be told by my mother to give it back to me AT ONCE! Being a woman, as well as a prolific writer and journal keeper herself, she knew how sacred those private teenage thoughts were. In fact, for centuries women and men alike have utilized journaling as a therapeutic way of coping with life.(See Wiki article here) Good, bad or ugly, diaries and journals are our "confessions of the soul", not to mention WAY cheaper than hours of private therapy! And just like a good therapy session, I always felt "cleansed" after a lengthy diary entry, and oftentimes emotionally drained from the release of such intense thoughts I had kept bottled up inside for so long.
Once I became an adult,I traded in my girly diary for a couple of spiral composition books,and continued to record my life's private thoughts and events.For me, journaling was a way of life, and many times, the much needed therapy needed to cope with life's more complex adult struggles. Whether I was writing a personal love letter to my "secret crush", or penning soulful prayers to God, a pen and composition book were never too far away. In fact, I still have one or two of those composition books stored away and take them out from time to time to "reminisce" about days gone by. They still have somewhat of a "therapeutic" effect when I go back and read those scrambled up thoughts, and realize how much I've grown since then as a person, a woman and a writer!
Unfortunately, my little blue imitation leather diary has long since disappeared, and I can’t for the life of me seem to remember what happened to it. I asked my mother about it recently, and she doesn’t have any recollection of seeing it around the house I grew up in, and where she and my father still reside. Nor have I been able to find it searching through stored boxes of belongings in my own home. I can only guess I destroyed it in one of my periodic “burning rituals”, after I became an adult. You know – those melancholy times when you have a few too many glasses of wine, get all wistful and throw old love letters into a late midnite fire. Or when you chunk cardboard boxes of identifying documents like tax forms, bills, receipts or bank account information into a roaring fall bonfire! I don't know, perhaps my little blue diary met its misfortune in the same charred way, along with some other forgotten pieces of my past. But it sure would be fun to find it again, and relive those priceless moments preserved in time so long ago!
Nowadays, journaling has become better known as “blogging”. That’s a funny word – “blog”. It’s actually short for “web log” and became popular in the early 2000’s. Simply put, a blog is a website of targeted journaling that addresses a specific topic like cooking or crafting. Blogs are usually written in a chronological form, so you see the most recent blog first, with former blogs being archived. Today, there are millions of blog sites with new ones popping up every day. Blogs can be either strictly a blog site, or a combination website/blog, like this one. But most all of them have one thing in common – to share information on a specific topic and attract an audience of like-minded individuals to engage with.
Some bloggers (those who write blogs) go a step further and “monetize” their blogs by adding other company’s links or banners, in hopes of getting paid a nominal commission should their blog visitor click on a link and/or make a purchase from that advertiser. Blogging for money is very popular but can also take a long time to become lucrative. There are literally thousands of blogs dedicated to this very subject, and I have no doubt there are some out there who are very successful at making a decent living from a monetized blog site. I tried it once myself, but soon became very frustrated in the amount of time and effort it took to find credible links and advertise my blog to the right market, only to see very little activity. Truth is, I didn’t have the time to devote to a monetized blog and found it more of a chore than an enjoyment. I am already self-employed and have a successful website design business. I would rather focus my “monetizing efforts” on that for the time being. That’s why I choose to write “for fun”. It puts ME in control of what, when, where and to whom I want to write to, and is more like the relaxing art of journaling I used to do as a young girl.
Still, I do embrace this modern form of journaling, now referred to as “blogging” and use it pretty much the same way I did when I wrote in my diary as a young girl. Only now, I’m typing effortlessly on a laptop instead of scribbling entries by hand with a pen or pencil. And instead of hiding away in my bedroom closet, I’m able to relax in my favorite chaise lounge on a quiet Sunday morning, and reflect my deepest thoughts back onto an empty computer screen. Plus, I have all the modern features of a computer like auto correct, spell check and copy/paste to help me format my blog entries better than I could with just pen and paper, as well as endless resources like online dictionaries, stock images and informational websites upon which to find credible facts and statistics to substantiate my words.
