Month In Review: March 2017

You know how some months fly by, and others drag by? March was just right. It didn’t pass quickly or slowly, but instead just… happened. There were some days and weeks that seemed to take forever to end, and others that ended faster than I thought possible. But everything balanced out, and here we are on the last day!

A celebration: Spring arrived and the weather is more enjoyable—which means my utility usage is slowly decreasing.

A change: No writing projects on the go this month.

A conflict: I had a manic episode for a week that ended up hurting me a lot.

A relief: My dad and I had some nice chats and he helped me keep my head on straight, and my anxiety levels were really, really low this month.

A regret: I didn’t create as much art as I wanted to.

A random memory: My friend and I finally saw Hidden Figures and it was an incredible film. We had a great discussion in her car afterward about civil rights, the changing views we’ve had as we’ve learned about our white privilege, and the different problematic perspectives of people we know.

April feels like it should be busy, since I’m moving; but I like packing and the move should go fine. I already have a “new” place to live—returning to my dad’s house—and my dad is supportive and helpful. (Insistently so.) I’m hoping my low anxiety continues through April. I’ll be happy to be back in my hometown by the start of May, since Windsor will get too hot and has too much pollution. Back home, I’ll be able to see the stars every night, and not be able to count them on my fingers and toes. Part of me wonders why I’m not sad to leave Windsor, but I know why I’m not sad to be leaving: I never intended to stay more than my allotted time here. I came for university. I finished university. It’s time to go.

Writing Resource Roundup: Motivation

The last little bit of my novel was a huge drag to write. I don’t know what it was, but it seemed to take me forever to get the last few scenes written. I felt discouraged and unmotivated after I finished the draft, and was then required to leave it alone before revisions. So, I went on the search for encouragement, motivation, and uplifting words for my writing.

Here are 6 posts that spoke to me on the different kinds of motivation a writer needs!

Encouragement for Those Who Want to Get Back Into Writing by Mary from Verily Merrily Mary

This short and sweet post was so helpful to me when I came across it earlier this month! It’s exactly the motivation and reassurance I needed to read while I embarked on my hiatus from writing.

To the Writer Who Wants to Write But Life is a Little Too Much in the Way by K.M. Updike from The Quiet Writer’s Desk

…yes, you’ve grown up, and yes, you’ve changed, and this means that a bazillion more ways just opened up for you to be a writer.

This wonderfully written open letter talks to a writer with a busy life who still wants to partake in their passion. I absolutely loved this article, since it’s written to someone the author knows. I absolutely recommend it to any writer who also has full-time commitments. It’s so uplifting!

Dear Discouraged Writer: You’re Going to Make It by Meghan at The Lady In Read

This post, also an open letter, is so personal and aimed toward the writers with day jobs. It’s incredibly uplifting and relatable to hear the same “What if?” questions from another writer.

The Writers Block: Motivation To Write #1 by Beth Barany from Writer’s Fun Zone

By understanding why and how our internal “monsters” inhibit our passion, we can then galvanize our writing in new ways.

This step-by-step article asks questions and shares tips to help you maintain the love of writing, as well as overcome writer’s block. This was a wonderful, methodical approach to writing, writer’s block, and motivation.

How To Let Go Of The Pressure To Be Perfect from Writer’s Relief

This quick read has some great, simple tips for combatting your perfectionism. This is perfect for writers who are drafting or revising!

Psyched to Write! – Overcoming the Transition Barrier by T. James Moore from Writer’s Relief

Perhaps the most important thing to recognize in navigating transitions is that a lot of our hesitation is based on fear.

This is the best piece I read as I prepare to edit my work. Transitioning in any capacity is difficult, but it’s also one of the forms of writer’s block that I know I struggle with.

Are there any blog posts or articles out there that help motivate you as a writer, or even motivate you more generally?

March Weekly BuJo Spreads

I changed up my spreads a little bit this past month, especially for this upcoming, final week of March! In February, I found a bit of a layout that I liked. But March hit and I just lost a bunch of my motivation… I wonder if it’s correlated with finishing my novel draft? My activities have been scattered across multiple projects without a real focus on them. It’s hard for me to prioritise.

March 6 – 12

This layout was essentially how I went through February! It’s less boxy, and the filled in spread is very messy.

