10 Things I’ve Learned from 13 Years of Journaling

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It all started May 25, 2003. My first diary entry ever:

“My favret thing is when we go to libery. My ather faveret thing was to wach mother-goose.”

This profound statement is followed by a stick figure drawing of what appears to be a little girl watching TV.

While I have come a (sorta) long way from preschool, I still keep that drive to write just a little every day. No doubt I have taken breaks in between. Sometimes three-year long hiatuses. But through it all, I eventually kept going, and I have now filled seven journals full of memories throughout elementary, middle, and high school. And it’s something that’s irreplaceable.

Everyone should journal, and since blogging is a lot like journaling, I thought it would be pertinent to share ten things I’ve learned from my 13-year experience in writing down all the trivial details of my life.

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1. Don’t apologize for taking hiatuses in between journal entries. You deserve a break and you can’t write gold if your heart’s not in it.

2. That said, you do need to motivate yourself sometimes. Look for prompts. Introspect. Relive your day in your mind and write down those reflections. Anything.

3. Don’t worry too much about grammar/sentence structure/any part of the snobby writing process. This is a free-write. No rules attached.

4. Write when you’re the most emotional. What I’ve discovered? Pain creates art.

5. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Experiment with letter-writing, lists, different voices, different styles, different subjects. Write entire page-long paragraphs or choppy sentences. Write poetry or prose. Doodle. Be inconsistent. It may seem like a mess, but there’s a method in the madness – it’ll keep journaling fun and interesting; it’ll keep your creativity on its toes.

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6. Buy beautiful notebooks and journals and sketchbooks and notepads. You won’t be able to resist filling them up.

7. There’s always something to write about. Even if you feel like nothing happened to you today. Surely, you did things. And those things happened in a way that won’t repeat itself exactly ever again. That’s got to be something. Or who says you even have to write about your day or yourself? Just pull up a chair, break out your favorite pen, grab one of those cute journals I told you to splurge on, and get movin’ (your hand)! Once you get started, the rest will come easy.

8. If you’re really out of things to say, plagiarize. Assemble lists of favorite quotes, favorite lyrics. Make specific themes – famous last lines or best girl power lyrics. Hopefully, these will inspire you down another writer’s path.

9. Try writing at different times of the day. You’ll get different results. The 9AM you is different from the 6PM you, which is different from the 3AM you.

10. Say everything you would normally never say out loud. It’s not just therapeutic; you’re creating a snapshot, a self-portrait to look back on over the years. You’re writing for you – a worthy audience and one you can trust.

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What’re you waiting for? Break out the pens, paper, and creative mindsets. Hope this helped! xx

P.S. Additional Tip: Try to have better handwriting than me XD

 

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10 Books Every Introvert Should Read

Here’s to the quite heroines. The ones that think in their heads. The ones with the hidden talents. The ones that bottle up their emotions and age them like fine wine. Here’s to the underdog heroes. The ones that suffer from social anxiety. The ones that would rather read about humans than interact with humans. The ones that we can relate to.

I’m an INFJ myself, and I think the extra N, F, and J play a part in my book selections as well. I’m especially human-centered and emotion-focused. If this sounds anything like you, read on. This is my way of declaring, “Introverts Unite! (…Separately)” and I hope you enjoy these quiet masterpieces as much as I did. (I also included commentary that very rarely actually introduces the books properly and are mainly just tangents that I went off on, because blurbs are overrated.)

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  1. Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

One thing that I find fascinating as an introvert is analyzing other human beings. It’s the eternal paradox that I spend my life both avoiding and studying people. I think the dichotomy comes from trying to uncover the poetry, the quirks, the memories, the tears, the laughter, and the aesthetic that makes up a person while still attempting to seem like a normal, socially acceptable human being. I wish it were ok to walk up to a stranger and ask “Hey which movies make you cry?” or “What keeps you up until 3 AM?”

OK, I’ve said nothing about this book up to this point, but essentially, it’s a novel that captures the human essence. It follows several characters whose paths crisscross in the amazing setting of 1970s New York. It introduces prostitutes, photographers, Irishmen, a judge, a stuntsman, nursing home residents, Park Avenue residents, mothers whose sons have passed away, and it introduces them all passionately and vulnerably. I guarantee that every sentence is poetry.

  1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with such a relatable heroine. She refuses to eat at her college cafeteria for fear of human interaction, she holes up in her room to write fan fiction, and she cares more about her relationships with the people she loves more than anything else. While I’m not in love with the plot, which I found to be a little on the cliché side, I loved the portrait Rowell painted of freshman year at college and suffering through it all as a socially awkward introvert.

