Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I Interned At A Publishing Company, And All You Got Was This Stupid Blog Post

I spent the whole summer as an intern, and I didn't get coffee for anyone. I know. I didn't blog, either, but I'm here to remedy that.

I certainly learned a lot, and had fun. And also did some boring tasks, because you can't escape that kind of thing. Publishing can be as tedious as it is rewarding. Ever wondered why the process is notoriously slow? It's because there are a million things to be checked, double-checked, and triple-checked. Fortunately, it's worth it.

Anyway, I'm here to share some of what I did all summer:
  • Proofreading. Ah, yes, hear the crowd gasp in surprise. Actually, I didn't do anywhere near as much proofreading as expected, but I still got to do it, as per the title "Sales and Editorial Intern."*  You can't publish without proofreading, though--and I'll admit that anytime someone handed me a huge stack of papers and said "Proofread this," I got a little excited.  The Chicago Manual of Style is my best friend and worst enemy.
  • Checking alts. When someone proofreads the book, someone has to enter it into the document. And then someone has to check to make sure everything was entered correctly. This is typically done by, you guessed it, the intern.
  • Epub markup. I did a LOT of this, which put quite a bit of mileage on my highlighters. When books are transferred to ebooks, publishers have the opportunity to add hyperlinks directly into the text, which is really convenient for readers. These hyperlink locations are identified through the extremely high-tech process of highlighting each possible hyperlinkable word on a paper copy. Incidentally, I feel like I've now heard the name of every single nature preschool in the world, since I've had to find links to so many.
  • Fact checking. I felt rather important whenever I did a fact check.  I felt like the last line of defense between scientific accuracy and fiction. While authors should, theoretically, get all their facts straight before the book even hits a publisher, they sometimes don't. And if they don't, some intern somewhere will take great pride in calling your bluff.
  • More fact checking, now with added quotation checking! I did fact check runthroughs specifically to make sure that the author had cited her sources correctly and catch mistakes in retyping quotes.
  • Proposal summaries. When an author sent in a book proposal, the acquisitions editor would send it to me so I could type up a summary and give my recommendation: should this project be pursued, or should they get a nice little rejection letter? I also felt rather important doing this, mostly since I had the opportunity to type my opinion on a piece of paper. As if I had the final decision, which I definitely didn't. But still. (Pro tip: I don't care about your 5-page curriculum vitae. I just want to know whether you can write a coherent sentence, or whether a dozen other people have already written your book idea.)
  • Sending out review copies. Which essentially translates to sending 160 emails all saying variations of "Look! This book has a dog in it! A cute dog! Also some important moral lessons for children. But, dog! Please say something nice about this cute dog--I mean, book!" (Dogs sell books, people.)
Me handing out review copies, probably.
  • Manuscript cleanup. In other words, the dire task of ferreting out every bit of strange formatting Microsoft Word randomly added to a document and attempting to remove it. Key word: attempt.
  • Creating a spreadsheet of all the names and addresses of every single childcare provider in New York. Seriously. Gotta send all your book catalogs somewhere, I guess.**
  • And more things, like: babysitting printers, playing Scattergories, folding things, double-checking address labels, double-checking things in general, setting up Goodreads giveaways, and so on...
Internship pro tips:
  • If you have a general question, don't wait. Ask it. That way, you won't feel stupid asking for the building's wi-fi password two months into your internship when you were too shy to ask right away. RIP, my phone's data plan.
  • Ask ALL the questions, actually. You're there to learn. If you want to know, speak up.
  • You're an adult now and can talk to other adults like real people. You mean...I'm in a position where I can call a "real adult" by her first name? I'm twenty and I've called everyone Mr. or Dr. or Professor probably since I could talk. But hey, real adults have names, too. (Does this make me a real adult? Probably not. I'll admit that I was listening to this piece of art while working at my internship today.)