There’s just one big difference now….
When I used to journal as a young girl, and later as a young woman, my journal entries were much more personal, and NEVER shared with anyone else. NEVER. Not even my best friend. Those private written thoughts came from the deepest depths of my heart and soul, and God was the only other one who knew them. My diary was my hidden treasure chest, filled with all my heart’s secret thoughts, wishes and desires. Unlike modern day blogs, I would have NEVER dreamed of sharing that treasure chest with anyone else, much less try to “sell it” to make to money. It may have been crudely written and grammatically raw around the edges, but that didn't matter. It was for MY eyes only, and its contents were priceless and invaluable. Now, however, I can either choose to share my blog entries through my "Bohemian Typewriter" with an interested audience, or I can keep my innermost thoughts safely protected in my laptop, using its protective "password" feature. Or simply "delete" any entry I don't wish to save or share. And while that's a nice convenience, I kind of miss those fiery rituals where I could incinerate those old composition books full of weighty words that had once lived inside my soul. I mean,its not like I can chunk my laptop into a blazing fire, although at times I feel like it! LOL!
Even though the old, traditional diaries are seldom used anymore, I would recommend that everyone keep some type of journal, whether its through blogging or just scribbling random words in a plain notebook. After all, its what you keep locked up INSIDE that can cause so much mental, emotional and physical stress and pain. Studies have even shown that people who journal have less emotional stress and are more "in touch" with their true feelings than those who keep things bottled up inside. Of course, you can always talk to a therapist, but journaling is SO much cheaper! Just make sure you keep a "lock" on it so it doesn't accidentally fall in the wrong hands! ;)
I'm not a winter person. NOT AT ALL. In fact, I was born in Spring (April), and really didn't want to come out then! I'm pretty sure my Mother pushed me on out a little early because she was tired of tripping over her grotesquely swollen "cankles". Can't say I really blame her, though. And while I love all the subtle nuances of Spring, my heart beats just a little faster the closer it gets to Summer! Yep, I'm a Summer girl. A bonafide ""toes in the sand, sun in my face, beach-loving,sit-outside-on-the-deck-watching-fireflies" kind of summer gal! But, alas, this blog entry is not about Summer....
I know, I know - it's still WINTER. Don't remind me. And I've got what is commonly known as the "winter blues". Happens every year, starting right after the New Year, when all the gaiety of the holidays is past, and the first big January chill sets in. Sometimes I seriously think I have S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder), maybe to a lesser degree, but I still get in a seasonal "funk" around this same time EVERY SINGLE YEAR!
I took the picture below today while hubby and were at the beach on a short overnight getaway. This is MY kind of "winter blues"! Even at 50 degrees, I'd STILL rather be on the beach in the winter....<3
As I said, I'm NOT a winter person. Not even when it snows. Everyone's jumping up and down going, "Oh, look - it's snowing! Let's go sledding, skiing, build a snowman, have a snowball fight...", and I'm hunkered down inside, wearing three layers of clothing, thermal socks, and hugging a pot of hot coffee, saying, "Honey, can you turn the heat up a little more!" lol
Oh, don't get me wrong - I LOVE to watch a pretty snowfall as much as the next girl - but from a window INSIDE, please. And make sure it's GONE by the next day, if you don't mind! lol Yeah, one snowfall and that's IT for winter, okay? Let's not drag this out too long!
I mean, I'm an OUTSIDE girl most of the year. Gardening, going to the beach, cook outs with friends and family...being stuck inside (unless its over 95 degrees)all day is NOT gonna happen with THIS summer-loving lady! NO WAY! Summer is short enough as it is (at least it SEEMS that way to me); I'm NOT going to waste a minute of it sitting down at my bohemian typewriter, sweating out sticky romance novels -or anything else for that matter! Oh, I've TRIED writing OUTSIDE on nice summer days. NOT a good idea. Between the blinding glare of the sun, the blood-sucking mosquitoes, and the incessant buzz of the hubby cutting our five acre backyard, it's not exactly the most PEACEFUL writing atmosphere for a writer! Besides, I'd much rather be planting herbs and veggies in my backyard garden or working on my Tahitian tan down at the beach. You know, all those things you CAN'T do in winter!
