The 5 Things I Learned About Myself by Journaling (nearly) Everyday in Just a Month

JounalI joined the site Medium last year after coming across a number of articles linked to it.  It’s free to use if you only read about 3 articles a month.  I was finding so many that I had a back log of nearly 75 saved articles.  Knowing I would never have a chance to read them all at that rate, I joined.

Feeling at a crossroads with a big-number-impending-birthday (yes, it’s that time of year again), I was looking at articles related to self-help, following your passion, goal setting, keeping momentum and focus, etc. and I read a number of articles about journaling.  Growing up, I had friends who kept diaries.  I was not one of them.  It’s just never worked for me to remain consistent, but after seeing how people were discovering things about themselves through this process, I decided to give it a try.

A real try.

I started mid-December and wrote everyday, almost, for a month.  I decided not to review anything I had written during that time, to see what would repeat.  I wanted to learn if there were areas in my life that were seeking attention and needed it.  Then we took a mini break to California, so nothing happened for about a week.  When we returned home, I decided to look back on what I had written to look for patterns.  Here’s what I discovered about myself.

  1. My writing is important to me and I have a lot of things I want to accomplish.  When I quit my job at the end of November, a panic set in about our next steps.  Were we ready to move overseas?  How could we do it?  Where would we live?  What about our pups?  What about all our stuff?  I created an Etsy store after weeks of research and narrowed down our possible move, but all of it was so consuming I couldn’t write.  But being away from it for a couple of months gives me anxiety as well, so it was enlightening to learn how important it is to my life.
  2. This lead to a new idea.  I want to obtain my Master’s Degree.  In my research for the move, a student visa was one easy way in.  I started looking at schools with film and screenwriting programs, and I got excited at the prospect.  I wasn’t a great student the first time around but I enjoy learning new things now, so I’m interested in pursuing this further.
  3. But one thing that did keep coming up was my lack of focus or motivation.  I go on binges and then lose steam.  I know this has been an issue, but finding it written down, repeatedly, made it more relevant.  At this point in my life, I either need to do it or move on.  This half-assing nonsense must come to an end.
  4. I need therapy.  I had a turbulent childhood – an alcoholic abusive step-father, for one.  While on our mini break, we watched old home movies and I realized that my faulty memory is most likely due to self-preservation.  There are enormous chunks of my childhood and even teen years that are complete blanks.  Watching myself on the videos was like watching someone else.  There is nearly no connection to anything we watched.  That was a startling discovery.
  5. I want to buy a home.  The Sis and I have been renting for about 13 years now and I’m tired of it.  For a couple of years now, maybe it’s because I’m in my 40s, I’ve wanted to “settle down”.  I want to paint my walls and grow a garden.  I want to pull up the crappy carpet and put in a farmhouse sink.  I want to stop hoarding Amazon boxes like a doomsday-prepper and not feel like we’re always in limbo.  It’s hard to start things if you’re always thinking about the next move.  I haven’t bought things, like a dining room table because I don’t want to move it.  Kitchen appliances are on hold because I don’t want to move it.  A new dresser…because I don’t want to move it.  This has been our life for a long time and I’m over it.  Such a simple thing, and yet the tendrils associated with it are long reaching.

This is just in one month.

I’ve continued on in the same vein, I’m not reading what I’ve written this past month.  With my 45th birthday just having passed, I felt like these weighty issues were becoming amplified at my own displeasure for not making more out of my life at this point.  I was feeling a writer’s mid-life crisis looming, but because I’ve articulated so many things that have been bothering me through journaling, I have a better path laid out before me to make some changes.

A random discovery from such a simple act.  Thank you to all those writers who shared the positive impact journaling can have on your life!

Do you journal?  How has it helped you?

Quote Monday

A fellow Bang2Write-r shared this quote today on Facebook and I was immediately struck by it.  If you’re not familiar with Lucy V. Hay’s site, give it a look.  She offers a lot of tips and insight for writers.

Don'tCling

Sound advice.  Happy Monday!

Writing Prompt #112

I came across this prompt while cleaning up my email.  Somewhere along the way, I emailed myself this idea, and that’s where it ended.