March 13 – 19

That habit tracker was a disaster, not gonna lie.

March 20 – 26

I really, really like this spread and might use it again in April. I have the days of the week across the top, followed by my sleep tracker and all my additional modules. Unfortunately, I stopped using it on Tuesday and realised I wanted to return to something simple.

March 27 – April 2

Here is this week! I have my to-do lists and I’ll be colour coding them by the day of the week. I’m aiming for a running to-do list for the entire week, basically, to avoid feeling guilty for not getting things done the day that I plan them, and in order to not continually re-write the lists.

I feel like I need to get April layouts done now despite the fact that there are 4 more days left in March. I’m excited to post my monthly layout next week, though! I’m trying something new in it as well. a kind of return to simplicity, since I’m moving next month.

2017: 2nd Quarter

We’re nearing the end of March, which means I’m preparing for the change in season and my goals. If we look back to my post starting the new year, I listed all my goals by quarter.

January, February, March
  • finish writing The Pilgrimage
  • edit The Pilgrimage and send it to beta readers
  • open an Etsy shop for my art
  • redesign my blog with a custom-coded theme
  • rebrand my personal identity online

I striked out are the goals I did not accomplish. Considering that I’m working on the fourth one (redesign my blog), and considering I’m going to start editing The Pilgrimage next week (FINALLY), I could very well get all these goals done!! Or at least in progress, which is better than not getting to them at all. I have plans for the Etsy shop still, so I’m not dashing that goal away just because I didn’t get to it when I planned to.

So now the seasons are changing, and for once I’m looking forward to spring. I prefer fall and winter over spring, but since I won’t be in Windsor for the spring months, I’ll be more comfortable. Is that weird? I’m moving farther north, so it won’t get as warm as quickly, and there might be a chance for snow still, but spring in my hometown is invigorating.

In the blog post opening the new year, I hesitantly planned goals for the second, third, and fourth quarters of the year. A lot of things were up in the air, so these goals were simply wonderings, rather than actual plans.

April, May, June
  • query The Pilgrimage to agents
  • start a second writing project
  • code WordPress themes for sale
  • consider freelance design, and a related portfolio

That first goal? I haven’t started editing, but I edit quickly and I wouldn’t be surprised if I got to the querying phase during the spring! I already have my portfolio up, so that’s a bonus. However, these goals are definitely not enough for me to work on during the upcoming three months. When I have more to work on, I’m happier. I need to prioritise all my goals, but I have a lot that I want to do.

I will be moving in April. When I first made my plans and goals for the year, I didn’t know whether I’d be moving at the end of the semester or in the summer, but that was finalised in February. I might not have the time to code themes for sale until I’ve moved, but at least I don’t have to worry about finding a place to live. My dad is looking forward to having my home again. I’m a little on-the-fence about it, just because it’s hard to ignore the trauma I incurred in the house before my parents split. But, it’ll be nice to not pay rent and bills, to help him out around the house, and to hopefully get some driving practise in. My dad is planning on doing renovations soon, so I’m hoping to motivate him into getting that started, as well as cooking for him so he has less to worry about while he works his butt off to get the house refinanced! He also really wants to support me in my freelancing, which is such a godsend.

My updated goals for April, May, and June
  • move back in with my dad
  • send The Pilgrimage to beta readers
  • start outlining a new writing project
  • finish website design
  • code WordPress themes
  • design more

There are more details behind each of the goals, but I’m going to keep those to myself as I prioritise my goals and all the little tasks for them! For instance, I’m still planning on opening an Etsy shop, but I need to design more in order to get that underway. I’m thinking printables and other design resources, so I’m really, really excited! If I can get to that this quarter, that would be wonderful, but I’m not gunning for it.

I’ve realised I work better if I prioritise my projects, rather than working on everything all at once. I gotta get my head out of the “student” mindset—I’ve finished my degree. I can do my own thing now, whenever I want, and I don’t need to spread myself over different topics.

How to Use Dreams for Writing

I have vivid, lucid, and strange dreams frequently. They’re how I know I’m sleeping normally, actually. If I don’t dream, then I’m not sleeping well! Because I have them so often and remember them well, I’m able to include them in my stories and story ideas. I’ve spent a while honing my skills at adapting (that’s a key word) my dreams to use in writing.

