Category Archives: Journaling

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

dexter-catI quite like my own company.

No-one to comment about what I’m doing/should be doing/have done.

No-one to mind the music I’m playing or if the window is open or closed.

No-one to share the (accidentally vegan) ginger biscuits.

And no-one to interrupt when the creative juices are flowing.

But everyone know that you can have too much of a good thing. I mean, look at Tom Hanks in ‘Castaway’.  He started talking to a basketball when he’d had enough of solitary confinement.

And I kind of know what that was all about. Because after a while of pleasing myself with no-one around to comment, I’ll set off looking for company.  And not just someone to talk to – someone to share my writing with. Which is why I take myself off to public poetry readings at the Dock in Carrick on Shannon, and performances with the Hermit Collective.

Third party validation was one of the topics we covered in the recent Journal Keeping course I ran in Charlestown.  It ran on from the unanswerable ‘Why Do I Write?’ question.

We’d already established that keeping a journal is a Very Good Thing for maintaining your sanity. But essentially, in order for it to work properly, it should be private and for your eyes only. Meaning you should be able to write exactly what you want about whatever (and whoever) you want, without censure.

But then we got around to discussing third party validation. Surely writers put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) with the intention of other people reading their words? We seldom write just for ourselves – we want someone else to read what we’ve written.

One of the Journal Keeping participants was adamant that as a creative person she could only engage in writing that was broadcast (in the widest sense of the word) for other people to appreciate. The same with art, music, needlework, craft activities. So it turned out journaling was not for her.

But for the rest of us, we agreed that writing for ourselves and no-one else was a useful part of the creative process.

Empty your head onto paper in your journal – and then pick out the bits you want to go public with, develop them, and accept that some people may like them and some won’t.

Which is exactly what I’m doing right here, right now  🙂

And for your enjoyment, a cute cat picture.  This is Dexter who lives a charmed life with a number of aunties in Dylan Thomas’s old stomping ground in Swansea.


The Details…

journal flyer 2I know that I keep going on about how keeping a journal is good for your mental health…

So, here are the details about how I plan to share my experiences of journaling through a short writing course at Charlestown Arts Centre , starting on September 7th.

Four Wednesday afternoons on how best to keep a journal, the how, why and what and everything in between. Click here for a pdf version of the flyer: journal flyer sept 16

So I was having a bit of a bad day…

gargoyle1 There’s nothing worse than breaking a fingernail on a Tuesday morning.

Well, yes there is. Of course there is.

But I woke up feeling like everything was a major trial and the joy just seemed to have been sucked out of what should have been a happy day.

That was yesterday, when I was charging around feeling cross and snappy with just about everyone and everything, for no good reason.
Then I sat myself down and poured out all my bad humour onto paper. And immediately I  felt better, well able to cope with broken fingernails et al.

Which brings me nicely on to my latest project – a journal writing course which I’m running during September. (Let’s cut to the chase: Charlestown Arts Centre, 2-4pm, starting September 7th).

Keeping a journal is well documented as a way of keeping your mental health in good order. For me, it’s an essential tool in keeping me sane(-ish) and organised (-ish).

I started keeping journals when I was in my teens when I wrote in code in a big diary that I hid in the hot press (OK, I was in England then, so it was the ‘airing cupboard’). I was anxious not to let my parents or my little sister know about the unrequited love I felt for the boy on the school bus that I wrote about in great detail.

All that teenage angst (which went on for years) got a ceremonial burning when I got to 17 and met someone real who wanted to go out with me. I kept on with the journals right up until a couple of boyfriends later when I met and married my balloon pilot. All good, until one day he discovered my carelessly piled heap of notebooks and journals and began reading. Many raised voices later there was another ceremonial burning (too much intimacy from a previous life).

Fast forward 36 years and I’m still keeping journals, although I’m now pretty good at keeping them private. I favour recording random snippets of information, rants about this and that (broken fingernails a speciality), dates and appointments, plus lots of cutting and sticking pictures and doodling with coloured pens. And of course, a journal is a great creative writing tool for recording ideas and finding inspiration.

A trawl through the internet tells me my favourite journal style is called ‘smash book’ journaling. And then there’s bullet journaling – keeping a fancy book of lists, which I’m also taken with. In the past, I’ve also documented special events, like when we arrived in Ireland with a herd of alpacas and started building our own house, which may or may not become a memoir someday. Some bits of the building experience were hilarious and a re-read can still make me laugh (although I cried at the time!).

The best thing about journaling is that there is no right or wrong way to do it – and the only judge is yourself. I’ll be giving lots of suggestions about how to keep a journal, how to keep it private, what to write, where to write and how to keep going, with some practical prompts and bits and pieces of scrapbooking materials to get things under way. And there’s tea and coffee on the go, too.

‘Keeping a Journal’ is over four Wednesday afternoons, 2-4pm, in Charlestown Arts Centre (County Mayo, Ireland), starting on September 7th.

Even blogging gets a mention 🙂

Tick Boxing for Beginners

Feather20Pen20ClipArtAs a compulsive list maker, I’ve decided it’s time to reveal my interest in Bullet Journaling.

I first stumbled across the concept of BoJo (Really? Really?) when I was researching journaling for an upcoming writing course I’m running (more of that later);  God Bless the internet and all who sail in her!

(One of the reasons I often work on an old laptop that doesn’t have Wi-Fi capability is that I’d be forever ‘researching’ rather than writing. But I digress.)

Bullet Journaling is an organisational tool for people who like lists (me, me, ME!). It’s a system of cross-referencing information in your daily life and keeping track of it in one place –  a Bullet Journal.

In a nutshell, it’s a fancy book of lists. And I’ve been doing it for years without realising that  the technique  has now been developed commercially, spiked with jargon and given a trendy name.

There are hundreds of examples to look at on the internet – along with videos of well-manicured hands turning a simple, monochrome copy book (Irish for exercise book) into a colourful kick-ass tome of lists-with-pictures.

The joy of bullet journaling is that it can be as simple as a combination of lists of things to do and then ticked as done, or as complex as a  fancy year planner dotted with coloured  lines, pictures and cross-references. The pages in your book can be as plain and functional as a shopping list.  Or they can be as colourful and arty as something you’d like to display in a frame on the wall. You choose.

For a writer, lists can be a useful creative tool –  great for prompting and recording ideas. And, of course, they are very necessary for recording activity and progress. I keep lists of writing competitions and submission opportunities , and I cross reference them with details of past  writing successes (and failures) and looming deadlines.

I combine the Bullet Journal  techniques with a ‘Dear Diary’ sort of journal which helps me dump onto paper all the confusing stuff that’s going on in my head at 2am. It’s a (private!) sanity-saving trick that’s well documented by professionals as being a good thing to do.

Which is how come I’m going to be sharing my knowledge over the course of four afternoons in September, hopefully encouraging newbies to dip their toes into the world of journaling.

My ‘Keeping a Journal’ course will be  in Charlestown Arts Centre, County Mayo, every Wednesday from 2pm until 4pm, starting on September 7th. I’ll be kick-starting  the journaling process with some scrapbooking materials  and creative writing prompts – and digging deep to find something personal we can all write about for posterity.

There. That’s another box ticked. Now where did I put my shopping list? I know I wrote one, but where on earth did I leave it?