  • Break up your big projects. If you're handed a huge project, try to intersperse smaller projects into your time. Trust me--it's no fun to do nothing but stare at the same manuscript for three hours. Please let your brain have a break.
  • Use the resources available to you. For example, there's probably someone at your internship who would be happy to sit down and give you feedback on your resume, or give you advice on what courses you should take next, or whatever you might need to know. (And if they freely offer their services, that's even more of a reason to take it!)
  • Have fun. Just be chill and enjoy the process. Do adult things and feel productive. 

What were you up to this summer?

*My other title was just "Publishing Intern." Or "Editorial and Production Intern." Or just "Editorial Intern." Or "The Intern," capital T. It was heavily dependent on who you asked.
**It was times like these, facing that 2,000+ item spreadsheet, that I stared down the pinnacle of human innovation and came to the conclusion that we've come too far as a species and should revert back to 1800. Preferably with more women's suffrage and less disease, but definitely no spreadsheets. In the words of Douglas Adams, "On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons."
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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Hey, I'm Still Alive and Doing Things

Well, here I am, halfway through college, and I figured I'd post an update.  I feel like I'm no closer to being a real adult, and yet here I am with half a Communications & Journalism degree, most of an English degree, and a bit of a psychology minor just for fun.

During the school year, I've been up to basically the same things as usual.  Writing approximately 18,000 papers and maybe some journaling on the side, with the occasional bit of creative writing shoved somewhere in there.  Okay, maybe 18,000 papers is an exaggeration, but at one point I had five papers due in one week.  I was taking four classes.  How does that work?  Then again, I was getting away with naming my papers things like "Is Dumbledore Really Gay?," "Dragons, Socialists, and Children," and "Women STEMming Out."  Pros of being an English major: you get away with that kind of thing.

I've also been working as a writing tutor (because I don't have enough writing in my life).  And in February, I started writing for the online blog The Odyssey.  If you want to keep up with my weekly articles, you can follow me here!

I'll be spending the summer interning for a publishing company that works with materials for early childhood educators.  I'm also working the Interlibrary Loan department of my college's library, so I'll be around books all summer long.  In the fall, I'll start work as the Web Manager for this cool website.  It's a completely new thing for me, running a website like that, but I took a web design class this spring and absolutely loved it.  I guess all that blogging HTML and CSS got me somewhere.  Take note, kids--the random blog you start on a whim in ninth grade may actually get you somewhere.  Maybe I should overhaul the design of this bad boy sometime.  Hmm...  In the meantime, I designed this and this, which are freely available on the internet now.

Over the past year of classes, I've learned a few things about writing, and editing, and what I do/don't want to do.  I've taken a journalistic editing class and a more academic editing class; I'm very much not a journalism person.  Though I did learn how to crank out edits at basically lightspeed, which is nice.  But I feel more...technological...than the academic editing crowd.  As in, I'm the one in all the class debates going "DIGITIZE IT.  DIGITIZE EVERYTHING.  DIGITIZE ALL THE THINGS."  But hey, I'm also a blogger and an avid ebook supporter.

I also learned that I'm not a short story writer.  I like the format, but I'm a novelist at heart.  I just can't explore all I want to explore in a short story--I feel like my worldbuilding and character development is cut short.  I'm also not a literary writer.  I love that format, too, and I like to dabble in it, but I'm a genre writer and lover.  Give me my YA fantasy any day.  I can't see myself writing literary fiction for the rest of my life, but I would love to write genre stuff.  I guess I'm not into the classical highbrow writer thing.  (Also, I want to make a reasonable amount of money so that I can eat.)

In more personal news, I'll be living on my college campus for the summer, which will be exciting (I'm living with a chemist, which is always an interesting experience). I just celebrated a one-year anniversary with my boyfriend, and we went to see a live performance of The Book of Mormon (a wonderfully bizarre experience; highly recommended unless you're taking children) and ran a half marathon (also not recommended for children).

