Writing Your Story

Writing Your Story

In unprecedented times, your story may be more important than ever before.

When we look back on our lives, we’re going to have a story to tell. Like those that have lived through the Great Depression, we can say we’ve experienced an unprecedented time that could forever change the way we live our lives. If you want to remember this time, the thoughts, emotions, and events, I suggest writing it all down. Keeping a journal will help.

Top 3 Reasons to Write in Journal

No Judgement

Your journal can be a best friend or even a therapist who is there for you at any time of the day. The journal is there to absorb anything you would not dare to say to another person. It is cathartic to write down any poisonous emotions. It can help you understand why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling and help you find the next steps.

I don’t think that I would ever allow someone to read my journal. I need to be dead and gone because I have a mighty temper that scorches the page, but once I’ve done it, it is over. I don’t aim the rage at another person. I get it out. I make sure that I note that it was just a temporary emotion that was solved by writing it out. And now, with the world shifting so much every day, I need a place to put my feelings of unease and fear without worry.

Finding Patterns

When you look back at your journal, you can often track patterns of behavior. Some help you achieve goals and respond effectively. Others allow you to see personal or professional growth and healthy relationships. By viewing these patterns, you can make smarter decisions or reflect on changes you might need to make in your life.

As someone with a bipolar disorder, this is one of the best ways that I can keep my psychiatrist and therapist informed. It is easier to discuss patterns and let them know my medication is or is not working. But outside of this, I can see my personal growth. I can see that three years ago, I was in bad shape and that the person I am now has grown and improved.

Creativity

Journals can be a creative space. Writers like Virginia Woolf and Maya Angelou regularly wrote in journals. There are hundreds maybe thousands more that do or have done the same.

For me, journals can be a starting point for an idea. I can nurture it quietly until I’m ready to release it to the world. This doesn’t have to be just writing. I like journals without lines so that I can draw if I get the urge. Sometimes drawing is all I can do.

Apps to Help You Journal

Grabbing a pen and paper journal is not always the easiest method of journaling. In this day and age, we’re more likely to have our phone, tablet, or computer nearby. So it makes sense to find apps to help you journal. The following is a review of some apps that I’ve found to be helpful when trying to journal.

Daylio (FREE & PAID)

If you are a person of few words, Daylio may be for you. This app lets you track your mood and activities without typing a single word. The FREE version has a lot of features to track social activities, hobbies, sleep, food choices, mindfulness, and chores that are all editable so you can create your own. It has reminders, goals, and achievements you can earn as you use it. You could discover patterns or create some habits like “running, eating more healthy, or waking up earlier.” For someone interested in statistics and not a general overview, you will have to pay $2.99 monthly or $23.99 a year. It is simple and quick.

Day One (FREE & PAID)

Day One is always at the top of the list. The layout is gorgeous and has everything you need to type and format within the app itself. You can also include pictures, videos, drawings, and voice in the daily entries. It is easy to revisit any and all past events. The app can be secured with a password or fingerprint. It can be used on any Apple device. I just wish it let you sync across devices for FREE. The paid version is almost worth it at $2.92 a month billed annually. Additionally, with the paid version, you get unlimited photos, drawings, videos, and audio.

Momento (FREE & PAID)

Momento is what I call an all-in app. It lets you connect ALL your social media to your journal. Not only do you get written words, you get your Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Uber, and many more posts in your feed. In the PAID version ($2.49/mo or $16.49/yr), they extend the number of services you can connect, number of photos, and password protection.

Grid Diary (FREE & PAID)

If you struggle with knowing what to write in a diary, then Grid Diary may be for you. Instead of wondering what to write about each day, it combines diary and planner templates with reflective prompts to help you focus on the areas of life you want to track. The grid layout is unique to the journal game and entertaining. Many of Grid Diary’s features are free to use. However, in their PAID option, they offer advanced features, including sync between all your devices, passcode lock, and more color themes. The membership subscription has two options $2.49 monthly or $19.99 annually.

Runner-ups

These are the most basic apps that function like a journal without the bells and whistles. Very often, they are AD supported, but if you can overlook that, then you’re golden.

  • Diaro — simple interface, limited use, but does sync using dropbox
  • Daygram — the most straightforward app, if you don’t have a lot to say
  • Longwalks — works if you want to short-form journal with a friend
  • Diary-Journal with password — simple, customizable with a password
  • Happyfeed — an easy app for gratitude journaling

Concluding, there are many apps on the market. I’ve tried many that I would not recommend, but everyone is different, so don’t give up if the first one you try isn’t for you.

Learning to Write from David Sedaris

Learning to Write from David Sedaris

Writing is a compulsion.

David Sedaris

Who is David Sedaris?