But when I started writing books, I realized that I had MORE time to write in the winter because I didn't go outside as much as I did in the Spring and Summer. I could put on my over-sized flannel owl-printed PJ's, a baggy sweatshirt, my thermal socks, pour myself a mug of steaming cappuccino from my Keurig, sit back in my chaise lounge and wait for the frozen words of winter to thaw into the riveting pages of a hot, steamy romance novel! The words just seem to pour more deeply and effortlessly in the dead of winter - especially when I'm home alone and the house is empty and quiet. No outside distractions - no noisy lawnmower circling round and round, no pesky insects to swat, no itchy sweat running down my back; just lounging comfortably with the heat pump gently whirring in the background, the hypnotic clicking of my fingers hitting the keys on my laptop, and my hidden thoughts coming to life on the screen before me!
Writing in winter thaws my soul like a warm, aged brandy and keeps my mind from "freezing up" with the icy thoughts of the long winter ahead. For me, it's the perfect antidote for S.A.D.! And like a beautiful butterfly encapsulated in a protective cocoon that bursts forth into new life, so will my next beautiful love story bloom with the gentle warmth of the coming Spring!
How about you? If you're a writer, what's YOUR favorite time of the year to write, and why? If you're a reader, do you read more in the summer or winter? Personally, I prefer reading for relaxation in the summer months while at the beach or on vacation. But there's also alot to be said for cuddling up by a cozy fire in the winter with a good tear-jerking love story and shutting out the rest of the cold world.
Unfortunately, very few of us have the luxury of writing OR reading WHEN we really WANT to, due to "adulting" and fulfilling other "life obligations." Speaking of which, hubby will soon be home and I need to get dinner going!
Stay warm, my fellow winter writers - and readers; Spring is peeking out behind the icicles and blowing warm kisses! Embrace the time you have now....
I was pondering my next novel today and a sketchy story line started forming in my mind. As I pondered the outline of the story, I realized that in order to form the plot, I had to ask questions. Questions about the characters. Questions about their personalities. Questions about their relationship to other characters. Questions that uncovered OTHER characters and other stories. Stories about stories. That's when it hit me that "every story has a story". Think about it. Your life is a story. But it didn't START with you. It started with your parents. They had a story that "begat" you. Likewise, THEIR story had a story that started with THEIR parents. And so on and so on...
"every story has a story"
It's like a perpetual door that keeps opening up another door to another story. And therein lies the mystery in reading a fiction novel. You're only TOLD the story the author wants you to know. For example, the main character may be a single mother of two kids, but the writer may not have told you what happened to her children's father. That is ANOTHER part of her STORY. It may not matter in regards to the story line the author wrote, but to the reader, it opens up a DOOR to another STORY. A story of her past. A question that the author left open-ended for the reader to wonder about. A mystery that may or may NOT ever be solved.
It also works the other way. A story can have a unknown PAST story OR an unknown FUTURE story. Say you get to the END of a novel and the characters "lived happily ever after". But did they REALLY? Who's to say they didn't get tired of each other after five years, got a quickie divorce and went their separate ways? Or maybe they fell on hard times and ended up on the streets. Or were diagnosed with an incurable disease. What's their "story after the story?" There again, the reader is left with unanswered questions and endless possibilities. Most readers don't mind, and are content with the "happily ever after" conclusion. But for others, there's always that nagging "cliffhanger" that leaves them hungering for more story. The story AFTER the story.
