Benefits of Journaling (Even if You’re Not a Writer!)

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Is it just me or have you been struggling with taking time for your well-being too? If you scour the Internet, you’ll find varying opinions of what we should eat, when we should exercise, what our ideal body weight should be… the list goes on. One area of reaching our optimal health is being overlooked – our mental health. While improving our physical health through diet and exercise can impact our mental health, I want to introduce you to another way to improve your well-being. The use of journaling has many benefits, and I’d like to take the time to share some with you.

Now as an old school (emphasis on old school) writer, I own more journals/notebooks than I do lipsticks. Something about putting pen to paper and letting my thoughts flow is therapeutic. You may not consider yourself a writer, but I don’t want this to inhibit the freeing release journaling provides. Allow me to explain why journaling is something you need in your life.

1. Free Expression. There are instances where the opportunity doesn’t come for me to speak openly about my thoughts and feelings. Whether it’s because I don’t want to offend someone, I feel like I’m just venting, or I don’t have time to spare regurgitating my thoughts, journaling provides the means to be open and honest. My journaling is without the intent of an audience – I’m writing for myself. The paper doesn’t judge me. The only time my pen interrupts my speech is when it runs out of ink. I’m free to write whatever my heart desires. I don’t have to stick to a certain format either. Starting off “Dear Diary” is not my method. Some of my entries are as simple as:

Today was pretty mediocre. Nothing too bad or good. That is all.

Other times my length exceeds my expectations and I’m left with pages upon pages of my soul spilled out before me. Drastic difference right? The freedom to say whatever I want/need allows me to be relentless with my honesty.

2. A Time for Reflection. The freedom to write with honesty produces a great means for reflection. There are times I’ll reread my journal entries and smile as I relive the happy moments. Other times I’ll reread other entries and realize my viewpoint was wrong or whatever I was complaining about was nothing more than making a mountain out of a molehill. Because thoughts and feelings are fleeting, reflecting on journal entries provides a means of keeping your perspective in check. It can also give insight as to patterns you can recognize. Are your thoughts and feelings projecting the lifestyle you desire? Are you crying out for help? (If so, please get the help you need. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/)

3. You are in Control. Because journaling is writing for yourself, you are in control of how and when you journal. There are times when I spend an hour or more jotting down ideas. As I mentioned earlier, some days I’ll only write a line or two. While I strive (and fail on repeat) to journal every day, you may find this doesn’t work for you. You will find what works for you, and I encourage you to continue it.

4. Private Time. Allow this to be your time. Like deep breathing and meditation, you will serve yourself best by writing for yourself. It’s not often I share my journal entries. When I do, it’s usually to enrich someone else’s life and not focus on myself. Memoirs are written with similar intent. Perhaps you’ll find your journaling should be read by others which is great! However, when in the moment of writing don’t let an audience dictate what you produce. This is your time to be honest.

5. You Can Do It Anywhere. Previous generations held great value in writing letters and keeping journals. Some may blame the advancement of technology for this practice’s demise. While there may be some truth there, does having an electronic device inhibit the means of journaling? Absolutely not. Most devices come equipped with a feature similar to a notepad. Likewise, journaling apps provide an easier and helpful way to record your entries. The beauty of journaling is you can jot down your ideas practically anywhere. There are times where all I will have is a pen and the back of a receipt. I also have typed journal entries in my phone. Journaling doesn’t need to be done in an office. It can be done while waiting in line, while hiking on a trail, on a lunch break – the possibilities are never-ending.

The benefits of journaling are abundant and it will enrich your life. Like strength training, journaling is a way of keeping our mental health in check. It’s a fantastic way to keep your perspective in check. Because you are the writer, you can write whatever and wherever.

Do you journal? What works for you? Not sure how to get started? My next post will cover the basics of getting started and forming a habit of journaling. Stay tuned!

 

Until next post,

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Photo Credit: Marcel Hol at http://www.freeimages.com/photo/little-black-book-2-1464302

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7 Reasons You’re Not Pursuing Your Dreams

One of my favorite conversations with people is centered on pursuing our dreams.  I find myself awestruck to hear people’s hidden passions and talents.  Most often I hear people describing dreams of turning their hobbies into full-time careers.  Meanwhile they’re working a job they hate.  Back and forth our conversation goes, and in the end, it remains just that — a conversation.  Here are 7 reasons why you’re not pursuing that dream of yours.

  1. What Dream?

Okay so you may think I’m speaking a foreign language when I talk about “pursuing your dream.”  If that’s the case, I urge you to take time (literally set aside time) and have a dream session.  A dream session is where you allow yourself to answer the following questions:

– What do I enjoy most in life?

