Uncategorized, Writing

declutter-your-mind-by-journaling-ruth-writer

I’ve written before about the joys of keeping a journal and how beneficial it can prove to be in your life.

I’m something of a procrastinator (*ahem*). I mean, if procrastinating was an art form, I’d be on the level of Picasso 😉 One of the many anti-joys produced by being a chronic procrastinator is that I often feel cluttered up in my mind with all the things I haven’t done, all the things I’ve yet to do. It leaves me feeling pretty overwhelmed and gives me a bad case of the “brain fog.” One of the ways I deal with this is by keeping a journal.

journaling-benefits

In times past, I’d religiously stick to one notebook, not moving into another until I’d finished that one. That hasn’t been the case as of late. Nowadays I write wherever –a scrap of paper, a napkin, my prayer journal, or a new Word doc. Whenever and wherever the need presents itself.

There’s a great quote by Joan Didion about how writing is her way of figuring out what it is she’s thinking, how she feels, what she fears, etc. It’s how we figure out what’s going on inside of our hearts and heads. You don’t have to be an excellent writer to do that. All you have to do is sit down and describe how you’re feeling, what you’re going through, what you’re learning, etc. You may be surprised at how free and relieved you feel afterwards.

writing-journaling

I haven’t been journaling as much as I used to so the other day when I was feeling overwhelmed, I decided to give it a whirl. And I’m really glad I did. I was able to unburden a lot of pent-up stuff there and just work out why I was feeling overwhelmed, and it inspired me to write this post. Because maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed too, and maybe you’re having a hard time figuring out why. Seeing it all written out in black and white might be the key you’re looking for. I’d encourage you to give it a try and see what I’m talking about. You may be surprised by what you find.

Another reason why I like to journal is because, in a way, it’s the memoir that nobody reads. It’s my way of remembering, of holding on to the pieces of me that may not exist someday. It’s my way of capturing the present. How priceless it will be one day to look back and be able to remember all the ins and outs of our lives; I think it will be like finding recorded footage of forgotten times. Wouldn’t that be amazing? So pull out a notebook; turn on your computer; rip out a piece of scrap paper – whatever. Just be sure to save your writing in a place it won’t be lost. You’ll be glad you did someday.

journaling-quotes-ruth-writer

Writing

announcement

Hi, friends 🙂

I’ve been really thinking hard about blogging lately – about committing myself to it and deciding once and for all why I’m here and what my message is. Taking a blogging course last month inspired me a lot and it gave me a good deal of sorely-needed direction.

I realized that I’ve been trying to do too much… I’ve been trying to be too many things, when in reality, all I needed to worry about was being me. Connecting with like-minded writers and creating content that reflects my message should be my sole focus – and it’s one I’m honing in on now. I can’t pretend I have all the answers yet, but I feel like I’m coming closer. And I’m excited about writing again… I’m looking forward to what this could be and what God could do with it.

I don’t want to call myself an aspiring blogger anymore. To aspire is to be ever-hopeful of reaching, but never quite attaining. Why not take the leap and stop hiding behind aspirations? I know what kind of blogger I want to be – a blogger that shows up, that writes with intention and purpose, that knows what she’s doing and why she’s doing it. I had a few tumbles and I had to forge my way but I was learning all along and that’s the part that matters.

Ultimately, I want this to be a space that reflects not only the heart and thoughts of an emerging writer, but a place that holds traces of myself as I am now – standing on the cusp of adulthood, slightly bewildered and unsure, with my arms full of dreams and my head full of ideas, peering into a future littered with untold hopes. A space that gives voice to the unheard crimes of the past and present. Taking the plunge and making the commitment is scary – but it holds promise and purpose and I know it will all be worth it in the end.

So here is my official announcement: I’m back and I’m here to stay. I’ve been purposefully vague about why I stopped posting back in March, but hopefully my next post clears some of that up… To those people who wrote me and told me they’d be praying for me and my family, thank you so very much. You’ve no idea how much your support meant (and means) to me. God definitely heard your prayers and the issues we were having have been largely resolved, praise the Lord. Still in a position where I’d appreciate prayer – because you can never get enough prayer! – but the trials have eased up some, and I feel like I can breathe again.