I also plan to actually read books this summer.  My reading this spring has been, well, pathetic, but I already have a stack of books to read and I'm ready to plow through them.  I've also gotten into playing Civilization V, which is 100% the fault of Gamer Boyfriend, so I'll be taking over the world a few times.  (I'm Low-Key Kylo Ren on Steam, if you're interested.  Because my sense of humor has not changed since 2012, apparently.)

I'd also really like to start writing a new novel.  Nothing is definite yet, but I have a few ideas... I'll also be revising Untitled Icarus Novel, which still hasn't gotten the revision it deserves.  Or a title, for that matter.

Well, that's me right now.  What are you up to for the summer, or in general?  Any thoughts on what genre direction I should take for my next book?
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On Accessibility of Art, or Why My Writing Class Needs to Get Over Itself

I took a class last semester on short story writing.  I loved the writing itself, but the discussion was challenging for me.  There were so many times when I just wanted to look people straight in the eye and say, "Get over yourself."

Because, you see, the class I took was on literary fiction, as basically all college creative writing classes are.  And that's fine.  There is a place for literary fiction just as there is a place for commercial fiction, and zombie fiction, and romance fiction, and fiction about dogs who are abducted by aliens.  But I have taken two "literary" writing classes now, and they do not seem to agree.  Alternately, they think that literary fiction has a place, and that place is above all other fiction.
Comic by Tom Gauld,

I hit my breaking point last semester when one of my classmates was giving constructive criticism about some subtle symbolism in another classmate's story.  He started throwing around the term "the average reader" like this was not him.  Like he was somehow above the average reader.  To my dismay, many of my other classmates nodded along with him.

Who is missing the point here?  Has this particular writing community really gotten so pretentious that they feel they have somehow evolved beyond their mortal forms and become transcendent, cosmic beings of All That Is GOOD Literature, with "good" determined by--you guessed it--themselves?  Or am I alone in my frustration?  Am I just the "average reader" somehow sneaking into highbrow literary communities?  Is the high horse getting taller, or am I getting smaller?

I believe that art should be accessible to people.  Call me a radical if you will.  But I don't see how burying your meaning under layers of symbolism or subtext, even to the point of all but the "right" audience missing it, makes your art any better.  Is there merit in this?  Absolutely.  I love puzzling out hidden meanings in fiction, and how the writer wove layers of subtext together to create wholly new themes.  There are so many fascinating things that can happen in this type of work, and it's super cool.  What I don't understand is how that devalues art that doesn't do this, art whose meaning doesn't require a miscroscope and an overworked grad student to puzzle out.  Is art that is meant to be nothing more than pretty, nothing more than entertaining, no longer valuable?  What if (*gasp*) a piece is both entertaining and subtly meaningful?  What then?

This could bring me into a discussion of subjectivity vs. objectivity: How do we objectively measure the quality of art?  Can we do such a thing?  This is another discussion for another time, and certainly a discussion I'm willing to have.  For now, though, I will say this: I do not think "art" is a thing, an object.  "Art" is a way of looking at something.  Think about it this way: we describe certain sounds as music, and others as noise.  In reality, they're all vibrations hitting our eardrums.  All writing is simply different combinations of letters, which are nothing but arbitrary markings roughly correlated to sounds.  While I'm not saying that every piece of writing, therefore, is art, I'm saying that our definitions of art are actually much more arbitrary than we think.

As a writer and lover of so-called non-literary fiction (and, God forbid, young adult fiction), I think we need to build a better bridge between the two worlds.  We need to recognize that art and entertainment are not mutually exclusive.  We need to bring back the notion that things can be enjoyable simply for the sake of it, while recognizing that your style of writing doesn't make you more or less of a writer.  We need to destroy the idea that writers need to write to a level above "the average reader" in order to have their work considered True Literature.