Every story has a story. I guess that's why soap operas have always been so popular. They realize that every story has a story, and that the story doesn't end. Ever. Flashbacks answer questions about PAST stories, and new episodes answer questions about FUTURE stories. It's the "hook" that keeps viewers coming back every day, even though they KNOW the story doesn't end then, either. And why mini-series and reality shows are so popular. The viewer is left hopelessly hanging from one story to the next. Addicted to the story. Oblivious to the fact that it will NEVER end. Even when a new season starts, the old story STILL goes on.
As a writer, I get to create stories. I literally "breathe life" into imaginary characters and give them ANY kind of life I want! Because I am writing THEIR story. Past, present and future. It's an incredibly POWERFUL gift. And a daunting task. Because I'm not only creating a character - I'm creating their STORY. The pertinent information I give about a character will determine how the reader interprets that person's personality, character and their role all the way throughout the book. And their story. But interpretation is a mystery in itself. Because not everyone asks the same questions. Therefore, not everyone gets the same answers, or comes to the same conclusions. So, as a writer, while I may or may not give certain information about a character, my readers will ultimately "fill in the blanks" to the missing parts themselves, and come to their OWN conclusions about the characters "story". And if you think about it, that makes my readers sort of like "co-authors". Ghost writers, if you will! They are "writing the story behind the story."
Even in real life, everyone has a story behind the story. Everything you are, everything you've done, everywhere you've been all started with a story, that had another story before that. And no matter WHERE you are in your life right now, your story doesn't end there. Even if you die. Your story will live on. Because a part of you is left SOMEWHERE in this world that will perpetrate your story to infinity in some way or another. Your story has a story. A NEVER ENDING story!
I'm going to end this blog entry with a true story about a young Australian woman who recently died of cancer at the very young age of 27 years old. Just days before she died, she penned a very simple and beautiful letter about "the meaning of life", and her very meek and humble advice on how to live life to its fullest. (Click here to read her last (but not final) story.) She shared her letter on Facebook, which is where I first saw it. I almost didn't click on it, but something urged me to read it anyway. I'm so glad I did.
While not the most eloquently or grammatically correct written letter, it was beautifully pure and honest. This young dying girl telling the living world about the "meaning of life", and "a bit of life advice". The irony of her words were so deeply thought provoking, that everything else around me faded into gray into the background for that few minutes I was reading. And even as I drove to a meeting afterwards, I still couldn't help but think about this young woman that I didn't know from Adam, but yet who had touched me so profoundly with her simple words. Her last story. But not her final one. Thanks to her simply penned words (and the internet), her story will go on and on - each time her letter is seen and shared. At only 27 years old, she will probably have made MORE of a lasting impact on this world than most people will in a lifetime. But not because she died such a young and tragic death; but because she chose to write the story AFTER the story. A story that could be remembered forever. A story with a story - both past and future.
Every story has a story. As it is in writing - and in life...
So its another New Year. I feel blessed. Blessed to still be here, above all. Blessed that my family members are still here. Blessed that 2017 wasn't really all that bad. In retrospect, I would even say it was a GOOD YEAR. Yes, there were problems. Ups and downs. Losses. Struggles. But then again there was growth. Positive changes. Poignant realizations. Assertions - ah, yes, assertions. When undefeatable boldness surfaces to the top and you feel like NOTHING or NO ONE can stop you from reaching your goal. When you stand firm in your resolve because you KNOW that God is on your side, and even your enemies can't bring you down! Assertions that carry you through the hard times, like a warrior.
I guess assertions are like resolutions. Only stronger. Resolutions are more like "suggestions". Most people make them with no more a thought than when they brush their teeth. Oh, it's New Years - guess I need to make s resolution or two. You know - just to look good. Yea, so, I'll drop five pounds by Spring. Maybe even join a gym, for good measure. And yeah, I guess I could give up Facebook for a month or so - but you can still reach me on Twitter or Instagram. Eat healthier? Sure. I'll just order a salad with my cheeseburger, instead of fries. Oh wait, let's start that NEXT week... You get the picture. Assertions are different. Note this definition I found online:
"the action of stating something or exercising authority