One of six kids, David Sedaris, grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. David debuted on NPR in 1992 with Santaland Diaries. Barrel Fever, his first book, followed in 1994. Since then, he has published nine more books and written an anthology of short stories. In addition, he has composed over forty essays for The New Yorker and completed five series on BBC Radio Extra 4. David was awarded the Terry Southern Prize for Humor in 2018 and the Medal for Spoken Language from the American Academy of Arts and Letters who inducted him in May 2019. Altogether, David’s books have sold more than 12 million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

What I Learned

Write every single day.

David Sedaris

Your experience doesn’t have to be unique. You just have to be compelled to write, and you have to write every day. David uses his journals as a starting point for a lot of his work.

It is something that I’ve considered, but have had a hard time doing thus far. I’m trying to create the habit in hopes of generating ideas for my own writing. I think it might help me keep track of my mental health as well.

Let go of perfection.

Don’t compare yourself to other writers as it steals your joy. Instead, find a way to be you. Perfection is not the goal. Wanting to be perfect won’t make you perfect, but it could stop you from trying.

This is good life advice, as well as writing advice. It is difficult for me to just be okay with what I am writing. I am a terminal perfectionist. I am trying to write and not tear it down. I don’t want to ruin the fun.

Quote funny people.

David Sedaris

Often the people around you are funny, and you can bring them into your work.

I live with and am friends with a few funny people. Their lived experiences will provide material for me to spin into a story. Plus, I often seek out more funny people on YouTube, TED Talks, or Twitter.

Exaggerate whenever possible.

A little exaggeration can go a long way in creating a story. Stretch a scene into a ridiculous version of itself. You can then imagine it another way to get a laugh.

This is the one that I’m looking forward to. When talking, I love to spin a yarn for the sake of a laugh or other emotion. But after years of academic work, I am finding it difficult to stretch the truth. I want so badly to make it citeable. I’ll be working on this one more.

Be honest and tough.

Be harder on yourself than you are on anyone else in a story. A reader knows when a writer is fake or dishonest. It takes practice to let go of the urge to paint yourself in a good light.

This one makes sense to me. I like to put myself in a story, as not to offend anyone else. I think it gives the story a certain flair if you can give your truths and still make it entertaining.

Rewrite.

Writing is rewriting. David writes an essay sometimes twelve times before giving it to an editor then rewrites it again.

Coming again from the world of academia, I have rewritten documents thirty or more times. This is true of my dissertation. I had to be told not to rewrite anymore. That perfectionist side was wreaking havoc.

Ask better questions.

David Sedaris

Don’t ask people questions that do not lead anywhere. If you ask more interesting questions, you’ll get more interesting answers.

Asking someone, “How’s your day?” or “How are you?” often elicits the same responses we are used to receiving. This is boring and will usually be a short conversation. I’ve decided to ask someone, “Have you ever met a tapir?” or “Do you believe in gnomes?” to incite a more interesting discussion.

Don’t ruin the moment.

You might be tempted to whip out your notebook in the middle of a particularly juicy conversation, but resist the urge. You don’t want it to end.

I bought a moleskin notebook that flips open like those that detectives use when gathering information at a scene. It doesn’t have lines, because I like to draw and write notes. It was pretty cheap and is relatively unobtrusive. The notebook has been a good source for my writing so far.

Look to other writers.

David says, “You can’t write unless you read.”

This is very true. With the state of the world right now, I’ve been able to prove this one. I have read at least five books in the last couple of weeks, and each one has inspired me. If you read intending to grasp information for later use, it helps.

Write a letter

Write a letter

MasterClass: David Sedaris

Assignment:

Write a story in the form of a letter — a letter checking in with a friend, a letter to Santa, a letter to your mother in prison.

Dear Amy,

I am sure you have noticed my disappearance, as well as many things from your home. You would not be wrong in feeling like I have “stolen” from you. However, I like to think that I have “borrowed” them for an extended period of time. If it helps, think of it like the rainbow toe socks, your sibling “borrowed” from you in the fifth grade. Only I will hold onto them for longer and possibly return them at a cost to you, as I am very far away now, and many of the items are irreparably damaged during the quick move. Don’t worry; I’m in a safe place.

I think you would like here, but to share my location would mean that you might be able to alert authorities. Neither of us wants that. I, like your precious succulents, do better in full sun. Speaking of your succulents, I left those untouched as I know what they mean to you. I hope they’re doing well on the ground where I left them. The birdcage terrarium looks good in my new solarium. Plus, it rhymes.

