Never underestimate the power of a journal. Especially as a writer. It’s almost dissociative when you write about your life in a diary, like you’re creating a character.
I recently began writing in a journal again and it helped me overcome my chronic writer’s block. It helped me uncover the reason why I stared at the page, unsure where to begin or even if I should start at all. Why aren’t you writing?
For me, it was because I feared failure. I feared proving everyone right about my “lack of skill or talent”.
I already posted about this, though. That’s not why I’m writing this entry. I’m writing this because I want to explore how my perception shifted as I wrote in my journal.
Not long after I started writing down my feelings, I decided to take a look at my journal from 2008-2010. (My only journal now, since the 2010-2012 one was left out in the rain. Argh!) And what I noticed was a distinct character arc.
I went from being this young woman who was determined to save her family and remain ever optimistic to a depressed-but-authentic queen. That queen is careful who she lets near her, stingy with her loyalty, and I love her. Yes, she makes mistakes, as all interesting characters do, but she’s powerful.
The young woman who was just starting out at 18 was obsessed with finding true love. She needed a relationship in order to feel secure and successful. The queen knows that true love isn’t always romantic or sexual.
True love is her big sister, who has always been there for her, in every capacity: Her best friend, confidante, impromptu therapist, and stand-in mother. True love is her brother-in-law, who has almost nothing in common with her, but worries for her mental health all the time. Who takes her out for a drink when she’s really down, on his anniversary with his wife, because she needs it.
True love is her niece who always worries about her dietary health, because you need more than fruit to survive (apparently). The niece who loves hearing about her writing and cheers her on. True love is her nephew, who pretends to be cold and uninterested, but who would definitely fight someone for her.
True love is her grand niece and grand nephews, whose eyes light up when they see her. Who run screaming “NANA!” and leap into her arms, hugging her so tight that it squeezes all the pieces of her heart back together in an instant.
And true love is her baby brother, even if she didn’t realize it back then. Because she didn’t know that true love could be anything other than marriage and children.
And true love is even her coworkers, who love her more than she ever knew. Who stick up for her when they hear a bad word uttered about her in their presence.
The young woman searched and searched in 2008 for true love, thinking she knew what it was. The queen is wise and understands she’s had it in her life all along.
Love isn’t kisses and caresses and sex. Love is loyalty. Love is compassion. Love is truth that you didn’t want to hear, but needed to hear.
And I have that in so many places in my life right now. I’m in love with my sister, my brother-in-law, my baby brother, my niece, nephew, grand niece/nephews, and my coworkers.
I love that I kept that old journal, that I can look back at who I was and where I came from and realize I’ve grown. I don’t feel the need to confine myself to a box anymore. I’m not “happy, cheerful Lynn” or “hyper Lynn” or “sweet, innocent Lynn.”
I’m just Lynn. And I’ll do whatever that means on any given day. I am angry and bitter, then calm and reflective. I am a party girl and I am a hermit. I’m a sexed-up, orgy-chasing nympho and I’m also a quiet, reserved lady who doesn’t need sex for years.
I am all of these things and more. I’m a well of endless possibilities and that’s better than choosing any one box in which to live my entire life.
I tell you all of this to tell you how freeing a journal can be. When I write about myself in my diary, as I’ve written here, I see the strings that connect everything. It’s just like writing a story, except the facts and details are already in place. I’m a woman, 30 years old, and I have certain hobbies, hopes/fears, principles, and relationship dynamics already in place. The character is pre-created, but I can change her however I please – as long as it makes sense for the story.
But I am largely in control of how this story plays out. By making certain decisions, I can change the plot. I can change the ending, even. It’s the exact same power as I have when writing a novel and HOW have I never seen that before?
With that line of logic, then if your story sucks right now, if your character has been through fucking hell, then you should be happy. Nobody wants to read about a character who’s just lived the best, most charmed, easy life in existence. That’s boring. Readers want a story where the character must overcome.