So I share it today in the hopes it inspires us.

IMG_1472

Who wants to take on the challenge?  I look forward to reading your creations!

I also share writing prompts on Instagram, so if you’re looking for more inspiration, take a gander.  Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

Everyone’s posting year end reviews and goal updates, and even as I, myself, am doing some reflection, if you’ve followed me for a while, you know I don’t like resolutions, one can’t help but look back on what’s been accomplished in the course of a year.  It’s also the end of a decade, so there’s even more to think on.

While the beginning of a new year is a great jumping off point, you can start something new or achieve a goal at any time.

Start where you are quote

I’m sure I’ve used this quote before, but as The Sis and I begin to prepare for a new journey, this quote seemed rather apropos.

Happy Monday!

AFF’s Screenwriters Conference: Days 3 & 4

AFF neon logo

∼ Saturday: Day Three ∼

7:45am: Another early morning.  More caffeine needed.  There’s a coffee shop on the ground floor of my hotel that I’m thankful for, and it’s fairly popular due to its proximity to the conference.  They have my favorite flavor, lavender, for their coffee and the most delicious pastries.  It gets me through the bulk of the day.

9:00am – 10:15am: One of the panels I’m most looking forward to, Writing Sci-Fi with Gary Whitta and Emily Carmichael.  They both offer some useful tips and let us all know that it’s okay to not write 8 hours a day.  No one writes like that, and we shouldn’t feel like this is a goal we have to achieve.  I learned about the Pomodoro Technique (which I will look into a bit more) which suggests writing in 25 minute spurts.

Tips: 1) Keep a Dot Journal to track writing progress.  Check on it regularly.  (I haven’t done this yet because I’m still learning how to create this type of journal.)  2) Maintain consistency in your world.  If a character has a power, be sure to use it.  (This is something we, writers, sometimes forget.)  3) Keep the rules of the world simple.

10:45am – 12:00pm: Overcoming Scene Challenges with Meg LeFauve, Carly Wray, and Dave Kajganich.  This proved to be one of the best panels I attended.  The most important thing I learned was that if there’s a problem in Act 3, it’s most likely because of something in Act 1.  “You haven’t earned it” was repeated by the panelists, and this was a big note for me.  As many of you are aware, from my many references to my troublesome third act of one of my screenplays, I either have a problem earlier on, or I haven’t followed through with something to earn the third act.

I happened to have an opportunity the following morning to speak with Dave Kajganich while waiting for coffee.  I thanked him for his advice, and then he gave me some more.  He asked me what I was struggling with and offered me some alternative ways of thinking about it.  Does it have to have a happy ending?  I told him I like happily ever afters, but it got me thinking.  Maybe it doesn’t?  Does it have to take place in modern times?  No, it doesn’t, and I don’t know why I’ve been trying to force it.  He was appreciative of me reaching out, he wasn’t sure if anything he said during the panel was useful.

12:15pm – 2:15pm: The Awards Luncheon was not being held close by.  It was a number of blocks away and not paying attention to the time, I thought it started at 12:30pm, and add on a big parade for Día de Muertos, I was power walking to make sure I arrived on time.  There was no shuttle, and the AFF staff I spoke with were very helpful, but afraid that if I didn’t arrive before it started, I may not be able to get in at all.  This was an additional upgrade to my conference badge, so I was not missing out.

There were some amazing speeches, and it was an insight as to what was winning on the festival circuit.  It ran way over for time, so I was unable to make my next panel, so I grabbed another coffee and got in line for the Lawrence Kasdan retrospective.  Even an hour and a half before the panel I was still about 15 people from the beginning of the line.

4:45pm – 6:00pm: A look back at the life of Screenwriter, Lawrence Kasdan.  He wrote The Big Chill, co-wrote Empire Strikes Back, wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Bodyguard, French Kiss, As Good as it Gets, and so many more.  How could I not attend?!

7:30pm – 9:30pm: Pitch Finale.  Another writer from my FB group, Jasmine and I planned to meet up to attend the finale together.  All the winners of the pitch sessions gathered to pitch to the crowd and then winners were chosen from those.  It was so much fun and so inspiring.  There was a great deal of support and encouragement for the people pitching.