Here are a few tips to do what I do!

Retell and recall dreams the way you remember them

Don’t fret about how accurately you remember your dreams. Not everyone remembers them or even remembers them well. If you wake up from a dream and you have ideas, whether or not they’re from your dreams, write down the ideas! You’re not trying to pscyhoanalyse your dreams. You’re trying to get inspiration from them. Priorities whatever jumps out at you, not the fuzzy details.

Record dreams ASAP!

Don’t wait to record your dreams. It may be handy to keep a notepad next to your bed so you can quickly jot down your dreams. You could also dictate them to an app or tape recorder (if people still use those, omg). For me, I often tell my boyfriend about my dream, since he’s the first person I see in the mornings. Re-telling the dream turns it into a more natural story, too. Usually, I remember information better if I speak as well as write it, so if I don’t write down my dreams, I can at least remember bits of them after saying them out loud.

Focus on one aspect for your story

Don’t try to use everything from your dreams. They’re are haphazard as hell, so using all the elements and scenes would result in a hot, surreal mess. Instead, focus on one part. Maybe there was an interesting character, setting, or conflict. My most recent story-fodder-dream was weird and included a lot of Star Wars, but a set of characters and their quest in it have provided me with inspiration for a fantasy story. One of my nightmares filled me with a specific feeling of terror: a mix of claustrophobia, apathy, and slime. I used it for a scene in The Pilgrimage. The dreams were larger than what I used for my writing inspiration

Adapt your dreams to a story

Don’t use the “raw” dreams as stories. You need to edit and develop them in order to make sense in a story, just like any other idea you have. We read books because they have a structure to them, and dreams very, very rarely have structure. Your dreams and ideas from it will need to be molded to fit into a structure. The characters from my most recent dream have been adapted. I can’t exactly have Darth Maul be one of my characters, but that’s who he was in the dream. I occasionally write up dreams I have, and they’re edited from what I actually dreamt about. You must change your dream in order to use it in fiction.

Bonus: practise lucid dreaming

Don’t worry if you can’t remember dreams well. You can use whatever small or incomplete aspects you remember! But, if you’re looking to improve your dream recollection, you can try practising lucid dreaming. There are many tutorials and resources online to do it. Personally, I’ve never found success in lucid dreaming, but it might help you be more aware of your dreams while you’re dreaming them. It’s worth a shot, after all!

Do you use your dreams to inspire your stories? Let me know the weirdest dream you’ve had!

My Favourite BuJo Supplies

For my bullet journal, I don’t aim to make my spreads the most beautiful. I also have a somewhat humble collection of washi tape. This post is a list of what I use and what I’ve gathered over the past year. Starting out in a bullet journal, I only had pens, a notebook, and a ruler.

Here’s what I use in my bullet journal (though not all of them in every spread!)

  • Black gel pen (the ones I’m loving right now are from the dollar store)
  • Black Sharpie fine liner
  • Stencil with assorted shapes and sizes (the one I have is this one on Amazon.ca)
  • Washi tape—I have some from Michael’s, Staples, Dollar Tree, and an ultra-cheap set of them from Amazon.
  • Markers—I’m currently obsessed with my Zebra Mildliners and I also like using my Frixion erasable markers.
  • Pencil
  • Eraser

All of the calligraphy-type writing I do is done with my black gel pen or the fine tip Sharpie. I do a “fake calligraphy” method like the one outlined in this post from Jones Design Company.

I use a pencil to pre-plan my layouts to avoid as many mistakes as possible. I get peace of mind knowing I can erase away the lines and lettering after I ink them! that doesn’t eliminate all of my mistakes.

Although it’s not strictly a tool or supply I use, Pinterest is one of my favourite places to find inspiration for my bullet journal. I have a board set up for layouts, handwriting styles, and collection ideas.

Photo collage of some planner layouts.

I like to keep my number of supplies to a minimum. I’m not very keen to have a giant arts and crafts collection.

Mindfulness for My Mental Health

The biggest thing I took away from my therapy was how mindfulness can help me. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.

“Mindfulness” means something different to everyone. For me, I’m being mindful and aware when I don’t have dozens of thoughts swirling through my head. I’m mindful when thoughts come and go easily. I’m mindful when I’m not replaying memories without control. I’m mindful when I’m not instantly forgetting information after repeatedly taking it in.