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  1. The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

This tale told from the POV of a psychopathic murderer actually freaked me out, because I found that I could relate to the main character more than I cared to admit. Juan Pablo Castel, the murderer, overanalyzes everything to great lengths and falls in obsessive love with a woman. It’s thrilling and chilling – a great Halloween read, I suppose. Even cooler? You’ll be able to tell your friends you read Argentinian existentialist literature.

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I’ll be honest, I haven’t read this novel beyond the high school yearbook-esque quotes (i.e. “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”) But the idea of “wallflower” fits right along with “introversion.” Too often introverts are the ones that are pushed aside, overlooked, marginalized. And the themes of introspection and trying to figure out life while also trying to grow up are the sorts of things any teenager connect to.

  1. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

While this children’s series may be a little below your reading level, hear me out. As introverts, we often see ourselves as special, as different from everyone else. This book completely focuses on four orphaned children whose unique talents get them placed together on a team to complete a mission to save the world. It’s a story that’s both simple and witty, a story replete with loveable characters and quirky logic puzzles. Growing up, I loved stories about gifted children (Matilda, Harry Potter, The Series of Unfortunate Events), because I saw a little bit of myself in them – the kids who like to read, the kids who look out for each other, the kids who think differently.

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  1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

For an introvert, the idea of being stuck in a boat away from civilization for a while sounds kind of appealing. Plenty of introspection ensues throughout the book, and while I’m not big on man vs. nature survivor stories, this one is different. It’s unique, multicultural, and rooted in a deeper exploration of religion.

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you feel like you’re always third wheeling, this one’s for you. Written in the Fitzgerald’s signature enchanting prose, this book is his most famous piece of writing for a reason. It’s a classic 1920s New York story rich with themes of love and morality and social class and how the three don’t mix so easily. Not only that, but the entire book is basically an observation, what Nick Carraway sees and how he tells it. As an introvert, I can relate to Carraway’s affinity for listening instead of speaking, for analyzing the people around him.

  1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Remember that movie a while ago starring Reese Witherspoon that got Oscar buzz? This was the memoir that inspired it all. It’s another one of those on my must-read-sometime list rather than on my have-read list, but I did read a piece by Cheryl Strayed and adored it. Her writing style is both down-to-earth and infinitely poignant, a refreshing mix of the realistic and the emotional. Another one of those deeply introspective authors, most of her writings focus on her trek on the Pacific Crest Trail – how she did it and what she found out about herself.

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  1. The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh

This book gives me shivers. This dark, emotional tale follows the tale of a North Vietnamese soldier and his experiences during the Vietnam War. Written by an actual North Vietnamese Vietnam War veteran, the scenes and little stories are so realistic that they draw you in and tear your heart out. What makes it different from the usual war story? There’s a deep sadness strung artfully throughout the book, a sadness that moves beyond violence, that leaves traces of sorrow in moments of peace and love as well as moments of loss and death. Any introvert who bottles up his emotions and expresses them through writing and art should be able to relate to the protagonist’s struggles.

  1. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I’ve mentioned this book before in a post titled “College Interview Questions” and I’m mentioning it again because it’s literally my favorite book of all time. It’s kind of an unassuming classic. It’s a book that you might have heard of before but didn’t think much of it. It’s not a book that’s on your typical English class reading list, and it’s a book where nothing much happens at all. But to me, it’s a book about life. Readers follow the life of a girl as she grows into a young lady, a girl who is a classic introvert. She hides away to read, she observes the world quietly, and she works hard to make it on her own. But more than that, she is a girl that is made of poetry but doesn’t know it yet. Honestly, I loved the heroine so much, I became her. Well, I borrowed her. Her name is my pseudonym for this blog – Francie Nolan.

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I find that books with relatable introverted characters tend to be my favorites. To the true introvert though, every good book is a friend. The written word is the home in which the introvert thrives. I hope you’ll find homes in the books listed above.

While you get busy reading, I’ll be putting together a Ten Movies Every Introvert Should Watch list and a playlist for introverts, so look out for that! xx

Not Another Teenage Love Story

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It’s hard trying to reconcile my desire to write the perfect, brutally honest, realistic, absolutely adorable, #1 New York Times bestselling, when’s-the-movie-going-to-come-out YA romance novel and my desire to not write another cliche teenage love story. Yes, it’s quite difficult because “teenage love story” is in itself a cliche, the cliche to end all cliches, the one you roll your eyes at and walk past in the bookstore unless you happen to be in the mood for that kind of cheesy stuff. The cutesy title in the cursive font with an artsy picture of a Brandy Melville model-esque white girl on the cover. Scatter in some hearts or flowers or candy and boom you’ve got yourself an entire book genre.

