I decided, for a brief moment, that I was going to start publishing posts on Medium. To build an audience, I told myself. If I make some money at it, that’s a side benefit.
I showed the Engineer the first draft of the Medium article and our conversation went something like this:
“It’s good,” he said, as though an alternative definition for “good” could be, “resembling doody.”
“But?” I asked, very patiently.
“But… I’m trying not to be a jerk.”
Either I said, “I would never think you’re a jerk!” or gave him a look I ordinarily reserve for doody myself. I don’t remember which.
Bravely, he said, “It’s just that it sounds like it was written by a different person than your blog.”
That’s not so bad, I thought.
“Someone with a stick up their ass.”
That hadn’t exactly been what I was going for. Fortunately for him three things are true: one, I take tough feedback extremely gracefully, and two, the stick was only metaphorical and not an actual stick that could be used, hypothetically of course, as a weapon. Most importantly, he is expressly my biggest fan and an unrelenting supporter of my writing. Even so, I was characteristically mature about the whole thing and spent an hour in quiet contemplation (during which I wasn’t speaking to him). Following this, I came to an uncomfortable realization.
He was right. Shit.
So I went back to my computer and thought about what he had said somewhat tentatively before I burst into tears: try again, and maybe loosen up a little bit. Reminding myself that I’m breezy, I tried again. Then I posted it to Medium and waited very patiently to learn whether it would be “curated.” On Medium, curation matters both for audience-building and for making money on your posts. The specifics don’t matter, but suffice it to say, this puts a sort of pressure on my writing. I wrote the original article with the Medium curators as my primary audience.
This morning, my article had been up for approximately eleven hours and I had checked approximately 22 times to see if it had been curated. And then I spent some time reading up on how to write articles that are successfully curated. And then, by the grace of the muses, I had the thought, none of this is actually going to make me a more successful author. I don’t want to be a professional blogger. I want to write books.
I deleted the article from Medium, and gave myself a stern reminder to write for me. I’m my target audience. More later on all the very uncomfortable and related feelings I’m having about my current novel-in-progress.
The Almost Medium Article: On the Daily Practice of Journaling / DIY Therapy / Creating Time Where There Wasn’t Time Before
At the end of September 2019, I became a Person Who Writes in a Journal Every Day. That was almost three months ago, so now I am an expert. In those three months I’ve experienced such dramatic benefits (not necessarily inclusive of taking feedback in the way of a Buddhist monk), that I feel compelled to shout about it from the roof of the internet. It’s just that I think everyone reading this should run out right now and buy a pretty notebook and a reasonably-priced fountain pen, and start writing about their hopes and dreams and inner demons.
I’ve always had this vague awareness that journaling is a Good Idea. It seems that there really isn’t a counter argument to that position. I think it would be nice to know on what date a specific thing happened. Possibly for the purposes of winning an argument that doesn’t matter. Or, now that I’m getting older, to be reminded of the fact that particular things had happened at all. Despite this unrebutted opinion that journaling is a Good Idea, I had never managed to get the habit to stick. That’s not to say I haven’t given it the ol’ college try. I have over a dozen pages of rather boring daily chronicles spread among at least fifteen pretty notebooks (eight of which I still have in my possession). Many of those pretty notebooks are still depressingly blank or full of endless possibilities depending where you are on the path to enlightenment.
In 2019, perhaps because my life became suddenly very not-boring (to me, at least), I bested my previously streak of uninterrupted journal writing by about 87 days (and counting). The universe upended my life this year and gave it a good shake. I got divorced. I moved from a mountain top in the middle of nowhere to a Big City, and started a new job and a new relationship. I decided to write a novel (but, actually). And then my head started to feel a bit like it might explode. In an effort to prevent this from happening, I decided to start writing things down so when people were like, maybe you should be in therapy I could say, “no, no it’s fine. I journal.” Followed of course by quickly backing out of the room away from the awful person who expects that I might face my troubles head-on or something.
The funny thing is, it has ended up feeling quite a lot like facing my problems head-on. And also like magic.
Journaling has been a bit like DIY therapy for me, particularly when it comes to processing the feelings associated with the end of my 18-year relationship. At first, I used it as a way to track my version of Events that Lead to the Thing Exactly as They Happened. I had fallen into the trap of litigating the past, as though it would have made me feel better to prove that my version of events most closely mirrored “objective reality.” This didn’t last long. I quickly lost interest in my retelling to myself the history of my marriage. Instead, I learned the best way to deal with the pain is to face it and feel it and then move on. I’ve learned to leave the past where it belongs and to focus on the present. This is a gift.
Second, my journal opened up a wormhole or a space portal or something sciency that allows me to manipulate time. My life seems to have slowed down in the last three months. It no longer feels like it’s passing in such a blur. I feel as though I’m experiencing life more deeply and more fully since taking the time each day to really pay attention to what I’m thinking about and what I’m feeling. It’s a strange and wonderful experience.
It has also shown me the magic of daily practice. With the 25th and 26th hours I found in each day, I’ve started writing my first novel. I participated in and “won” National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. I would estimate that all total, between my journal and book, I’ve written at least 100,000 words with a pen on paper since the beginning of October. If that doesn’t make me a badass nerd (and also very humble), I don’t know what will. I’ve accomplished this by doing a little bit every day.
Because I’m such a zealot about this whole writing-every-day thing, I’ve come up with some (hopefully) useful best practices. In no particular order:
I write first thing in the morning. Partially because it’s a very zen way to start the day, and partially because there’s no way in hell I’d actually do it every day if I didn’t do it before all the “emergencies” of the day started rolling it. It helps to wake up before the rest of the world (including hungry dogs) can start bothering you.
I have a very simple “minimum” daily practice. I start my daily journal by writing three things I’m grateful for, because although I am naturally very positive and patient and brimming with gratitude for the gifts my life has bestowed upon me, sometimes it helps to spend a little time actively focusing on the good things. After that, I do some intention-setting related to my long-term goals, which is an extremely woo-y thing to do, but I love it and I own it and recommend it to everyone. Finally, I write whatever is in my head. This is rarely very profound, and often something like, I wish it was Friday.
I carry my journal with me everywhere I go. I love to jot ideas and positive thoughts and inspirational quotes in my notebook throughout the day. Also, hypothetically, if someone were to get pissed off about something during the day, instead of saying what they’re thinking out loud they could instead write what they are thinking and it would turn out way better in the end. This is another possible use for a journal.
I am very fancy. I write with a fountain pen (Twsbi Eco) in a beautiful Leuchtturm1917 (size A5 with dotted pages), and it is pretentious and satisfying and I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
Perhaps most importantly, I am not precious about the process. I have previously described my writing process in this way:
“Some days are very flowy. The words pour forth via my fountain pen as though spoon fed to me by angels. On other days, I hold my pen in my fist like a pissed off kindergartner with a fat crayon and miserably scratch out each one.”
Some days I write mostly without error, and some days I cross out every third word. I don’t care. My only goal is to fill the whole beautiful notebook with very fancy ink, and as long as I’m doing that I’m winning. The goal is volume, and the trick is to lower the bar and embrace imperfection.
I very loosely follow the Bullet Journal method, which has helped me in my quest to not be so precious. It provides a method of organizing information that would be useful to refer back to like, “Books to Read,” “Quotes to Remember,” or “People I am Currently Not Speaking to and Why.”
There you have it. If you have ambitions, experiences, or opinions related to journaling I’d love to hear them via whatever process Medium facilitates such interaction. You can also find me on Instagram (@talialaurenwriter) and at my blog (talialauren.com).