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Though I’ve been writing creatively (and otherwise, believe me) for a long time, I’ve always balked at journaling. You know the kind: the unfocused early-morning stare out the window at the lifting fog and write until the well runs dry kind of thing. The stuff of dream revelations, unlocked memories, and Hallmark card feelings.

I take notes, sure. Furiously jotted questions to research; those in-shower aha moments for revision; essays to read; agents to query. But if I’m writing, I’m not engaging in stream-of-consciousness free-writing exercises. I’m not unlocking a poet’s chakra I didn’t know I had in me. I’m really writing: characters, scenes, story arc, conflict, resolution.

Then came this pandemic.

Shutdowns and closures haven’t meant isolation chez this girl. They haven’t meant I get quiet time and space in which to research, write, revise, edit, repeat, and submit, submit, submit. Those with school-age kids are nodding their heads right now. Shutdowns have meant the exact opposite. We’re fine around here. We’re lucky. We have jobs, our health, a house and a yard. We’re also stressed and frustrated and not sleeping well and are really missing normal. Let’s just say it’s a little bit of an Isolation Circus–and this ring leader is tired.

But I can’t not write.

Writing is how I remember and process. It’s the way I make sense of things–especially things that make zero sense. So, when the world shuts down, abnormal is normal, topsey is turvey, and all else fails. What is this writer to do?

Kind reader, I journaled.

No, not at dawn, while musing on lifting fog. More like right now, on this blog. I mean, what else is this but journaling? Color you disappointed, maybe, but these are my innermost thoughts.

I’ve said it before, strange times call for taking strange measures. Some advice that’s been working for me: Stories not coming? Try it as a prose poem. Stuck on the next chapter of your WIP? Begin an off-the-book essay that utilizes some of your research. Stuck in your own head, arrange to interview a writer you admire. Don’t journal on some strange and cynical principle? Try it! (Trust me.)

And, forever and ever, read everything you can. Buy books from your local bookstores or straight from the author. Join in with the virtual book clubs popping up online. And let’s all work together to keep the book world from shutting down, too.

Know of an author whose book is releasing during these pandemic times? Share the title in the comments. I’ll start, as I have two books arriving soon I’m super excited for: Amy Jo Burns’ (who I interviewed here) novel, Shiner; and Ellen O’Connell Whittet’s memoir, What You Become in Flight.

Your turn: what are you writing and reading now?

I’m chronicling our isolation with the help of WordPress Discover Prompts. This post was in response to Discover’s daily prompt: Note. Care to join in? Read others’ responses here. My other prompts responses:

Like what you read? Check out my categories above, with Rust Belt author and photographer interviews, essays, stories, book reviews, writing advice, and more. Are we social? Find me at FB and at Twitter @MoonRuark

22 thoughts on “Take note: Discover Prompts, Day 23

    1. I haven’t answered the prompts each and every day, but I do find responding to prompts a good way to get the writing wheels turning! I liked your answer to today’s prompt: elixir. My boys always got a kick out of the King Midas story. Nope, no magic elixir on this Earth, anyway! We are following each other–thank you!–so I’ll be sure to keep in touch once the April Discover Prompts are over. I think I’ll miss them.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I’m currently reading “After the Flood” by Kassandra Montag. 47 percent in, I’m digging it.

    Writing? A variety of things for my job. Coronavirus-themed articles, history lessons, marketing tips, book reviews…you name it. Plus, of course, my blog.

    By the way, most of my biggest writing inspirations have been in-shower aha! moments. Makes me think I should maybe pay more attention to lathering up.

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  2. Oh I could hug you! (haha…such rebellious words these days) You said what I do and I never really knew it. I journal on my blog. Not about everything, but sometimes a thought pops in my head and I think I want to remember it or it’s something I learned I want to share…and there it goes. I just vomit on my little piece of cyberspace and hit “publish.” Hey. How is the querying going? I just began again with Bookworm. Rejections all around, which is somehow more painful on the second novel. And probably also because life in general is a bit more painful. I enjoy hearing about your life, your kiddos. You cultivate a positive attitude that is contagious (haha – can’t stop the COVID thinking).

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    1. Rebel! Oh, virtual hugs all around, Kelly! I didn’t even realize it before, either–the journaling. I mean, I like to think I’m writing short essays on my blog–but sometimes it really is just stream-of-consciousness upchuck! It is a good catch-all place, and I used to think–well, I need to make sure what I write about falls under some cohesive heading or my writerly brand, or whatever. But what comes to mind–whatever you’re working on, interested in, it’s all fair game. Well, super big UHG to querying. I loved Bookworm and I know the right agent will, too! Do you ever look at publishedtodealth.blogspot.com? She features new agents or those building their lists. Might be worth a look? I need to nudge an agent who’s had my full mss for a good while, only I’m afraid I know what her answer will be. Can there be a tougher time to query debuts? So, I’m sending out short stories, though I don’t think all journal editors are reading as much as I am (my editor boss has littler kiddos than I do, so zero time!). Thanks, as always, for the chat–let’s do this in person some day–and I’m looking forward to reading more from you soon!

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  3. Brave, tackling the dystopian right now–but I’ve heard great things about that Montag book.

    Well done on keeping busy, writing. My development writing has suffered a bit of a lull–it’s a tough ask out there right now–but it’ll come back, I’m sure. (Just like my 401K, many fingers crossed!)