I’m looking forward to what’s to come and I hope you stick around for the ride. God bless you. I’ll see you here next time!

Writing

Funny, insightful review of Shaw Academy's BLOGGING & CONTENT MARKETING COURSE | Click to sign up now and start developing your skills! (Courses include: Digital Marketing, Graphic Design, Web Design, Photography, Career Advancement, and much more...) | missruthelias.com
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Recently, I got the opportunity to take a course on Shaw Academy, which is, currently, the largest live online educator in the world.

Shaw Academy provides skill development courses such as:

  • blogging and content marketing
  • digital marketing
  • web design
  • photography
  • graphic design
  • career advancement
  • personal nutrition
  • and so much more…

The prices are quite economical given the value of the product, but if you sign up for a lifetime membership, you have access to all the courses, always. (My sister signed up as a lifetime member and I have access to her membership since she put me down as a family member – awesomeness.)

Anyway, I think what initially sold me on the concept was the fact that Shaw Academy is based in Ireland, and I’d get to listen to a lovely Irish accent for a collective ten hours… MAJOR SELLING POINT, if you ask me.

I signed up for the “Diploma in Foundation of Blogging and Content Marketing Course” because quite obviously, I’m a blogger, and despite hours upon hours upon hours of careful research, there were still a lot of holes that needed filling in my brain. Also, the fact that I could get a diploma in it was cool.

The course lasted a total of four weeks and there were a total of ten classes. I got to pick which dates were most convenient for me. The majority of the classes were live, which meant showing up on time and tuning into the webinar was important. If you attended live, you had the chance of winning $1,000. (Yes, you read that correctly… and no, I didn’t win… UGH. I still found it really cool that they did that though. And some happy people strewn across the globe got to enjoy their winnings, so it’s all good!) A handful of the classes were On Demand, which means that you could listen to them at your own convenience.

The whole course is very interactive. They will ask for your phone number when you sign up: give it to them… don’t do what I did, which was give a phony one because they will call to check in on you, to remind you when you have an upcoming class, and to offer you support and answer any questions you may have. (I know this because they would call my sister and every time they did, “London is calling” would show up on the caller ID and do you know how incredibly cool that looks showing up on your phone? REALLY COOL.)

You are assigned a support manager. Alas, I never got the chance to speak to him personally because again, GREAT GOING WITH THE PHONY NUMBER, RUTH. He did contact me by email though so the cause wasn’t totally lost.

The course was a lot of fun. Gareth, my instructor, was definitely Irish, and not to sound redundant, but THE ACCENT. Again, the webinars are live and quite interactive (the classes are recorded, by the way, and made available to you in a timely fashion so don’t stress if you don’t catch everything – you can always listen to it again). We could send in any questions we had through the chat box and I’d say eight out of ten times, I got my question answered – whether by the staff on hand or by the instructor himself.

The course I took was for beginner and intermediate level students. It covered everything from the origins of blogging to the best platforms to use for blogging. We learned about creating content and marketing it, developing a brand, and using social media to promote your work, amongst other things. I did wish some subjects were talked about a little more in depth, but it was, after all, a foundational course and there was limited time. Another thing I’d hoped to learn was how to set up a WordPress.org website but they didn’t cover this except on a general basis. I am planning on taking the advanced course though, once it’s made available, and they are planning to create a course dedicated to the ins and outs of WordPress in the future, so that does away with my two little cons.

Assignments (quizzes) were given out every week. You could take them as often as you pleased and they helped prepare you for the final exam, which was made available at the end of the course. The final exam was 100 questions and you can’t retake it, so whatever you get the first time is your score. Upon completing the exam you receive your diploma!

QUICK TIP: if you intend on signing up for a course on Shaw Academy, be prepared to take lots of notes! You will be quizzed on certain information, especially whatever is shown to you on the slides, so pay attention and jot everything down. You’ll be glad you did later.

All in all, I think Shaw Academy is worth every penny. I could tell that my instructor really cared about his class and listening to his excitement upon hearing some of our feedback at the end of the course was adorable. The support is great. The information is current and relevant to our times. I loved the community feeling to it and being a part of something bigger than me. I felt inspired and equipped to tackle blogging again and I’m looking forward to taking more courses.