There are so many other things I could discuss branching out from this.  What is "literature"?  I could toss out the phrase "literary canon" and we'll be here debating what should (or shouldn't) be included until Leonardo DiCaprio wins an Oscar.  The place of YA in the literary/genre fiction dichotomy (but is it a dichotomy? because I don't think it's that simple), and the quality of YA in general.  The "quality" of fiction in general, and how we determine it.  Why not include genre fiction in the general consensus of high quality fiction?  What should we do with genre fiction with a literary style, or literary fiction with a genre twist?  (And don't even get me started on graphic novels.)  What is "good" literature?  What are we even doing here at all?

But I won't discuss them now.  I'll leave you with what I'd already written, because I'd like to start a discussion/dialogue about this.  What are your thoughts/opinions/comments/concerns?  Have you had similar experiences?

I feel like I need to include a "not all" disclaimer in this.  I love literary fiction.  I love genre fiction, especially YA.  My point isn't to bash literary fiction, nor is it to protest on the street corner with a sign reading, "Genre fiction is the only fiction!"  I'm not here for that.  I'm just here to ask why we can't reconcile these two--both worthwhile and valuable--worlds of fiction.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Top Music of 2015

You got the Top Ten Books of 2015 post last it's time for the music edition.  I read fewer books in 2015 than in previous years, but I accumulated/hoarded/bought/adopted more music than ever before.  And probably half of it was Fall Out Boy--or at least, it seems.

I organized my top picks into three categories: top albums of the year, both ones that came out in 2015 and older albums I hadn't discovered until this year; my favorite songs that came out in 2015; and my favorite older songs that I found this year.

Top 5 Albums Released/Discovered in 2015
5. Beneath the Skin by Of Monsters and Men (2015)
After being slightly disappointed by a series of second albums, Of Monsters and Men finally pulled through and gave me something just as good as their first.  If not better.  It's ethereal yet upbeat, earthy yet mystical.
4. Smoke + Mirrors by Imagine Dragons (2015)
It's no Night Visions.  I'm not sure Imagine Dragons can ever do better than that.  It took me a long time to warm up to this second album, but it spent the year slowly working its way into me.  It's lighter than Night Visions, but still has that same Imagine Dragons innovation. 
3. 1989 by Taylor Swift (2014)
I became a huge Taylor Swift fan this year.  (The new stuff, at least.)  I'm not even sorry.  She has completely reinvented herself, and it has paid off.  Some tracks are "meh" for me (I've never been a fan of "How You Get The Girl") but when Taylor gets going, she steals the show.
2. American Beauty / American Psycho by Fall Out Boy (2015)
This album was my first introduction to Fall Out Boy.  I would have never expected myself to be a Fall Out Boy fan, but given last year's foray into My Chemical Romance, I guess it was only natural.  The awesome part about this album is that each song has a completely different style, yet they all fit together with a unified album sound.
1. Folie a Deux by Fall Out Boy (2008)
As if AB/AP wasn't good enough, I discovered the hidden gem of Fall Out Boy albums.  It's more punk-rock and less pop-punk than their other albums, but the grittier sound suits them.  It's telling intriguing stories, messing with its own structure, and referencing itself left and right.

Top 10 Songs Discovered in 2015 (released earlier)
10. "Wonderland" by Taylor Swift (1989, 2014)
9. "I Miss You" by blink-182 (blink-182, 2003)
8. "The (Shipped) Gold Standard" by Fall Out Boy (Folie a Deux, 2008)
7. "What A Catch, Donnie" by Fall Out Boy (Folie a Deux, 2008)
6. "Antichrist" by The 1975 (The 1975, 2014)
5. "Fake Your Death" by My Chemical Romance (May Death Never Stop You, 2014)
4. "CASTLE OF GLASS" by Linkin Park (LIVING THINGS 2012)
3. "Style" by Taylor Swift (1989, 2014)
2. "Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes" by Fall Out Boy (Folie a Deux, 2008)
1. "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet" by Fall Out Boy (Folie a Deux, 2008)

