My Best Side

OK, so I’m just going to start writing and see where this takes me. I haven’t been completely honest with you all. I mean, I haven’t lied, at least not intentionally, but everything I have ever posted on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and on here, has always been the part of me that I wanted you to see, the part I have always thought you wanted to see; in other words, my best side. Isn’t that what everyone does on social media these days?

But from this moment, from right now, I’m going to make a commitment to keep it real. Why? Because a very wise woman once said that the more authentic you become the more you surround yourself with authentic people, and I want to know all you authentic people out there! People who have good and bad days, bed hair, slightly-crooked teeth, who drops things, get writer’s block, who procrastinate, and sometimes just sometimes, wonder what on earth we are all doing here.

Everything I have written so far is true. I live in a lovely village in Hertfordshire, England, I am a writer, I do have a wonderful cat called Henry, and I enjoy the beautiful countryside where I live. I am also stuck in bed most of the time. Why? Because I have M.E. For those that don’t know, it’s an auto-immune disease that affects pretty much every part of the body. There are multiple symptoms, often different for everyone, which include muscle weakness, pain, and chronic fatigue.

I also have P.T.S.D. Perhaps this is the primary reason for writing today. I’m feeling pretty triggered right now and it’s quite hard to concentrate on anything, much less write. They call it hypervigilance. Basically, I don’t feel safe, my senses are heightened, and I seem to have lost sight of the off button. Why? Well, a combination of things. A good friend’s daughter was violently raped last week, I’m anxious about the Coronavirus, I have just read the tragic news about Caroline Flack, and there is a storm raging outside and I am terrified my beautiful oak tree is going to get blown over.

So yeah, the epic masterpiece that is my WIP is sitting beside me untouched and I’m doing everything I can to distract myself. Here’s me keeping it real. How are you doing?

Olivia

The Joys of Journaling

Journaling

I kept a diary every day of my teens and well into my early twenties. I still have them, except for a six month period I tore out and burned over a boy. As I’ve been reading them a number of things have crossed my mind:

  1. They are nearly all about boys
  2. My emotions were all over the place
  3. They do mature as I get older – the voice changes
  4. They don’t have much detail in them about what life was like at the time
  5. They should never ever be published

This got me thinking about journaling today. Journaling can be good for everyone, but there is more than one approach. Here are some different journaling styles to consider.

The Emotional Journey

My teenage diaries fall firmly into this category. The journals chart the emotional development of the writer. They are of little to no historic interest and are extremely personal. Emotional journaling is cathartic. If you are dealing with complex emotions in your life I’d recommend giving this a go.

The Social History

My friend Leila Cassel had an aunt who kept wartime diaries. They are a brilliant and  insightful social history. Whilst they include personal stories about Mrs Jones next door, these tales are woven together with anecdotes about rationing, the Blitz, and life in North London in the 40s. They also contain something of a mystery. These diaries have inspired her to write a novel, The Girl in the Hat Shop, which is coming out in autumn 2016.

A social history journal is a gift to someone in the future. Who knows, an entry written today might provide the spark for a best-selling novel of tomorrow!

The Physical Journey

I have CFS/M.E. Unless you’ve had M.E. or know someone who has, it’s quite a difficult illness to understand. One way to explain to people would be to journal a physical experience of it. Others have done so with cancer, dementia, depression etc. All have been powerful and evocative testimonies that have gone a long way in spreading knowledge and understanding.

Aide-Memoire

Again, a more personal style, but with less emphasis on the emotional journey, and more on what you did that day. This is a fantastic journal if you are prone to forget things and want to be able to refer back. It’s also a great keepsake. When I’ve written diaries like this they are stuffed full of theatre tickets, shopping receipts, notecards from people, pressed flowers. These little trinkets act as memory-joggers and I have a fantastic time reminiscing as I turn the pages. I even squirted my favourite perfume, Venezia by Laura Biagiotti, on one page. I can still make out the scent today if I give it a good sniff!

The Writer’s Journal

Snippets of conversations overheard at the bus stop, descriptions of people, places and things. A writer’s journal is full of nuggets. They are literary collection boxes to be emptied and counted later. They are scribbled down on the fly rather than reflected on at length at the end of the day. What writer doesn’t carry a note book around with them?

The Blended Journal

The majority of diaries contain all of the above to varying degrees. There’s nothing wrong with a blended journal. There may be times in your life – particularly when you are grieving – when writing out your feelings can be healthy and helpful. If something significant happens in history – like the lunar landing, discovery of DNA, or the invention of the smartphone, then it adds spice to your journal to write about it. If you have broken your leg it would be odd not to mention it. Write those funny conversations down! Save those ticket stubs of films you really enjoyed. I’ve still got mine from the original Bridget Jones!

Above all have fun. I have bought myself some beautiful journals over the years and some great coloured pens. My only tip is don’t write in yellow. It fades into obscurity on white paper over time. Otherwise be bold. Who knows, your journals may help you let go of painful emotions, provide inspiration for a future novel, help others understand a misunderstood illness, aid you in remembering the good times, or all of the above. Let’s get started. What will you write today?