A+, you-Irish-wonderland-Shaw-Academy-you!

CLICK HERE AND START LEARNING WITH SHAW ACADEMY TODAY! 

Writing

So the title of my last post was adventurous on my part since I didn’t actually start posting again (which I did fully intend to do). Allow me to explain.

Soon after publishing that post, I got an email forwarded to me by a family member, saying, check this out! GoDaddy had partnered with Shaw Academy (an online school offering live courses) and was offering free classes to whoever joined within 24 hours.

I checked it out and saw right away that they were giving a course on blogging and content marketing.

I couldn’t bypass such an awesome opportunity and signed up right away!

Here’s the thing. I’m learning a lot and I’m getting some clarity on some concepts that always overwhelmed me. Naturally, I want to apply some of what I’m learning to the blog, but it doesn’t make sense to me to start overhauling things right away when I haven’t even finished the course.

So is Ruth, Writer still on? Yes and no. Blogging is on temporary hiatus but I’m here if anyone wants to reach out! Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is creating a little bit more of an interactive community for writers, specifically those writing memoir. It’s still a dream in the works but I’d love it if you left a comment telling me what you think about it!

Thanks for reading and God bless!

Writing

Where I’ve Been

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged here. I had a series of very difficult situations take place within my family and for that I found it necessary to take a long hiatus from blogging and whatnot. But, learning to function even in the face of difficulties is something I’m learning so I’ve decided to come back and get back to writing again!

It’s been a little over two months and like I said, I’ve had some very tough times as of late. Have had to trust in the Lord and take it day by day and believe that God would see me and my family through. I’d like to write about it a little more in depth someday but I’ve noticed something funny – it’s much easier to write about things that are already gone and past versus the things we go through in the present. Can anyone relate?

My Writing

The publishing of my memoir has been postponed indefinitely while we work through the family issues we’ve been having. It’s the tides of life and I’m trying not to fret. It will happen in God’s timing.

As of late, my writing has suffered. I write here and there but not as much as I would like. I feel like I need to sit down and read some good books or read some inspiring posts on getting back into the habit. If anyone has any recommendations, I’m all ears! I used to feel so inspired and on fire with ideas and dreams and things I wanted to put into words but lately, all I want to do is journal or write letters or not write at all.

Inspiration? 

It has been awhile since I’ve found a good blog on writing. Have you read any lately? Let me know! I usually find myself fired up with the urge to write after I’ve gotten my hands on some good literature or some contemporary pieces. I’m currently reading The Amethyst Box by Anna Katherine Green (free for Kindle) and I just finished The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (also free for Kindle!) This was my first experience reading Oscar Wilde and I found this play hilarious and so clever. Will definitely be reading more of his work!

Updates Regarding My Blog: 

As you can see, I’ve redesigned my entire website and have removed some of my earlier posts. This blog and what I share here is something I’m constantly seeking to refine and perfect. In some ways, I feel like I’ve yet to find my stride. There is a lot that I want to say but should all of it be said here? That’s something I’m figuring out right now. In any case, I’m working on creating content that falls in line with the theme of this blog. With these changes, I’ll hopefully be able to produce a site that reflects my message and the story I’m telling.

Thanks for reading. See you here next time! 

Memoir, Writing

reflections

Just over a year ago, I wrote this post on my former blog a couple of weeks after completing my first memoir. I thought it’d be fun to share it here as it has inspired me as I begin writing the second half of my story:

• • •

Jan. 5, 2015

I finished the book.

It’s so weird and awesome to say that. I finished it. It’s taken me several years (6.5 to be exact). I started writing it just before turning fourteen. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long if I didn’t need to learn so much, if I had already had within me all the experience and skill that years of writing brings, if life hadn’t gotten in the way multiple times, and if I had had a fully-functioning computer from the start to it’s finish. (As it happens, I’m still bumming off of my sister’s fully-functioning laptop, ha di ha.) It’s something I have worked towards for so long. How can it be finished?! Gahh.