– What am I passionate about?

– What am I naturally gifted at?

– If money weren’t an issue how would I spend my life?

Be selfish (which it’s not!) and take some time to discover yourself.  Got a dream?  Great!  But before you embark on the journey of pursuing your dream there’s something else you need to have — a plan.

  1. Lack of Planning

Before you give your 2 weeks’ notice and sell all your possessions you must have a plan on how you’re going to pursue your dreams.  Does this mean planning every little detail?  Absolutely not.  However, consider the following as you make your plan:

– Do I need more education/training?

– How will I fund my needs as I pursue my dream?

– What routine should I be following?

Admittedly, I have neglected sticking to my schedule for writing but that’s a topic for a later blog post.  Practice and take at least 15 minutes a day to fulfill your dream.  You’ll be amazed at how accomplished you feel.  Chances are life will get in your way and you’ll get distracted at times which brings me to my next point.

  1. Being in Solitude.

Having your dream fulfilled won’t happen without the help of others.  You’ll need support while you go through the ups and downs of pursuing your dream.  Having someone ask, “Hey how are things going with (insert your dream here),” can help you be accountable to obtaining your goals.  It also allows you to vent about your process.  So find support from your loves ones.  Join a community (online or in person) with people who share similar dreams.  You’ll be inspired and challenged.

  1. Comparing Yourself to Others.

I cannot emphasize how much I compare my writing to what I read.  Not a day goes by where I don’t read something and think, Why didn’t I think of that?! I often get bogged down by the feeling of inadequacy.  I’ll read a piece so beautifully written that my first instinct is to put down my pen and give up writing forever.  However, my heart reminds me of how I love writing and that this is what I was born to do.  I’m attempting to appreciate others’ work without it dimming the light of my dream.  When I walk down the aisles of the bookstore I need to remember if these people can do it so can I.

  1. Ol’ Ye, of Little Faith.

Perhaps you have had your dreams for as long as you can remember, but in the end, you have accepted your dreams as just that — dreams.  You may feel that reality and your dreams cannot coincide.  Do yourself a favor and correct this negative thinking IMMEDIATELY!  Tell yourself that you can do this.  You need to become your own number one fan because you are the only one who can make your dreams a reality.

  1. Fear.

The most crippling reason is fear of failure.  Too often we believe we will fail at the pursuit of our dreams, so why bother?  When I meet people I don’t readily mention I’m a writer or an author because I’m afraid of the question, “So how many books have you published?”  I don’t even identify myself as a blogger because I think I don’t publish enough blog posts or have enough followers.  Yet here you are reading my blog at this moment.  What a silly notion for me to carry right?!  We often underestimate how fear can stall the pursuit of our dreams.  Fear also disguises itself well.

  1. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

Your life is busy.  You are pulled in different directions every minute of your life.  Believe me, between having a family, being self employed, and tending to our homestead, it seems like I will never have the time and energy to be a successful writer.  Sound familiar?  Yet I’ve realized there will always be something that comes up.  For reasons such as fear or little faith in myself I’ve come up with a hundred and one (and still counting) reasons why I haven’t accomplished my dream of being a published author.  And guess what?  I know you are great at coming up with excuses too.  We all are.

 

Perhaps it will take time and more resources before we make our dreams a reality.  Don’t let the delay halt you from pursuing your dreams.  I have fallen victim to every one of the above-listed reasons.  Every. Single. One.

So ask yourself:  What am I going to do today to bring myself one step closer to making my dream a reality?

As for me, expect to see an increase in blog posts.  =)

Which reasons do you fall victim to?  Tell me about your dream and how you’re pursuing it in the comments below!  Let’s make these dreams a reality.

Until next post,

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Image Credit:  Sigurd Decroos at http://www.freeimages.com/photo/sign-success-failure-1055756

What is Fantasy?

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She calls my name from afar, yet I feel her under my skin.  My heart swells at the sight of her long braided hair draped over her smooth, supple skin.  Her eyes change from icy blue to deep amber to colors I’ve never seen before, changing as her mood suits her.  Each step she takes is accompanied with harps, lyres, and flutes.  It’s not until she’s running do the trumpets sound and the war drum’s beat thumps in my chest.  Viewing her in all her splendor makes me believe I can do anything and be whoever I claim.  She is a breath of fresh air in my smoke-filled life.  She lifts her pewter cup to my lips urging me to drink the mulled burgundy liquid.  I lick my lips to savor every drop of its sweetness.  It is then she plants her lips upon mine, and I feel our souls connect.  She is Fantasy, and my heart knows I cannot live without her.