Ways I practise mindfulness:

Bullet journalling

Through planning and being aware of my days, weeks, and the future, I get a better grasp on myself. I find I dissociate a lot less when I’ve got a solid plan—or even a loose one—than when I’m just flying through life spontaneously. I don’t do a lot of journalling in the traditional sense (anymore), like a diary. But the bullet journal is still one heck of a journal.

Tarot reading

Doing a few spreads and asking the cards a certain question (“What can I expect from my day?” for instance) or doing a quick check-in for my body, mind, and spirit lets me hone in on myself. I can see what’s bothering me or what I want in the subconscious while also attaching those feelings to something more tangible. The symbols, metaphors, and long-standing history of tarot give me a place to translate my emotions. I don’t aim to read the future or anything like that—but tarot is a great way to reconnect spiritually with myself.

Guided meditation

One of my favourite websites for guided meditations is Fragrant Heart. I will also occasionally do a self-guided meditation, either in silence, or using atmospheric sounds like rain and wind. Meditation helps the most. The best analogy for meditation is that I’m sitting in a car in the passenger seat and watching my thoughts like trees along the side of the road. I can acknowledge the trees without focusing on them or distracting myself from them. The core to meditation is not to let your mind go blank: it’s to acknowledge your thoughts and let them pass by.

Yoga

Psychosomatic treatment was a focus of my therapist’s, and yoga was something I started doing before I went to therapy. Yoga combines the meditation with awareness about my body. Yoga isn’t a workout for me. It’s how I connect my emotional, bodily, and spiritual parts.


All of these ways let me meditate on myself and, in turn, let me be more in-tune with myself. I have less brain fog and feel more present. I’ve lived most of my life being dissociated and disconnected. Finding ways that make me feel real and whole are valuable and irreplaceable.

What I Wish I Knew About Drafting

2 weeks ago, I finished a rewrite of my novel. It wasn’t the first story I had drafted. Before 2013, there were at least 5 started and written to 10-25K word counts. It wasn’t even my first story idea. But it was the most I’d written on one project, and it was also the most complete draft of any story I’ve written. It’s a little different that way.

Before I started drafting that 3rd rewrite, I wish I had known—and I mean really known—a few things about drafting a novel. Nobody tells you how to draft a novel. Everyone has tips, or methods that work for them, or things they do without consciously doing them. But there is no one way to draft a novel.

However, there are a few things I wish I had known before I started drafting my novel. I’ve realised them now and I have hopes for the next draft! Though that story will be written entirely differently to THE PILGRIMAGE, I hope what I’ve learned will be helpful and relevant. Here’s what I learned about drafting.

The longer it takes to finish, the more variation in quality.

THE PILGRIMAGE started in the middle of 2013 and I finished it at the end of February 2017. I had undergone a few revisions, and the most recent draft was done from mid-2015 to now. The longer it takes you to finish the draft, the more obvious your growth as a writer will be within the draft. There was a reason I had restarted after writing 30K in one week in 2013. By the time I returned to the project 2 years later, I had learned more and improved my skills (and social awareness). Now, with the full draft done, I’m acutely aware of the differences between the scenes written in 2015 and the scenes written in 2017.

Next draft’s hope: I want to do a fast-draft of my next story so the variation in quality is less obvious when I revise.

It’s better to finish a full, terrible draft than to stop halfway and re-start.

Technically, I’ve written a few novels. But have I written them to a complete draft? *bitter laughing* No. No, THE PILGRIMAGE is the first story that has a draft that is workable for revisions. To me, a story is “full” when the characters have gone from point A to point Z—from start to finish—and the word count is almost passable. A 30K draft of a high fantasy novel doesn’t count as “full” from my fingers. I’d need at least 70K and a beginning, middle, and end. Even if the story is terrible, incohesive, stereotypical, cliched, and awful, I’d rather have it be a full picture instead of a shamble of sketches. This is why outlining was helpful for the finished draft this time.

Next draft’s hope: I want to finish a complete draft before I revise in any form, and I’ll do that with the help of an outline.

Don’t look back at your writing.

I’m prey to editing as I go, so reading scenes or lines I’ve already written is detrimental to my drafting. If I need to re-orient myself in the story, I’ll read the last few lines of the previous scene. Luckily, I didn’t review my work a lot for this draft. I was aware of this bad habit of mine years ago.