And it’s only ever been real in my head. That’s the weird part. Friends have drifted in and out of our lives for as long as I can remember and I’ve never spoken about my book, not unless asked (my father would make a great agent: he tells everybody and anybody!). Even speaking about it amongst the family is something I’ve shied away from: the subject (and all the memories it brings with it) is a sure way to shut down their faces and bring that certain look of silent torment to their eyes. I have avoided it at all costs. Did I have their full support and the constant assertion that if I ever needed help it was mine? Absolutely. But writing this book was still lonely. While life went on and we taught ourselves to forget, I went back. Over and over again. I went back while we struggled to make ends meet with no income, living off coupons and our friends’ charity. I went back while we welcomed two more babies into the family. I went back while the owner of our old house brought us to court and marshals stalked our gate and the electricity got turned off (…and stayed off). I went back while we moved into the apartment of a friend and hunkered down for three years of cramped living while looking for a new home. It became a silent world within my head inhabited only by me, something I couldn’t share with anyone else… no one but God.

He was patient with me. Whenever I would hit a rough patch and stumble into a memory I wasn’t prepared to face, I would pull a Jonah and run to the land where procrastination thrives: the Internet. I would remain there for several weeks and then come crawling back, stricken with guilt. I was plagued with a sense of inferiority: how could I write a book? Having grown up an avid reader, books were something I was only too familiar with… I read anything I could get my hands on: Austen, Dickens, Alcott, Bronte. As a teenager, my horizons broadened: E.M. Forster, John Steinbeck, Salman Rushdie, Irving Stone. My standards were high; my expectations even higher. I didn’t want to just tell our story – I wanted to write something epic, something revolutionary, something life-changing. Something that would climb its way into its reader’s heart and stay there. I wrote and rewrote the manuscript multiple times. It was never good enough; it could always be better. I wrestled with my sense of duty: why was I doing this? Was there a point to all this private torture? Would it do any good?

Towards the end, the real thing that kept me going was digging deep into the nitty-gritty details of what Matthew [my brother] suffered and realizing all over again the absolute anguish that his last five months of life contained. Don’t I owe it to him, to tell his story? Isn’t it the least I could do? To make sure that people don’t forget, to make sure that his name and his existence doesn’t get swallowed up by time?

This year is going to bring so much change, I can feel it already. It’s daunting, but I’m praying that God gives me strength to face it…

Last year did bring a lot of change, but it wasn’t the kind of change I expected. I learned so much though, and I’m praying that God gives me the means to go forward with self-publishing my memoir this year.

I hope this post inspired you… there’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment that comes after completing this kind of project, especially one that lasted as long as writing my memoir did. God willing the second doesn’t take as long – ha!

Memoir, Writing

 

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While I was writing my first memoir, I remember Googling phrases like how to write a memoir, how to write an emotional story, and how to write an impacting book. I had no idea what I was doing, but being an avid reader, I knew what I wanted to do:

I wanted to write in a way that impacted my reader.

I wanted to make sure that I achieved the kind of story that left a lasting impression.

Finding the answers to my puzzled questions proved difficult. I couldn’t find much on writing a memoir, let alone writing an emotionally impacting memoir. In the end, I had to find out for myself the answers to my questions.

It’s my hope that this post can offer the kind of useful and practical tips that I wished someone could have told me way back when!

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Determine your why

First things first, you need to determine your why. Why are you writing your story?

Are you writing about the death of a loved one? Why? To heal? To find answers? To share what you learned through it? What is the reader going to take away from your account?

Discovering the answers to these questions is a process, I think, and you may not find them until you’ve reached the end of your tale. That’s okay. But it’s important that you know why you’re writing your story and what you want to achieve with it.

As hard as it is to swallow, our life-changing moments may not seem that big of a deal to other people. From what I’ve learned, there has to be a redeeming element, such as:

  • incredible writing
  • a lesson learned
  • the quality of forgiveness
  • the process of overcoming something, etc.

Don’t write just to say “this thing happened to me and it was awful/amazing/horrible/incredible.” Your reader will go, “yeah, and?” Dig deep within yourself and find the triumph, find the lesson learned, so that your reader can walk away feeling enriched by the experience of reading your story.