Fantasy is often believed to be summed up as a knight on a quest to save a princess with the help of a wizard.  Once the dragon is slain the village celebrates the wedding of the hero and princess.  Sure, good — even great — stories have been told with this foundation.  Yet, this is a vague definition of fantasy.

To me, fantasy is imaging life without the limitations of reality.  The boy who dreams of defeating the invasion of cyborgs to cope with being bullied at school is fantasy.  The mother who envisions herself dressed in a sequin gown on top of a piano singing instead of belting out off key notes as she stirs dinner in the kitchen is fantasy.  We each dream and fantasize to escape the reality we are in.

As we age life tries to suppress our need to fantasize.  We’re told it’s unproductive, at times wrong, and so we discard our fantasies and focus on reality.  In doing so we focus on our limitations and excuses we make for not making our dreams into reality.  And I am just as guilty for minimizing the need to fantasize.

One of the great things about fantasy is the idea of being something or someone greater than you are.  It is why I am drawn to reading and writing stories about fantasy.  The hope of a hero’s quest invokes my hope to carry out my dreams.  I often fantasize about people being able to identify with my characters to the extent of living vicariously through my story.  Will it happen?  I sure hope so.  When could this become reality?  Not a clue.  Focusing on the finer details and deadlines isn’t what my fantasy of being an author is about.  Rather I dream of presenting books to my readers to provide the opportunity to fall in love with fantasy again, to take that breath of fresh air and forget about their realities.  It is that fantasy – that dream – that keeps me writing.

It is for this reason I commend you to keep dreaming big.  Don’t allow your fantasies to be minimized to, “It’ll never happen.”  Instead pick up your sword and slay all the trolls who are preaching doubt.

 

What does fantasy mean to you?

 

Until next post,

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Photo Credit:  jop Quirindongo @ http://www.freeimages.com/photo/harnas-1480681

The Imperfect First Draft

Less than a month ago I finished the first draft of my first novel entitled Vanity.  It was a grueling yet exciting process being able to write a story I wanted to read.  I didn’t have the luxury of time vacationing in a secluded cabin with minimal distractions to get this done.  To be honest, most of my writing was done during breaks from my day job, while dinner was simmering on the stovetop, and late night hours with lots of tea.  Gallons and gallons of tea.  Writing “THE END” at the conclusion of my story was one of the greatest feelings I’ve felt as a writer.  Still, I was left with a question, “What now?”

The sense of accomplishment was overwhelming, and anticipation led me to read my first draft the next day with a pen in hand.  Mark after mark I called attention to my typos, sentences fragments, awkward dialogue, and inconsistencies within my story.  Looking at my first draft riddled with corrections in purple ink I understood why people dubbed the term “rough draft” because boy, it was ROUGH.

I wanted to be honest with myself and give an accurate assessment of my work because I know the brutal honesty will only allow my story to get better.  Reviewing my comments made me realize I, in fact, am fantastic at giving critiques.  My criticism was so fluid that I began to feel discouraged.  Maybe I’m not supposed to share this with anyone.  It wasn’t until I read one positive comment I left myself, “Better writing in this chapter.”  In one section I actually wrote, “KEEP!”  Perhaps it wasn’t so awful after all.

Seeing those critical comments made me realize how quick we can be to breed the idea that we should give up.  It’s not good enough, quickly becomes, I’M not good enough.  How many times do we get upset at ourselves for making mistakes or failing when trying something for the first time?  My expectation of a first draft wasn’t perfection at a first attempt.  Rather, I confirmed being a writer is about striving to perfect storytelling.  It would be easy to just give up, yet life’s accomplishments are never supposed to be easy.

Whether you are writing your first draft, trying something for the first time, are currently working on a project, or even trying to just figure out your purpose in life, I encourage you to keep going.  First drafts are supposed to be rough, and they remain rough until we keep editing and striving to make them better.  Embrace the mess that a first draft is supposed to be.  Happy drafting!

What are you currently working on?  Share in the comments!

 

Until next post,

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Take a Breath

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In the midst of writing last week, I found myself reflecting on punctuation.  Yes, you read that correctly… punctuation.  You know you’re a writer when you recognize the value of punctuation.  A part of me feels at peace when seeing the correct use of the comma.  It serves many purposes by separating items in a list and defining one clause from another but that’s not why I love them.  To me, they are a reminder to do something we often forget to do — take a breath.