Next draft’s hope: I want to maintain my ignorance to already written scenes.

Outlines can change… and the organisation of an outline needs to accommodate that.

I knew going into the draft (and all of my outlined stories) that outlines and plans can change. The problem was that I didn’t take that into account when I outlined and organised my scenes. THE PILGRIMAGE has so many scrapped scenes and re-numbered scenes in my outline because I needed the scenes. But it ended up messy: I had quarter, half, and three-quarter scenes, and then no scenes from, say, 25 – 31. For the next time, I won’t be labelling my scenes purely by number. I’m going to use an “Act 1, Scene 1.1” approach of some kind. I’ll write up a blog post on this in the future!

Next draft’s hope: I want my outline to be more flexible in terms of its organisation and labelling.

Drafting is entirely different from reading, editing, and outlining.

I didn’t quite get out of the headspace of a reader, editor, or plotter. I kept thinking about my outlines and revisions while I was drafting and it messed me up. I would take a lot of time to finish a scene. I would get hung up on word choice. I would compare my outlined scene against the scene that flowed from my writing session. If there were discrepancies, my insecurity as a writer would creep in.

Next draft’s hope: I want to focus on telling the story rather than perfecting or reading it.

I don’t know when I’ll start the next project draft, but I’m looking forward to it!

Bullet Journal 101: Finding What Works

I started my bullet journal in February of 2016 (which, incidentally, coincided with me starting short-term therapy), so I’ve been in the bujo practise for over a year now.

It took me a while to find what works for me. Before I found layouts and modules that helped me be more productive, mindful, and happy in my bullet journal, I was confused. There were so many spreads for me to choose from, and I felt more disorganised than ever while I tried to find methods that were right for me. I think I spent about 6 months in bullet journal/planner hell before I realised there was a way to find what would work.

Trying new things can be absolutely terrifying, so I can understand if you’re nervous to put lines on pages that you might never look at again. I know I’m a perfectionist, but perfection is a subjective illusion, and I can decide what’s perfect, what isn’t, and when “perfection” is even necessary.

Here are my tips for finding what works and what’s right for your bullet journal.

Start with the basics.

Don’t jump into fancy and complicated layouts. It’s always easier to add modules, lettering, stickers, colours, washi tape, and all the extra embellishments. I started with simple layouts and lists, like the original creator focuses on. I wrote out my tips for getting started in a bullet journal, and they’re techniques I use if I need a soft reset.

Review what you’ve already done.

You don’t have to make a bullet journal spread for your review, like some people, but you can use a sticky note, or even type it up in a document. Ask yourself questions like, “What did I like? What did I dislike? What did I use? What did I neglect?” Some weeks, I write out my review—these tend to be near the end of the month in a larger monthly review. I focus on what I used versus what I didn’t, and that helps guide me. I also think about what I need to add, if I found myself forgetting about parts of my life, such as goals and habits.

Start with a hypothesis or a curiosity before trying something.

“If I add a habit tracker to my week, I’ll see it more often and be more aware of the habits I want to improve.” This is what I asked myself before I started adding a small habit tracker to my weekly, always-seen spread. The monthly habit tracker is nice, but I don’t see it all the time and I get lazy and neglect myself. My hypothesis was right: by seeing the module more often, I’m more aware and motivated. When you review your complete (or incomplete!) spreads, these are great questions to keep in mind. Always ask how something can serve you in your bullet journal, whether it’s adding, adjusting, or removing something.

Don’t focus on making things pretty.

The ~*~aesthetics~*~ of a bullet journal are entirely individual. I will, in the future, write a post on the basics of decorating and personalising your bullet journal spreads. But at this point, when you’re trying to find layouts and spreads that work for you, not what looks Instagram-worthy, the aesthetics and style aren’t as important. If you find yourself gravitating toward the layouts that have a nice colour palette, then consider taking some time to add decorations. I prefer a bullet journal spread that has colour in it, but it has to be minimal. I don’t want to spend my planner time decorating and fussing over the style of my spread. I want to use the bullet journal for organisation, reminders, and mindfulness.

Adapt to changes in your lifestyle and needs.

