JT: Finding the Right Time

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I would be lying if I said that I write consistently every day. I don’t, and I’ve also failed at trying to get up extra early to do a bit of journaling before work. I’m a night owl who has the unfortunate luck of working a normal eight-to-five. That said, for some, writing first thing in the morning does have some benefit. In her The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron encourages artists (of all kinds) to take up a routine of writing morning pages, or, three pages of stream-of-consciousness/data-dump writing. The goal of this is to help clear the mind and prepare it to face the day. Open up the creative channels that might be otherwise blocked by all the worries we carry around.

I tried this way, and realized that as a night owl, evening journaling works best for me. By evening, I feel like I have plenty to say. (I keep a notepad in my bag to write down potential topics, just in case I need help starting.) After I’ve written my two pages (not three, in my case), I find myself in a quieter state. I’ve noticed that I even sleep better.

So, I encourage you to try writing during different times in your day, see which one best fits your schedule and nature. You can try writing three pages, or, like me, two pages back and front.

What time do you feel fits you best?

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If you’d like to connect, please reach out at my contact page, or on instagram (@introvertinflux)!

Just A Note:

What’s something you’ve been meaning to write about, but never got around to? Sometimes, it’s healthy to vent. Get the nasty thoughts in our head out and open up space for the good. Yesterday, I wrote about my frustration with work, with the medical system, with life in general. My grandmother hasn’t been feeling very well, and we’re currently awaiting bloodwork results. I’m scared of what they might find. But, once I got everything down, I realized that maybe I was just letting my anxiety get to me. I sometimes forget to look at the positive when I’m bogged down by a heavy black cloud. So, I encourage you to write down your own black cloud. What’s got you angry, frustrated, scared?

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If you’d like to connect, please reach out at my contact page, or on instagram (@introvertinflux)!

JT: Sometimes It’s Ugly Up There

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Even with more than ten years of practice, I still freeze before the blank page. I still have those moments where I let my inner critic whisper in my ear: do you even have anything good to say? The truth is, no, I don’t. Not always. Putting pen to paper doesn’t mean that you’ll only write down the good moments, or the good thoughts. Sometimes, it’s ugly up there and writing it all down helps us void out the bad blood and pus we’ve been carrying around. But, before reaching the point of healing, we must sharpen a blade, sterilize it, and reopen the wound.

It’s as fun as it sounds.

The good thing is that, once you get the words down, you never have to go back and read them again. Not unless you want to. I’ve got a box of notebooks in my mother’s basement, and I can tell you now that I’ve gone back and read none of them. That’s because the notebooks served their purpose. They helped me process and break free of whatever had been trapping me at the time. And, if you’re worried about someone finding them, you can go one step further and destroy them when you’re done. Light a fire and send all that ugliness away in a cloud of ash and smoke.

Or, you can just use a shredder.

Prompts to consider:

  • What’s something you regret?
  • What words would you say to someone who really hurt you?
  • What are some of your worst fears?
  • Write about the skeletons in your closet.

Well, have a good rest of the week. Let me know if you’ve got any other prompt ideas!

JT: Finding Inspiration – Those We Know

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Okay. So now you’ve got the paper, and now you’ve got the pen. What’s next?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend at least five to ten minutes staring at the blank page before getting up to make yourself your second cup of coffee for the day. (Black with a splash of cream.) Mug in hand, you’ll sit back down and stare at it some more. Scratch your head. Reach for your cell phone to see if your sister, brother, mother, partner, whathaveyou has texted you their dinner recommendation for the evening. Eventually, you’ll set your phone down, lean back, sigh.

Why is the first sentence always the hardest? It could be that there’s too much to process, like a room full of kids all wanting your undivided attention. Which one do you pick? Or, if you have anxiety, like me, you might start hearing that evil little whisper that asks: your life’s so boring, what do you even have to write about?

But the truth is, there’s a lot to write about. Maybe you’re not ready to write about yourself, and that’s okay. So write about someone you know (or knew). We cross paths with many people in our lives. Some we want around, some we don’t. Either way their presence is there, and so, perfect ammo for the pen. Explore what these people mean to you. How they impacted your life (for better or worse). What about them made you remember them even if they’re no longer in your life. What traits in them do you see in yourself, or wish you didn’t see?

Immediately, I think about my grandmother. (She’s still with us and will most likely outlive me.) A strong independent Latina who loves pan dulce and Pedro Infante. Who baby sat my siblings and I when mom was away at work, and who makes the meanest chiles rellenos I will ever have. I think of my grandmother and I think of love, of food, and of her strong weathered hands. A retired field worker, a single mother, a mean cook (even though she hates cooking), and a dedicated gardener. She means more to me than I can even say. She is also one of the most stubborn people I have ever met, with a blunt mouth and no patience for rudeness. Traits I also have in myself. Personally, I wish I inherited her ability to cook, but I don’t even like to wash the dishes.