    Yeah, those aha moments make all that annoying personal hygiene well worth it! I guess there’s a whole scientific explanation I don’t know to why the brain works better when we’re doing mindless, repetitive motions–as in showering, walking, or driving. With my recent sleeplessness, I’m doing most things mindlessly, so I’m expecting to have written the great American novel by the time this isolation is over!

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I enjoy that you are posting more regularly, Rebecca. I love to hear how grown-ups, like you, are coping with this crazy world right now. Unfortunately, I don’t feel very grown up (even though I am older than you), so you are great role model to me as I try to put things in perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you for that. I don’t want to bore people with my frequent posting–but writing is something of a balm for me. I don’t feel very grown up through all this either. I think such a pandemic has a way of making most of us feel small and powerless. What else can we do but create? And you’re doing a lovely job of that, yourself! Loved today’s post–Tracy Chapman is the greatest!

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  5. This was a great post to read. I can relate to the woes of querying and submitting. It sounds like you are better and more consistent than I ever was. (I hate it so much!)

    And even though I’m a lifelong journaler, I can understand why folks don’t take to it. I started when I was a teen and then the habit stuck. I think it came out of needing to get thoughts down when I didn’t feel like anyone around me got me.

    I’m just keeping up with these blog prompts. I can’t wait for them to be over so I can make room for other projects again! What about you? On the one hand, I’m glad for them, but it’s a lot of work, too. Do you feel like you got something out of them? New ideas?

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    1. Thanks so much for reading! Querying is the worst. Submittable makes it easier to submit to journals and mags than it used to be–but it makes it easier for everybody else too, so the odds are worse.

      I admire your journaling sticktoitiveness! For some reason, I think I got it in my head early that fiction writers didn’t journal–like it was a poet and memoirist thing, because those forms tend to rely more on the personal. Whatever you call it though, writing ideas down certainly helps you work through them. And at life’s frenetic pace–and stress–I’d forget too much if I didn’t jot it down.

      You’re doing such a great job with the blog prompts. I’m thankful I’ve participated because I met you and your great blog–and a couple other good ones. I haven’t been moved to answer the prompts everyday, but even a couple posts a week is a lot for me. Yours have been so creative! But it is a lot of work. We’ll see if I can make anything of them–turn any into essays. There are definitely calls out there from different journals, etc., looking for creative takes on the writing life during this pandemic–if you felt like getting into the submission trenches again! But, really, I just didn’t want to forget this weird time in history. I felt like the Challenger explosion and 9/11 were the other two most pivotal historical moments in my lifetime–and I was too young, really, to process the first and too distracted by a bad boyfriend to process the second. I have my head on now. Writers will write!

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      1. Querying is the worst. I avoided it forever and then tried the entire 2019 to various mags and then at the start of 2020, I was like, do I want to do that again? Did I waste a year of my life? Sure, there were some successes, but what I’ve decided is I don’t fit in esp when the arts is trying so hard to be politically correct.

        Inclusiveness is great, I’m all for it, but not for the sake of other writers, and the fear of not being PC makes mags take less risks. I could go on and folks might see what I’m saying as excuses, which is valid and I’m fine with that – I think I just need to figure out what road to take next.

        Yes, I’m glad I met you too – that I expanded my blogging world. It’s hard to meet folks out here because people blog for so many reasons.

        Okay, this means I should probably write or at least edit 😛 Boooooo.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re fortunate that your blog journal is at least interesting. My diary makes for some pretty ho hum reading! (It’s really more for helping me remember what the heck I do with my time.)

    Finishing the last of the Harry Potter series, a book on Idaho history, then a couple books by blog friends on deck. Writing my blog and actually making tiny bits of progress on the second draft of my gold rush book. Nothing at all on the biography. Oh well.

    Just finished an essay by Amanda Taub of the NYT about how dismal the numbers are for female-written article submissions in normal times and they have gone down in Covid-19 times likely due to childcare duties falling disproportionately on women.

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    1. Thank you for reading! Sounds like you’ve been on a good reading jag, Eilene! As for your writing, I’m looking forward to your gold rush book–such a compelling time in U.S. History.

      I wish I could say I’m surprised by the dismal numbers of article submissions by women, but I’m not. I see it in my editing work; it always strikes me around holidays, how few women writers are in my queue. (Because often they’re in the kitchen or home with the kids!) Most freelance writers I know who are moms rely on school hours to get work accomplished. Now, the schools are relying on us to manage our kids’ schooling. (I have learned that if I were to home-school, I would fall into the un-school camp: learn while doing.) Thankfully, my guys are pretty independent, but if they were younger I’d be getting even less done! And my husband’s in charge of “science” lessons out in the garden–his domain. All about striking a balance, but not easy.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and letting us in! The fact you have in-shower aha moments made me smile! Mine usually come after a good nap. I’ve just finished Persuasion by Jane Austen and am looking for another book to read. As for writing, I will be starting my first paying job as a copywriter next week!

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  8. Another journaling fanatic here! I’ve filled stacks of notebooks with nonsense since I was a kid, and it’s great for getting things out of my head so I can figure out what I’m thinking then move on to other things. There’s no one way to do it though and blogging’s good as well.

    And new books… Jen Gotch’s memoir is something on my list, just came out a month-ish ago. I haven’t read it yet but I’ve heard good things about it.

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    1. Journaling is wonderfu–a great release, as you sayl. I guess blogging is my journaling–and serves as a good feeder for my fiction writing. From my blog posts I can tell if something’s interesting me enough that I want to explore it in fiction.

      I just looked up Jen Gotch’s memoir–I’d never heard of her brand. Great story she has–wow, she overcame a lot to get where she is!

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