Let’s look at The Railway Man by Eric Lomax, for instance. Semi-autobiographical, this memoir relates the traumatic experiences that Lomax underwent as a Japanese POW working the Burma-Siam railway. Lomax was tortured by his Japanese captors, and though he survived, suffered from PTSD for the fifty years following WWII. While this is a tragic and remarkable story in itself, what makes it absolutely unforgettable is the redemptive conclusion given at the end of the book: this man not only finds it within himself to forgive one of the men that had participated in his torture, but ends up becoming friends with him. How amazing is that?!

This is the quality that you need to find in your story. The one that makes the reader say, “Wow, this really inspired me” or, “this so perfectly describes the grieving process – I related so much!”

What do you think the reader is going to take away from your story?

Answering this question is the first step towards writing an emotionally impacting memoir.

Read other people’s memoirs

Reading is so important when it comes to writing – and this applies to all writing, not just memoir. How else will you know what’s good or what works or what impacts you and gets inside you and imprints itself on your heart?

In answering these questions you are developing your taste. You are fine-tuning your palette. Read everything you can get your hands on, but when you study memoir, try and figure out what it is that gets to you.

Why did such-and-such a book make you cry? What was it exactly? How did the writer set the tone of the book? How did it make you feel?

Writing  Tip:

When you find yourself impacted by a particular writer, go back and read their writing over and over again until you determine what it is that impressed you so deeply.

Was it the evocative imagery? The unforgettable story? The particular writing style? You can learn from both the good and the bad. Where did such-and-such a writer go wrong? Why didn’t the recounting of their tragic story leave you in tears?

Going back to The Railway Man for an example, I can say that while the story is incredible and while I felt deeply for the writer, I didn’t cry and I didn’t feel particularly invested in the story. This was, I believe, mostly due to the fact that Lomax’s writing gives off a kind of distant air – it’s completely understandable, don’t get me wrong, considering what he experienced. But it doesn’t make for a very emotionally invest-able story. Dialogue is at the absolute minimum. He tells the story from beginning to end without showing us very much of what happened. Which leads me to my next point.

Showing and telling

When it comes to memoir, I have a theory.

My theory is that the writer must be a very masterful storyteller. One must learn how to bring their reader to the very edge of an emotional precipice and display the churning waters of anguish below without shoving the reader off the cliff into it’s depths. To do that would be to lose the reader forever; how will you draw them back into the story if they have drowned in the pathos of your memories? It takes skill and a good deal of thought to learn how to visit those churning waters while always giving the reader ample oxygen to breathe.

To do this, I believe, is by alternately employing the methods of showing and telling in your writing.

My interpretation of showing is this: “Showing” is when you paint a picture in the reader’s mind. You don’t just say, “We had some bad times and I wasn’t handling them well.” You show, when you say, “After the baby died, I stopped eating. My stomach knotted whenever I tried to put food in my mouth. Haunting memories of his last moments tormented me in a slide of gruesome images.”

Do you see the difference? It elicits an emotional response in the reader. It paints a picture in their mind. It leaves an imprint, and helps them better relate with the character.

In memoir, both showing and telling have their place. It boils down to the writer and their own particular style, of course, and some writers do very well with only telling their story. Their writing is so clever that they can get away with it. Others manage showing very well. Personally, I think the best writers are those who can masterfully blend both. 

For me, the stories leave the greatest imprint on my heart are those that cleverly employ the method of showing. Show me what it was like the night that your life fell apart. I want to hear the cicadas singing outside your bedroom window and feel the chill of the night breeze on my skin before the pounding of your heart sets the hairs on the back of my neck on end. Do you see? It is not enough to say “I was lying in bed when my mother came into the room and gave me the worst news of my life.” Bring the moments to life. Paint a picture inside my head so that I’m there with you, experiencing every shift of fate as if it were playing on a television screen in my mind.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Anton Chekhov

Trial and error

At the end of the day, it all boils down to this:

Write.

Write badly. Write until you learn to write better, and then keeping writing. Don’t stop. Don’t let your inadequacy hold you back. You may never feel fully satisfied with your writing, but I promise you, if you keep at it, you will come to a place where you find your rhythm. You’ll figure out what works.