Anyway, a few potential prompts to start with can be:

  • Who are the top five people in your life?
  • Who do you wish was still around?
  • What person do you admire most, and why?
  • Who is someone you will never forget, and why?
  • Who is someone you cannot live without? (Pets count, too.)
  • Write about your grandmother, or another parental figure that means the world to you.

If you have any other prompt ideas, please share them down below! Have a peaceful Sunday!

Journaling Thoughts: Getting Started

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To start, you need paper and ink (or graphite). You don’t even need a notebook per se. Some like to use index cards. Some write on scraps of paper they find around the house, or around town, before storing them in a single container. Tyler Knott Gregson, a photographer and poet, uses a typewriter and scraps of paper to compose his poetry. I imagine, the same can be done for journaling.

Now, before you come at me and say, “well, I can write on my phone too”, I’ll say yes, and no. I don’t recommend keeping a journal on a cell phone for a few reasons. The fact that you need to charge it, for one. And, it brings unnecessary distractions. (Tiktok being my poison of choice.) Another is that writing things with your own hands, rather than typing them out, just hits the mind differently. In my case, I remember things better. It forces my mind to slow down, focus. Once I get going, everything else falls away.

I would also suggest keeping whatever you choose small and portable. You want to be able to carry your journal wherever you go, and not feel like you’re lugging around a brick. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I use pocket sized Leuchtturm1917, or A6 notebooks because they fit the bill. I keep mine in my backpack (along with an emergency make-up/touch-up kit, snacks, a bottle of water, keys, and a thousand post-it notes I need to file away).

Also, choose a good (not expensive) pen. I love fountain pens because they’re flow is smoother than ballpoints (here’s looking at you BIC), and it’s more eco-friendly to use something reusable. However, they’re not always practical, so I also carry a few gel pens that allow me to replace the ink refill once it’s run out. I like pens that glide over paper and require the least amount of pressure to write. After all, if it feels like you’re writing on sandpaper, you’re not going to want to write. (The very sensation gives me chills.)

In all, choose whatever suits your lifestyle, and budget. You don’t need to go crazy or spend too much time deliberating on all the options. The point is to make the action of writing easier, portable, and as painless as possible. (The pain comes later.)

But, if you really must, I guess you can use your phone or laptop.    

Introducing: Journaling Thoughts

Hello everyone! Welcome to the start of a series on journaling, called Journaling Thoughts. In it, I will cover a wide range of topics surrounding journaling, from tools of the trade to tips on how to get started. Even a few lessons I learned along the way. Journaling has been one of the most helpful habits I’ve implemented in my life, and I’ve been doing it for over a decade now. Ten years of trying to make sense of the world, and myself.

That said, I still struggle with the practice every day. There’s this constant war between myself and my inner critic. (That villain that likes to plant doubt like others plant carrots in spring.)  You can even call it “journaling anxiety”. But, that’s okay. With time, I’ve learned to win more than a few battles.

When I first started journaling for reals, I was a senior in high school. I wrote in large composition notebooks, filled pages upon pages with thoughts on recent video games, transcribed lines from favorite books, pasted in the wrappers from favorite snacks, and even wrote the occasional entry on how I wanted to leave home and explore somewhere new. Then, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for college, just before 2010. There, I downsized to A5 size notebooks, where I would paste in old assignments I was proud of, or conversations I had with friends or classmates on Facebook.  (I even pasted in the chat lines from the first time I was ever asked out.) I collected words and instances like a mad person, but, in essence, I was trying to comprehend the world around me. I was compiling everything that seemed a part of me into one place, creating a written collage of my life. And it was only after gathering so much that I realized how little some things mattered, or how important other things were. (Often, I lamented what I had lost.)

Now, I’ve gotten to writing in pocket sized Leuchtturm1917 notebooks. They’re slightly larger than a pocket Moleskine (roughly 3.5 x 6 inches), and have nicer archival quality paper. (Better yet, fountain pen friendly paper.) They fit nicely in any bag, right next to my keys and pepper spray. (Okay, just kidding on the pepper spray.) I rarely paste things in anymore, and I put a bit more thought into what I transcribe.

If I had to narrow it down, I would say that the biggest benefits from journaling have been learning how to distinguish the necessary from the unnecessary. How to value what I have, in the moment, and how to ignore all the background noise. That, and the comfort of knowing I have a safe space to be myself.

If you’ve been thinking of starting a journal, but just haven’t gotten around to it, I encourage you to do so. Even if it’s just one line a day. And even if you already keep one (or three), and still hit certain roadblocks, please share them in the comments section below. What have you learned from your practice, or, what do you hope to learn?

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If you’d like to connect, please reach out at my contact page here!