My shoulder ached from carrying around my computer bag all day, so after Deena and I grabbed a bite to eat, we returned to my hotel to minimize my carrying capacity so we could head to the last mixer of the weekend.

Upon exiting my room, we were dumbfounded to find a most likely drunken naked man in the hallway.  We never did find out if he had locked himself out, or was kicked out, but either way, when the young woman, who was the manager on duty arrived, another conference attendee, Deena, and I kept her company until the police arrived.  We weren’t going to leave her alone with a delusional nude.  That made for a good story when asked what we would remember most from the conference.

11:00pm: Heart of Film Cocktail Party.  I saw some familiar faces, which was nice, and made friends with Margaret.  One of the winners from my pitch session.

It had been such a long day, but so rewarding.

~ Sunday: Day Four ~

There was a Hair of the Dog Brunch at 10:00am but my check out was at noon and I was going to be in a panel, so I skipped it, and slept in a bit.  The sleep and food deprivation had finally caught up with me.  I checked my bag, grabbed a coffee (which is where I met Dave and got that great advice), met up with Jessica and Deena for a quick hello and pastry breakfast, and then Jessica and I made our way to one of our more anticipated panels.

11:30am – 12:45pm: The Quagmire of Female Character by Lindsay Doran.  When I was living in LA, I attended another presentation by Lindsay about the Psychology of Storytelling.  She’s an executive and producer and her insight is unlike any other.  She’s so engaging that I didn’t even take any notes, which, of course, I now regret.  If you’re familiar with what’s going on in Hollywood, and the rest of the world, you’ll have an understanding of the balancing act that is currently happening with how to handle female characters.  This panel enlightened us all.

Tip: If you have the opportunity to hear Lindsay Doran speak, do it.  

1:15pm – 2:30pm: Writing for Animation with Brad Graeber, Alvaro Rodriguez, and Willis Bulliner who created the animated Netflix series, Seis Manos.  Jessica didn’t have a panel planned, so she attended with me.  It wasn’t what I was expecting, it was more about how they got their show off the ground, but it was still interesting.

3:00pm – 4:15pm: Life as a Screenwriter with Shane Black and Scott Rosenberg was, I think, the last panel of the day.  It was the last one I attended anyway.  It was the other panel I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint.  These two screenwriters have been in the business for many years, and now, a bit older, have a different insight into the industry.  I thought I took some notes, but I can’t seem to find them.  Wah-wah.

4:15pm – 5:15pm: I have to say my farewells and get to the airport.  It was during my good-byes that I made a new connection with someone who is doing something I’ve been thinking about.  Traveling the world.  And getting paid for it.

I’m sad about leaving.  The entire weekend has been enlightening and I’ve had a wonderful time, even more than I thought I would.  I’ve made friends, and writer friends at that.  I gained a bit more insight about myself and what I want to do.  The tips and lessons learned have opened my eyes to my writing, which was the point of the trip.

Overall, for my first conference, I’m not sure I could have chosen any better.  If you have an opportunity to attend any writer’s conference, I definitely encourage it.  It’s an experience unlike any other.

If you attended AFF, I’d love to connect and swap stories.  If you’re planning on attending a conference and need some tips, I’m happy to help.

Happy Writing!

AFF’s Screenwriters Conference: Days 1 & 2

AFF neon logo

∼ Thursday: Day One ∼

3:30am: Slept maybe four hours and endured a rather bumpy flight which turned me a pale shade of green. By the time I made it into town from the airport, checked in to the hotel, and then checked in at the AFF registration, I was too late to attend the 11:30am Introduction/Welcome panel.  I signed up for the Roundtable I wanted to attend about an hour from then, but poor signage led me to the wrong room, so I missed out.

1:00pm – 2:15pm: I ended up in the Writer-Manager Relationship panel with Henry Jones and Ryan Cunningham.  Not what I was planning to attend, but learned that just as with any other relationship, finding someone who gets you is vital.