I was first introduced to the idea by my first grade teacher, Mrs. Click.  She was an elderly lady who was sweet as honey until she was teaching and became tough as nails.  Mrs. Click became the cause of my anxiety when I needed to read out loud.  She believed society wasn’t being taught traditional grammar rules which was reflected in how we would read and write.  As such, Mrs. Click was quick to correct, and most often it wasn’t in a gentle manner.

Through unrelenting instruction, Mrs. Click was able to teach me about flow when reading out loud.  Then I didn’t care about taking my time.  I wanted to move onto the next person, to not waste time, and get closer to recess.  This kind of behavior led me to be a rushed, choppy reader.  Try as I might to speed through, Mrs. Click would always make me stop at a comma and take a breath.

Now that my son is in second grade, I’m seeing Mrs. Click was correct in a lot of ways.  The movement of eliminating “unnecessary” punctuation is causing young readers to rush when reading out loud, yet I’m guilty of the same thing.  In life I’m trying to balance writing with busy schedules and bedtimes.  I now find myself now reminding my son that commas are there for a purpose — take a breath.

Our lives are busy.  We are all trying to accomplish too many things simultaneously.  Sadly, it’s not going to ever let up.  Life is filled with continuous responsibilities and desires.  Instead we rush through and forget about flow.  Be reminded of what each comma represents — take a breath.

Until next post,

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PS – The image depicted here is a snapshot I took of the book I’m currently reading called Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson.  It’s a wonderful steampunk adventure story inspired by the music of Rush.  I highly recommend it.  🙂

The Heart of a Fighter

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After months of taking kickboxing classes and with the highly anticipated UFC 196 fight this evening, I’ve found myself reflecting on what it means to be a fighter.  I’ve realized it’s not simply taping up your hands and beginning to look for any opponent.  There is some internal metamorphosis that occurs.  The heart of a fighter is able to overcome not only the physical battle but also the battle of the unseen.

A fighter’s ultimate enemy is not their opponent’s stature.  It’s not the reach disadvantage.  It’s not the fight rankings.  Instead, the fighter’s enemy is their own mind.

A loss occurs when self doubt and fear creep into one’s mind.  When allowed to linger, negative thoughts break down otherwise strong fighters.  “I can’t do this,” the mind will say.  Sometimes it gets summed up into one word – “can’t.”

It doesn’t only occur when your profession becomes a fighter.  It carries over into everyday life.  There are times in my kickboxing routine where hearing “twenty more seconds,” sounds like, “twenty more minutes.”  “I can’t,” my mind tells me.  “Yes you can,” my heart corrects.

The heart of a fighter is able to overcome the negative thoughts.  By replacing negativity with encouragement, a fighter’s heart provides hope and the will to continue.  It is the foundation of the underdog story.  It is how a little boy is able to slay a giant.  You can continue to fight if you believe you can, and developing this kind of heart takes persistent practice.

Just like a muscle, developing the heart of a fighter requires two things:  training and good nutrition.  You have to train yourself to replace “I can’t” with “I can.”  Mistakes and errors are inevitable, but you can take those opportunities to train how you will respond.

The health of what you give your mind is equally important.  Like the food we consume, our thoughts and feelings impact our actions.  And take caution because thoughts are fleeting and often speak lies.  Examine your thoughts – are they encouraging or toxic?

During a boxing session, I begin energetically.  “I got this,” I tell myself through sets of burpees.  “Already halfway done with bag work?  Fantastic!”  One more set of drills and fatigue begins to overwhelm me.  “Maybe I don’t got this…”  My kicks are beginning to lower.  My punches have evolved into flailing wet noodles.  In these times, I hear the instructor say, “Remember why you’re here! Give it your all!”  My heart echoes with the words, “Just keep moving.”

It is when the heart and mind connect that a fighter can continue on.  But what if I can’t go on?  This is when you take the time to regroup, refocus, and recharge.  That’s the reason there are rounds in a fight.

When a fighter loses, it is a humbling experience.  Sometimes you can do everything right and it can still end in a loss, as is often true in split-decision matches.  It is in this moment where you can do one of two things:  dwell on the past or embrace the future.  Though current circumstances dictate defeat, the heart of a fighter chooses to persevere.

We are all fighting our own battles, yet our mind is our true opponent.  But when we lose a match, it is the time to regroup, refocus, and recharge.  With the practice of training our minds and nourishing ourselves with encouragement, we enable ourselves to overcome these obstacles.  It relies on your heart’s decision to choose to fight.  So do you have the heart of a fighter?

Till next post,

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