Top 10 Songs Released in 2015
10. "Army of One" by Coldplay (A Head Full of Dreams)
9. "Roman Holiday" by Halsey (BADLANDS)
8. "Renegades" by X Ambassadors (VHS)
7. "Dream" by Imagine Dragons (Smoke + Mirrors)
6. "Crystals" by Of Monsters and Men (Beneath the Skin)
5. "Summer" by Imagine Dragons (Smoke + Mirrors)
4. "Empire" by Of Monsters and Men (Beneath the Skin)
3. "Jet Pack Blues" by Fall Out Boy (American Beauty / American Psycho)
2. "Shots" by Imagine Dragons (Smoke + Mirrors)
1. "The Kids Aren't Alright" by Fall Out Boy (American Beauty / American Psycho)

Honorable mentions for both: "Irresistible" by Fall Out Boy, "Polaroid" by Imagine Dragons, "20 Dollar Nose Bleed" by Fall Out Boy, "Take Me to Church" by Hozier, "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift, "Save Rock and Roll" by Fall Out Boy feat. Elton John, "Just One Yesterday" by Fall Out Boy, "Goodnight Moon" by Go Radio, "Summertime" by My Chemical Romance, "Implicit Demand For Proof" by Twenty One Pilots

TL;DR; I just really, really like Fall Out Boy, guys.

In addition to digital music, I also saw Imagine Dragons live this summer.  (Yes, I also saw them last year.  Your point?)  Halsey opened for them, and while I didn't care at the time, I'm now really excited that I got to see her, especially before her debut album.  And Imagine Dragons themselves were amazing, of course.  Though I still think I liked the Into the Night tour a little better.

Here's to another year of amazing music!

I leave you with my favorite music video of 2015:

What was your favorite music of 2015? 
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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Books of 2015

Well.  Hello.

It's time for the annual Top Ten post, and list of 5-star books for 2015 is painfully short.  Of course, I read less than fifty books, so it makes sense that I would have fewer.  But still, something seems off.  Are my standards just higher?  Probably.  Is taking longer to read each book having a negative impact on my enjoyment of it?  Probably.  Did I use some of my limited reading time to reread old Patrick Ness favorites that don't count for this list?  Definitely.

We're going ahead with this list anyway.  Here are my top ten novels* of 2015:

10. The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

It's weird, it's unsettling, it's nonsensical...which is exactly what I expect of Andrew Smith.  Luckily for him, I'm interested in his particular brand of weird, unsettling and nonsensical, so I enjoyed this, both in its humor and its darkness.

9. The Martian by Andy Weir

The astronomy nerd in me loved this.  The writer part of me was bothered by the narration, but the story won me over in this one.  It's funny, but it's frighteningly believable.

8. Inferno (Robert Langdon #4) by Dan Brown

I've never read any other Dan Brown, and normally I would never start with #4, but this was handed to me as something I would specifically be interested in.  Because a) Florence b) terrifyingly real villain c) complex thriller d) my boyfriend had just talked me into watching Angels & Demons with him and it was awesome.  And so, Inferno.  It turns out that it doesn't matter where in the series you jump in.

7. The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh

I expected this to disappoint me by turning into a cliche YA romance that just happens to have a cool Middle Eastern setting.  While it was romance-focused, it pleasantly surprised me with how believable the love story's development was, and it never abandoned its core story for the romance.

6. Rook by Sharon Cameron

I picked this one up blindly.  Nothing that I'd heard about it made it stand out, but I am so, so glad I didn't miss out on this.  It has such a unique setting and a cast of memorable characters, and it's refreshing to read a standalone that is unlike anything else I've seen come out recently.

5. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

Ah, Patrick Ness.  I promise this is not a Patrick Ness fanblog.  While it has a different feel than my other Ness favorites, it has his signature subtle (and not-so-subtle) emotion-packed ending, and lovely writing.

4. A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray

Multiverse theory.  That's all you really need to know about this one.  The settings are all over the place in the best way possible, with so much variety.  Plus, it's pretty.

3. Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo did it again.  It has enough of our beloved Grisha trilogy universe to keep fans happy, but it's also completely different, showing us another side of the world.  It might actually be better than the Grisha trilogy.  Get back to me on that one.  I haven't made up my mind.

2. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

And (surprise!) here's more Patrick Ness.  The Rest of Us Just Live Here fills a niche in YA that nobody realized needed to be filled until this came out.  It asks the question: While all of this paranormal/fantastical/world-saving stuff is happening, what does everyone else do?

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Gorgeous prose, deeply explored characters, a rich plot...yeah, this one deserves all its awards.  As does Anthony Doerr in general.  It's long, but it's worth it.

2015 Reading Statistics (as of 12/28/15)
Books read: 46 (down 26 from last year)
Average rating: 3.7 (up 0.2)
Total pages read: 27,490 (down 10,740)
Average pages per book: 364.1 (down 17.7)
Average pages read per day: 46.1 (down 30)
Average number of days to read one book: 7.9 (up 2.9)

*I'm specifying novels because I picked up some nonfiction that was also awesome, but it feels weird to count it here.

Here's to another year of reading!  I didn't read anywhere near as much as in previous years, but I've also taken the pressure to review off myself, and that has helped significantly.  I've also given myself the freedom to put down books without finishing them, which means I'm no longer putting excessive amounts of time into books I hate.  While I still wish I could read more, I'm happy with the amount I've been able to finish, and I assume next year will be similar.

What were your favorites of 2015?

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

One-Line Book Reviews: Fall/Winter 2015

I'm back with another round of one-line book reviewing.  This time, it's the Fall/Winter 2015 Edition.  It's an eclectic mix that includes books read for class, some personal picks outside my typical range, and, of course, the usual haunts.  Oh, and Patrick Ness.  Because we get a little excited about Patrick Ness around here.  

Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers

Yes, I read the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator classic.  Yes, this INTJ nerd loved it.

Rating: 4/5

Inferno (Robert Langdon #4) by Dan Brown

This one was handed to me (quite literally) with no explanation other than "Italy.  Terrifyingly real villain."  While the writing style leaves something to be desired, the plot is fascinating.

Rating: 4/5

Read this for my Fiction Writing class.  It's unlike every other writing book I've ever read (in a good way).

Rating: 4/5

City of a Thousand Dolls (Bhinian Empire #1) by Miriam Forster

Flat characters and halfhearted worldbuilding make this one to pass over.

Rating: 3/5

Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries by Ander Monson

It's possibly the most pretentious thing I've ever read, but also strangely compelling.  Also, I met Ander Monson in September, and he gave a great reading of excerpts of this.

Rating: 4/5

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo lives up to the standards she set in her Grisha trilogy, and might have even surpassed them.

Rating: 4/5

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russel

Read this for my Writing Fiction class.  It's strange and whimsical, yet each story gets darker and darker.

Rating: 3/5

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

While it didn't slam me with feels like Ness' other books, it's innovative and poignant and, of course, proves once again that Patrick Ness knows how I think.

Rating: 4.5/5

Intentional Dating by John R. Buri

I'm not one for self-help books, especially dating ones, but there's a story behind why I read this particular one that won't fit in a mini-mini-review.  I will say this: it's a complete game-changer and eye-opener in the best way possible.

Rating: 5/5

Soundless by Richelle Mead

I have little to criticize, but nothing about this story compelled me to immerse myself in it, either.

Rating: 3/5

What have you been reading lately?  What have you loved/hated lately?
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Value of Journaling

One of the most common pieces of writing advice (and one I happen to disagree with*) is write every day.  "Well," you think, "I'm taking 18 credits and am in 12 activities and have a job and run a cupcake-decorating business on the side.  I don't have time to write every day."

I bring you a solution.

You can write every day.  It's not necessarily fiction, but it's words.  And any writing is still writing.