2:45pm – 4:00pm: I made my way to the Pitch Prep panel with Pamela Ribon for some advice on how to pitch before my go at it the following morning.  I was not at all prepared to pitch my idea, and at this point, didn’t even know what story I was going to pitch.  So much for being prepared.  We, writers, usually work best under pressure any way.  It was here I met Deena, who, I would later discover would become a fast friend, so that we could practice our pitch with someone.

Tip: If you have an opportunity to meet Pamela Ribon, take it.  She was engaging and funny and helped put the experience into perspective – pitching at AFF is not like pitching in any other situation.

5:00pm – 7:00pm: Opening Night Reception.  At this point, in my “normal” world, I would want a nap, but I was running on a high of the energy that seemed to infuse the entire area.  I was meeting people and learning things and I didn’t want to miss a moment.  I grabbed a drink and walked around the bar, but everybody already seemed to know people.  As I made my way to the back, I saw a solitary figure, and my first festival-made friend, Jessica.

We hit it off right away and she became one of my conference partners for the remainder of the weekend.  After the reception ended, we decided to get food.  I didn’t remember eating, so it sounded like a good idea.

Torrential downpour ensued and I was soaked through in minutes.

I purposefully ensured my room was close to all the action, and at that time, was thankful for my foresight.  There was a WGA Welcome Party at 11:00pm, but after the wet, the food, a hot shower, and writing and memorizing my pitch, I was done. 

~ Friday: Day Two ~

7:30am: Rise and shine!  Must. Have. Caffeine prior to pitch.  Kept running my pitch in my head…over and over and over…I decided to pitch my pilot, The Demeter.  Gotta say, pretty happy with the way it came out.

9:00am – 10:15am: Pitch session with Kelly Jo Brick and Cam Cannon.  Oof.  What a learning experience.  I was calm and collected, until the moment I was in front of the group.  The nerves kicked in and I stumbled about halfway through losing my train of thought.  I have this strange sort of memory thing.  If I write it down, I can see where it was on the page, and after a moment of collecting myself, I could see where I was in the pitch and finished.  So embarrassing, especially in light of all the positive feedback I received.  The judges were so reassuring that I had a strong, interesting pitch, and throughout the day, many people approached me and offered me support, even more so when they learned it was my first pitch ever.

It was here I met Margaret, who, again, would later become a fast friend.  She wasn’t even sure she would have an opportunity to pitch, and she ended up winning one of the two spots from our group.

10:45am – 12:00pm: The Life’s a Pitch panel with Tess Morris, Gary Whitta, and Ashley Miller.  You would think at this point I would have had my fill of pitching, but I wanted to know what it was like in the “real world”.

Tips: 1) Think of pitching like a conversation.  2) Everybody wants to hear a good story, so boil it down so they can retell it.  3) The more you pitch, the more the story may evolve.

1:00pm – 2:30pm: In-Person Meeting with agent Daniela Gonzalez set up by Roadmap Writers.  A fellow member of a writer’s group on FB made the introductions and I had the opportunity to sit with an agent and a group of amazing fellow writers, all women, and ask questions and gain real world knowledge of the industry.  When I arrived for the sit down, I was told it was canceled, so I left.  I quickly discovered it hadn’t been, and the group was kind enough to let me join in, a bit late.

3:15pm – 4:30pm: A no nonsense panel entitled “Practical Tips” with Phil Hay, Stephany Folsom, and Nicole Perlman.  They reiterated quite a bit I already knew, but hearing it from professionals made it that much more impactful.

Tips: 1) Don’t compare your process to others.  Understand what your process is and develop it.  2) Be kind to yourself and cut yourself a break.  (We are hard on ourselves.)  3) Make something – beyond the script – a play, a short, or a script reading.  4) Discover what it is that will give you validation.  5) As a new writer, the scale of your early projects shouldn’t be a risk or a budget concern.

4:45pm – 6:45pm: BBQ mixer.  Deena, Jessica and I had been in contact throughout the day and we decided to meet up for the shuttle to the mixer.  Behind us in line was a lone woman, Kyra.  I invited her into our group, and the four of us set off.  Now, some of you may know that I’m vegetarian, so you may be wondering what I was doing there.  It was a mixer.  An opportunity.  And I was taking advantage of whatever I could.  We met with other writers and had a great time amidst interesting conversations, but as the sun set, the temperature dropped, and none of us were prepared, so we headed back.