I know you love a good rhyme. So here are a few for you:

Brass Duckie
  • I borrowed your jewelry, and that is no foolery.
  • I took your Macbook; don’t think me a crook.
  • I borrowed your silicone utensils and left all your pencils.
  • I took the charger for Alexa because that bitch will hex ya.
  • I borrowed the strings of your guitar, but that is not bizarre.
  • I took that painted rock from the garden; I beg your pardon.
  • I borrowed that brass duck; I know you don’t give a fuck.
  • I took that book, that wasn’t a book but looked like a book with a hook.

I hope you enjoyed the rhymes. I don’t do them all the time. Ha! The last one, I swear. Oh, one more thing. I hope you don’t need any AA batteries.

All My Love,

Ash

Bipolar Depression

An exercise in stream of consciousness writing

Photo by Karim Sakhibgareev on Unsplash

What is Stream of Consciousness Writing?

Stream of consciousness writing (SOC) refers to a technique where all your thoughts are written out so that a reader can track the liquid mental state. The term suggests a continuous flow like that of a stream. The term dates back to the late 1800s, but SOC works can be found in the 19th century works by Poe and Tolstoy. It continued to gain popularity in the modernists like Virginia Woolf and followed into the mid-century works of Jack Kerouac and Stephen King.

I think that SOC writing provides a usually private view of a person. They are not confined to the niceties of general conversations. It is like tracking thoughts in real-time, which allows you to understand why the person does something.

How A Writing Exercise Told Me I Was Depressed

Today I tried something new.

Last night, I was struggling to write, and my wife suggested that I try SOC writing. I wrote it off initially because I was in a rage about not finding the right words or even the right direction with the essay I was trying to finish. I wanted it to be perfect, but when that didn’t happen, it triggered my anger. I was an absolute nightmare; I cried, screamed, and hid in the dark. I haven’t experienced that range of emotions in years. It was terrible, and when the fog cleared, I knew that it was terrible. My wonderful wife consoled me and told me it would be okay.

Aftermath: It could be that my medicine is off a bit. I’m taking steps to let my psychiatrist and therapist know what happened. It could be something else. So, I reconsidered my wife’s suggestion of SOC writing.

The SOC Writing Exercise

I don’t want to be alone. The thoughts that fill my mind are getting worse every day. I’m not suicidal. I’m not. I cannot stand the voices that fill my mind. I have no control. I think about everyone around me dying. I think about them suffering in the worst ways imaginable, and I cannot do anything to help them. I imagine that I have lost them and feel the pain of loss. I’m alone with my thoughts.

I cannot find a positive voice in the chorus, or should that be a dirge. I tell myself all the right things to reinforce that I’m safe and sure, but it falls on deaf ears. I fight but don’t see what I am fighting for anymore. I’m not suicidal, please don’t think that I am. I haven’t given up. I want to feel better. I want to do better. I want to escape the thoughts that grind everything to a halt. I’ve stopped moving forward. I don’t know if I’m moving backward, but I know that I look around me, and it all feels the same. Every day is the same.

I don’t want to hear the sadness in my voice when my wife leaves for work. I don’t want to listen to the stupid things I say to my cats, who are very much indifferent. I don’t want to hear how useless I am. I don’t want to hear how much time I have wasted on my degree. I don’t want to hear how I cannot find a job. I don’t want to hear that I can’t lose weight. I don’t want to hear how I can’t keep up with the world around me. I don’t want to hear any of it.

I want to be free. I want to do everything I avoid. I want to be involved in everything that seems normal. I want to be weird. I want to be a part of the world that ignores me. I want to get a job and earn money to support my little family. I want to be the reason my wife smiles. I want to make her happy. She should always smile. She has the most beautiful smile. I can’t endure the thought of her not smiling.

I hate being alone in my head. It scares me. I feel alone. I know no one can fight my battles. I know they can be won, but there always seems to be another just waiting to begin. Everyone has their battles. Everyone strives for happiness. Everyone tries. I try. I really try. There are some days where I feel battle weary; I’m emotionally beaten and bruised. I’m recovering, but lost somehow.

I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t see a rainbow of hope. I don’t see anything helpful. Feeling this way isn’t helpful. Wallowing isn’t helpful. None of this seems helpful, and I am left wondering why I even decided to write. This won’t help anyone. It might trigger someone. It could hurt someone. It could make people sad or scared. It will make people worry about me. I don’t want that either. I love my family. I don’t want to worry them with my thoughts. I don’t know what I’ll do with this.

Conclusion

I sat and read what I wrote. The tears burned my eyes. I was admitting to being depressed. I am depressed. I know what I’ll do with this now. I will share it and hope that somehow, someone will read this and not feel alone. I hope when you read this that you don’t feel pity. I hope that you know that I am, like you, taking one day at a time. Although this day may not be my day, I hope it is yours.

Photo by Karim Sakhibgareev on Unsplash