Bullet Journaling (Or Something Like It)

Manuscript News

I’d been having some trouble reconnecting to my manuscript after my little hiatus. That was a tough spot to be in by itself, because it fed back into the guilt and resentment I’d been feeling during the hiatus. However, after giving it some real thought, I realized that the problems I was having with it started before I took a break. And after doing a read through of the last half dozen scenes I wrote, I was able to pinpoint what it was that was giving me such a hard time.

I talked about it in the last post about the hiatus: I had written myself into a corner. At the time, I told myself that was okay. It could all be fixed in revision, I just needed to keep moving forward regardless of that pesky little scene.

Well, reading over it and all the disjointed, messy, stunted scenes I had tried to write after it made it apparent that this was an error that could not wait until draft two to be revised.

So I committed to stripping out the last 2500 words and rewriting them entirely. To date, I’m not quite caught up to where I left off, but I feel so much better about what I’ve done.

Writing is such a fluid process. Sometimes, it will be better to just leave trouble spots to fix later, but there will also be times where it is necessary to do some on the spot revision. It’s not always going to be obvious which solution is the right one.

 


The Weekly Struggle

This week (and the week or two before, really) for me has been all about getting myself back into a healthy, positive mindset when it comes to my writing. I’m terrible at habit forming, and I tend to jump around from one fad to the next trying to find something that works for me.

Sometimes I wonder if the lack of consistency is part of process and I should just embrace it, but that’s neither here nor there.

A fellow writer I admire and follow on Twitter posted her writing To Do list last week, and throughout the day continued to post updates to it. I loved it. Mostly I loved the public accountability part and the way it drew her friends and followers into her process. I thought to myself, “I am so going to do that every day from now on.”

I realized 200 milliseconds later how ludicrous and annoying that would be.

I’ve had bad luck with To Do List productivity apps in the past (see above), but I thought that I would give a new one a try anyway. About twenty minutes and a few ill-fated downloads later, I was feeling dejected. My writing is tactile — as you all may know by now, I do almost everything longhand. Using my phone to track my daily goals and progress felt like a betrayal of my most fundamental sensibilities.

And then I remembered, belatedly, like a dope, that because I languish in longhand I carry a notebook and pens with me literally everywhere. At the time, hilariously, my drafting notebook was sitting about three inches to the left of my arm.

So, I flipped to a new page and I wrote out the writing-related tasks I would like to accomplish, complete with cute little check boxes that I could tick off.

Then, on a whim, underneath my list I wrote a few words to remind myself to keep my spirits up. I was (and still am) shaking off some depression-related doldrums and needed a boost. I’ve never understood the “affirmations” sections of the numerous planners I’ve bought and abandoned over the years, but that day, for whatever reason, it clicked.

Underneath that, I left a space for notes. I was researching new themes for this blog and I wrote down which ones I liked the best. I also jotted down various creative bits and bobs as they came to me (names, mostly; names of people, towns, chapters, etc.).

The next day I did it all over again. To do list. Affirmation. Notes.

And just like I started what I think is a rudimentary bullet journal.

Admittedly, I know very little about bullet journaling. I’ve done some cursory research into the subject, because I love fads and I will try almost any supposed productivity booster once, but at the time I found it to be too unstructured for my tastes. However, looking at what I’ve been up to the last week or so, maybe that which I rebelled against mentally is actually what I need. Not something I need to hold myself to rigidly (I’ve already taken a few days off from making these lists), but something fluid that I can utilize when I want or need it.

bullet journal
Today’s list.

Honestly, I’m not really interested in whether or not what I’m doing falls into the “bullet journal” category. I don’t even know if it’ll stick. What I do know is that I get a very tiny surge of excitement and sense of accomplishment when I get to check off one of my little boxes. I know that writing my affirmations has helped me climb the hill of my various anxieties. And I know leaving myself a space to take notes, rather than relying on my memory, has already helped me stay in a creative state of mind, even when toiling away at my day job.

It’s working, for now at least, and that’s what matters.


Wow this one got long. I’ll be back with another post next week. Until then, may your writing be plentiful and your struggles be few!

Kerry Share

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Writing With Depression

I’ve written and erased more words than I can count trying to compose this blog post. My mood has swung from defensive, to apologetic, to ashamed, with plenty of pit stops in between. One moment I feel emboldened to share my experiences, so that others who might be going through something similar can feel seen. The next, I tell myself that strangers on the internet care not a whit for my problems, and that I’m only opening myself up for negative attention by talking so frankly about something so raw and personal. In the end, I hope I’ve found some middle ground.

To put it frankly and simply: I, like many others, suffer from depression. Mine manifests primarily as major depressive episodes, which I experience three or four times a year. During these times, which usually last around three weeks, my chief symptom, apart from an emotional cocktail of all the usual suspects, is exhaustion. A normal day of waking up, taking my kids to daycare, a 9 hour work day, then coming home to care for my three littles literally feels like being in a state of perpetual motion designed to drain every last iota of energy from my body. As such, any waking moment of spare time I have not being used to keep up appearances at my job or to my family is spent in bed.

If I could form a list of all the activities that are sacrificed on the altar of my depression, creativity would be at the very top. It’s not a choice, but, logically it make the most sense. Writing is work, hard work at that. Squeezing it to a full schedule of work, kids, and a social life is a labor in and of itself. Trying to maintain it while your brain chemistry is trying to convince you of how worthless you are… well, I don’t pretend to know how other depressed creatives feel, but for me it’s damn near impossible.

It goes without saying that it sucks having to take a break in this way. It feels like I’m giving up on my dream, even if I know rationally that’s only temporary. At a time when my mind is already fertile ground for self-loathing, writing becomes yet another catalyst for guilt, which then turns into a sort of resentment for my project, which then morphs back into guilt and the cycle continues. In the end, the title for this post becomes a misnomer because in reality, for me, there simply is no writing while depressed.

Eventually the fog starts to clear and I feel a little silly for all the things I did and felt during the episode. I go around and make my apologies to my kids, my partner, anyone who I let down or was short with. And then I get on with my life, knowing that in a few months we’ll all be going through it again.

I wish it was different. I really do. Who knows what I could have accomplished this month off if I my brain hadn’t decided it was time to venture down the rabbit hole. Even now that I feel ready to get back to it, I’ve found myself having difficulty reconnecting to the project after such a long and mentally trying hiatus.

Ultimately, the only answer is to just… keep fighting through it. I have to pick up my pen and write the next word, the next sentence, paragraph, page, and chapter until it’s done. No matter what obstacles I face, that goal has ever been the same.

Thanks to those who read this, even though you don’t know me or perhaps can’t relate to this particular difficulty. And to anyone who’s going through something similar: I don’t have any advice, but I see you. And I believe in you.

 

Kerry Share