While I was in university and attending classes, I needed daily logs to help organise all the material I needed to read and places I needed to go. Now that I’m no longer in school, I don’t need daily logs anymore. I didn’t force myself to continue using daily logs just because they used to work. Changes in your lifestyle, like your job, school, home, and family, will necessitate some rearranging in your life. Your bullet journal is included in that rearranging. This is where the practise of reviewing your journal will help you.

And most of all… Permit yourself to experiment and fail.

You’ll never find what works if you don’t search for things. I looked at inspiration online and copied layouts. I sketched out small outlines of what I wanted to try. I needed to try changes and new spreads entirely, as well as allow myself to dislike what you do. The beauty of a bullet journal is a lack of commitment. Unlike printed planners and agendas you can buy, you aren’t stuck with a set layout in a bullet journal. The day, week, or month will end. Time passes. Your bullet journal, and the pages you don’t like, only exist for as long as you keep it. You can recycle the whole book if you want! The majority of my spreads in the middle of 2016 were awful and I hated them. But they helped me learn what I need to avoid. I’m in my 3rd bullet journal now: the 1st one was never filled in all the way, because I hated the notebook I used.


Let your bullet journal be the one place you can fuck up however much you need to. Let it be a place for you to explore. Let it be something you play with, rather than create. Let yourself mess up while you find what works for you. Remember to explore and consider what serves you, what might serve you, and what doesn’t serve you.

My PTSD

I first started seeking help for my mental health in 2011 when I said to my parents, “I think I have depression.” My father then revealed to me that he has depression (something he has been successfully managing since 2013!) and mental illness is frequent in our family.

A year ago, in February of 2016, I saw my third therapist: a trauma counsellor with a focus on spirituality, psychosomatic medicine, and cognitive behaviour therapy. She was a fantastic fit. I can’t stress enough how therapy is most successful if you have a therapist who actually helps you.

I had seen two other therapists who specialised in treating depression, and though I could have gone on antidepressants (I fully support them!), I didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like I was being treated the way I should have. I didn’t feel like depression was the end of my mental health struggles. I felt like there was more that I needed to figure out.

During the standard first meeting with my most recent therapist, she instructed me to get comfortable. In retrospect, when she saw me assume the Lotus Position in my socked feet, she knew exactly how to approach my treatment. I remember having doubts about how successful our work would be, and she challenged that. While sitting on the couch, I told her in detail about my life and the experiences that mattered to me. She told me I have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that it might be complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). She told me how a traumatic life, specifically childhood, can lead to PTSD in adulthood.

Everything clicked for me. It made sense: I wasn’t just depressed. I was traumatised over decades. I developed PTSD.

Often, I feel like saying I have PTSD is a sham. I’m not a military vet, I didn’t grow up in a war-torn country, and I haven’t experienced sexual assault. There are so many “poster child” representations of PTSD that feel more valid to me than my own—hence why complex-posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) has been proposed. I grew up and experienced more frequent trauma, on average, than people my age.

But I still have PTSD. I say PTSD for simplicity’s sake, though it’s really C-PTSD. I haven’t found much difference between the two for me personally, but I know others have a different experience with PTSD and C-PTSD.

So that’s why I’m writing this post: to share my experiences with my mental illness.

My PTSD and experience with it mean that I am…

  • prone to violent anger.
  • prone to psychotic episodes, where I can’t discern reality from imagination, dreams, hallucinations, or delusions.
  • unable to regulate emotions, particularly strong emotions.
  • afraid of developing dependency on substances like alcohol and strong painkillers.
  • terrible at sleeping normally.
  • terrible at remembering things without having a record of them.
  • dissociating frequently from my body, to the point where I can wake up, go through an entire day, and not remember what happened by the time I’m in bed again.
  • triggered when events, sounds, and images are similar to the traumas I’ve experienced.
  • unpredictable and a lot to handle emotionally and mentally, especially for myself.
  • comorbidly suffering from depression and anxiety.
  • struggling with grief.
  • suicidal and ideating suicide more often than not.
  • controlling, with very specific preferences.

Like all mental disorders and illnesses, it’s impossible for me to separate myself from mine. I have PTSD, and I expect the rest of my life will be a journey of coping, surviving, and managing my mental illness. I have lots of resources and good methods for working through it, but I’m always struggling.