Start keeping a journal.

I've been journaling on and off since 2006.  I started in a tiny mini-notebook (with a lock, of course) and I wrote sometimes very regrettable middle school-esque things about school, home life, and other various thoughts.  For the next few years, I alternated between writing every day or writing once every few days.  I stopped in early 2013 for various reasons--namely, the fact that it had become more a chore to journal than anything else.  In the following months, I considered starting again, but I thought, "Why do it if it feels like a chore?"

In February of 2015, I finally came back.  I realized that my issue wasn't that it was a chore--it was that I was going about it the wrong way.  I didn't force myself to write a summary of my day, every day.  That's an okay way to journal, but that just wasn't something I wanted to do, or could handle, given the fact that I was now in college.  I approached it not as an obligation, but something that was there if I needed or wanted it.  If I had something on my mind, I journaled about it.  If I had a repetitive thought, a quote stuck in my head, a story or poem idea, I jotted it down.  If I had nothing, I was content to let it be.
These are all the journals I've filled, 2006 to present, from left to right.  I stopped in the blue cross book third from the right, and started back up in the spiral-bound book second from the right.  The brown book is my current journal.  The words are lines from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" because I'm a nerd.
I didn't write every day.  Most of the time, I ended up writing about once a week.  Sometimes I'd just freewrite with no specific goal, simply letting myself fill pages until my mind felt a little calmer.  I didn't bother recording the details of each day; I just wrote whatever I felt needed to be written.  A few months later, when I had some personal things to straighten out, I used the journal as a way to record my thoughts and feelings so that I could work through them in a more visual way.  Looking back, I have no idea how I would have figured these things out without the journal.  

Fast-forward to late August.  For reasons that are unspecific and inexplicable, I made it my goal to write in my journal every single day.  I didn't give myself word count minimums of any kind--even one sentence will do, and that's what happens most days.  Since August 22, I've written at least one sentence almost every day.  Like before, I make full entries when I feel the need, but on every other day, it's just a small piece of writing.  It's not always significant.  Some days, I just jot down one random thing that happened, or the lyrics to a song I'm listening to.  I've written little poems, full poems, story ideas, ideas for the future, little things that made me happy, something memorable someone said to me, how the sky looked at sunset, something that's worrying me, quotes, a cool fact I learned that day,..and so on.

Of course, your journaling practice doesn't have to be a daily thing.  It's how I do it, but everyone works differently.  The key to journaling in general is not to expect every entry to be meaningful, poetic, or even to make sense at all.  It's not about censoring yourself--no one is reading it.  It's about letting whatever's into your head onto paper.  This is surprisingly therapeutic.  Even the simple act of writing down a feeling or thought can help you accept it as it is, and figure out how to make a change if needed.**  It gives your thoughts a physical place to rest.  It's a place to rant and not have to worry about judgement.  Again, it doesn't even have to make sense.  When I reread some of my old entries, I have no idea what I meant.  It wasn't even about what ink hit the paper.  It was about the act itself of ink hitting paper.

The awesome thing about journaling is that the practice is 100% customizable.  There is no right way to do it; you can't be wrong.  For creative writers, it helps you hone your skills, giving you a chance to record cool images, things that inspire you, and snippets of fiction or poetry someplace completely private.  For anyone, it's a space to record thoughts with a physicality that is somehow freeing.  As one of my theology professors once said, "Through writing, we discover thoughts we didn't even know we were thinking."

If nothing else, buying journals is fun.  Filling them gives you an excuse to buy more.

*My disagreement with this common advice lies in the fact that getting better is about repetition, not necessarily daily practice.  Sure, writing every single day is great practice, but not everyone can make it work.  This is life.  The key is to write on a regular basis, but this can be every other day, or once a week, or whatever works.

**It actually has a lot in common with mindfulness meditation, if you're interested.

Do you journal?  What's your method/style/routine?
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