It’s in the wrestling, in the endless rewrites, in the exhaustive edits, in the constant revising, that you find your style. 

I wrote several drafts of my book. Like Eric Lomax of The Railway Man, I often resorted to telling my story rather than showing it. Showing is, admittedly, more arduous to the writer, especially when it comes to relating painful memories. It requires reliving the experience in a very profound way. It is easier to say, “My father died and I was devastated,” than it is to dig deep into your memories and reawaken those painful moments that encompassed that tragedy.

Learning how to write is a part of telling your story. You want to do it justice: I know I did. To write badly would be an unjust tribute to my experiences. So I learned how to write… how good of a writer I am now is something I don’t think I can determine but I know I’m better than when I started, and maybe that’s the only measure a writer can allow herself.

Here are some bits of advice, as well as suggestions that will help you in your quest:

  • It helps to work in other genres, to experiment and see what works.
  • Try writing a short story or work on a fictional novel. Wattpad is a great online tool for this.
  • Share your stories and get feedback. See what other people think. Ask for their constructive criticism.
  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Don’t write to write a bestseller: write to tell your story as best as you know how.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Learn from your mistakes.

You can do this!

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.

Anne Lamott

If this post helped you at all, please let me know in the comments below! And, if you’re on a quest to write your own memoir, let me know how it’s going for you. 🙂

Writing

When I write, I kick it old school - 158-365 - 13 November 2009

Memoirs are the backstairs of history.

George Meredith

When it comes to writing the truth about our lives, we often face what is, I believe, a commonly shared struggle.

We want to write – we need to write, and we know it, although some of us may not be sure why – but every time we sit down to confront this need, we find ourselves in a desperate struggle: a struggle with our inner critic, a struggle with fear, a struggle with doubt. All of these unseen evils come with one purpose: to keep us from writing.

You see, silence can be a double-edged sword. There is a time to speak, and a time to let silence be the teacher. Silence can be a mark of maturity; it can also be a mark of quiet suffering.

What it should not be is a surrender to fear. 

Fear will keep us cowed down and quiet. Fear will keep us from what proves to be an incredibly healing and triumphant experience: telling our stories.

Telling your story doesn’t happen through memoir-writing alone. It can be the memories we relate in our journals, the letters we write to our loved ones, the stories we share with trusted friends and family.

They don’t always have to be broadcast to the world, but telling them keeps them from dying with us.

However we tell our stories, it’s important that we realize that each of us have an important one to tell. They are important because they are entirely unique and different from everyone else’s. Circumstances may appear similar, but setting, personality, perception, and emotion will always differ. Finding the right method of telling our stories is yet another defining factor.

Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book, if written, results in a person explained.

Thomas M. Cirignano

The longer I write, the more I express what I have to say, the easier it is for me to find my voice. The more I realize that the words I have to say carry weight and meaning and worth, the more willing I am to speak them. It’s through writing that I find my voice.

Don’t let fear of being less keep you from owning your story. It’s yours. Your experiences, your memories, your past. No one else can tell it as you can.

And remember this: the simple act of writing is an act of defiance against the crippling power of fear; overcoming fear can be as simple as not believing the lies we tell ourselves (or the lies others tell us).

Writing is a struggle against silence. It’s also a triumph over fear. 

What keeps you from telling your story? 

Writing

writing doesnt

Journaling is wonderful. Writing memoir is helpful. But in and of itself, it is not enough.

It’s not enough to erase the pain.

It’s not enough to heal the wounds. 

It’s not enough to deliver me from all my sufferings. 

It’s not enough to give me peace.

It’s not enough to save me.

It’s not enough to wash away the memories.

It’s not enough to heal the hurt.

It’s not enough to fix me.

Writing is a gift. But it’s not my salvation.

When times are hard and it feels like the entire host of hell is stirred up against me, running to writing doesn’t fix it. It doesn’t fix it for me because it wasn’t meant to. There is only One that can fix it, and His name is Jesus. 

He binds up my brokenness and saves me from my crushing pain. He heals my wounds and anoints me with the oil of gladness. He is the only One I have.

These are the words my soul needs to live by. In them I’ll find my peace.

What words of encouragement do you live by?