7:00pm – 10:00pm: The Stage 32 mixer on a rooftop with no heaters.  Brr.  As a member of Stage 32, I was looking forward to meeting some other members, and I’m glad I made the effort, even though after a short time I could no longer feel my toes.  I met the founder of Stage 32, RB and a handful of amazing writers.  Unfortunately, the cold drove Jessica and I out.  We had lost Deena earlier to pitch prep, and Kyra made friends and stayed behind.

There was a Final Draft Happy Hour at 11:00pm, but at that point, I didn’t think I was going to make it.  And I didn’t.  Instead I met up with Deena to help her with her pitch, and met more writers while hanging about the famous Driskill Hotel.

Again, I should’ve been exhausted, I’d barely eaten and was running on the fumes of caffeine, but I was having so much fun.  I talked with my sister and came to the realization that I wanted to follow my dreams.  I had wasted months not writing, being surrounded by negativity, and being emotionally drained after each day.  I was done.  Officially.  And it was one of those enlightening moments – I was going to move forward.

To be continued…

Writing Prompt #111

So, not only have I barely written a word in months, I haven’t posted much either.  My last writing prompt was back in May?!  May.  And it was like the only post for the month.

Gracious.

As another new year creeps around the corner, I have some major self reflection to do.  All that goal setting, the To Do lists, the plans…huh.  I really did waste some time.  Well that’s enough of that.

I offer this week’s Writing Prompt for the Challenge:

In the Water

If you’re inspired, please share what you create.  Maybe I’ll even jump on my own bandwagon.

Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

Quote Mondays are back!

My days of slack are over.  My two-week self-imposed vacation must come to an end and the reason for said vacation must begin – following my dream.  Mondays are a great day to start a new thing.

So let my future commence today!

Don't downgrade your dream

What do you want to accomplish today?

Happy Writing!

Writer’s Slump

I’ve been quiet…for a while. Initially it was because I was focused on my work. My real work. I’m still disconnected from the day job since the incident back in February, so at least there’s that. It still takes up a lot of time and energy, just the same. But then a series of mental hits soon followed and I lost my mojo. I’m second guessing myself. I don’t write, even when I want to. I don’t know how to fix some of my story issues, I’m feeling depressed, and I’m just not writing.

I leave for the Austin Film Festival in the wee hours of the morning and I had this huge laid out plan for how I was going to be prepared for it. I was excited and ready to take on the challenge, and then, in the blink of an eye, the passion disappeared. No matter how many quotes about being positive and goal oriented, fearless and creative I read or post, nothing is cracking this current mood.

Yes, yes, I know that failure is a part of the process, but I feel like I’ve been struggling for a long time, when I know, in reality, with all the spurts of inactivity, it’s only been a few years that I’ve been actively pursuing a career. This year’s screenwriting competition season offered me nothing. With only one more competition awaiting announcement, I sort of feel like… I wasted a lot of money. I love the story I submitted, and it’s not to say that someone else won’t feel the same way I do about it in the future, but the lack of upward mobility was less than encouraging.

I don’t know why I want to rant about this. I’m guessing that sometimes we all feel like this, and maybe it would be helpful for other struggling writers to realize they’re not alone. We all hit walls along this creative path, but if it’s truly what we want to do, then I guess, after some moping, we’ll get off our asses and get back to it.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Because I only have tonight to shift this mentality and take advantage of this huge step I’m taking. And even though it may not sound like I’m excited, I am, deep down, and I’m sure everything will change once I board that plane and the realization hits of what it is I’m going to do.

I’m going to my first screenwriter’s conference!

I plan to discuss the conference day by day and hopefully impart some of the wisdom and helpful tips I learn. I’m hoping to get my mojo back, be inspired, and feel empowered, as well as make some writer friends who understand this journey.

So before that happens, what do you do when you hit a writer’s slump?