I know the frustration, because I am a cynic when it comes to the YA romance section. I hate how easy love is portrayed. You see someone across the room and you know. You bump into him/her around town and a beautiful relationship blossoms. A few roadblocks happen, but it doesn’t matter what life throws at you, because true love conquers all, and what else could this adolescent self-centered infatuation be but true love? Who cares if the roadblock is a tyrannical dystopian government? And why are these dystopian governments so concerned with teen dating habits anyways?

Some romance novels entirely miss the point. And what’s the point? To ask the questions no can answer about love. How do you know you’re in love? How does love translate to marriage? What do you do if you’re in love with someone who simply does not love you back? Why love anyone if it’s going to bring you pain and heartbreak? After all, Sigmund Freud said the tragedy of human life is that we love beings who will die.

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Love is something no one totally knows about because everyone experiences it a different way. If there’s an infinite number of types of love, why isn’t there an infinite number of types of love stories? Why are they so damn cute when love makes us so damn sad? Why are love stories so cliche?

This is the kind of teenage angst that I want to put into my own YA romance novel – if I ever write one. I want to write characters who, like me, have been disillusioned by the portrayal of romance in the media and who are attempting to reconcile it with real life. I’ve begun to explore the concept in bits and pieces of writing. I’ll share some of my bits and pieces right now in an attempt to (hopefully) eventually write the world’s best non-cliche teenage love story.

Love is a whirlwind of feelings and thoughts and insecurities and pain and failures and ecstasies and fantasies. It doesn’t have a beginning or middle or end, it simply is. It’s made up of all the wrong turns you took to finally reach your destination. Finally, two wrongs can make a right. And the road isn’t a straight line either. And you don’t really know what your destination is, even when you’ve already arrived. It’s an utterly confounding adventure that few believe in and almost none accomplish.

No, it’s not a straight line- no formulas, no straightforward procedures. So that’s the way I’ll write my story. It’ll be in bits and pieces with no order, rhyme, or reason. Because that’s love.

“Isn’t he cute?” she gushed. Literally gushed. Like spewing love, hearts in her eyes, head in the clouds gushed.

“Uh, I guess…in a McHottie way.”

“McHottie?” she stopped gushing for a minute to give me a half-amused, half-confused look.

“Yeah, he looks fake and processed, like a McDonald’s meal – attractive but detrimental to your health. Basically he looks like how every ‘hot guy’ looks nowadays. It’s like they all come from a factory or something. Big, bright eyes, tanned skin, tousled hair, flawless skin, swoon-inducing smile/smirk. They’re products of pop culture and victims of the teenage pressure to ‘look hot.’”

She looked at me exasperatedly, “Indie, you should hear yourself talk sometimes.”      

No need to ask who “him” was. David McKennon had been her dreamboat date for the past two years (which is forever in high school dating time) until their little boat sprung a leak. Well, more like multiple small leaks that you don’t even realize until it’s too late. You know how couples split up. First it’s annoying habits. He chews with his mouth open. She laughs too loudly. He’s a slob. She’s an attention whore. Then you get tired of each other, and you start to notice the imperfections of your significant other. And you realize that you really hate those imperfections. And then along comes another boy and another girl. And you guys get suspicious and jealous. Pretty soon you’re sinking into a whirlpool that can only end in break-up.

See, that’s the scary thing about getting in relationships. There can only be two endings: you either end up married forever or you split, both of which are terrifying commitments with very permanent consequences.

“I realize…” I started to say, eyes glued to my reflection in the water. I saw the pimple on my nose, the leftover scars of my fungus infection in the corner of my mouth, my uneven eyelids, and my scraggly-looking eyebrow hair. “I realize I’m not that kind of girl. I’m not that romanticized girl in radio songs and I’m not that girl you’ll find starring in the latest TV show and I’m not that heroine in YA novels that ends up with the boy AND the dystopian-free life.” I turned around abruptly. “But I am so much more than that. And I know someday I will find some guy who will appreciate a girl who’s not necessarily the girl of his dreams. Or anyone’s dreams. Because I’m not a girl who can be dreamed of.”

I jumped down from the railing. “So, mister, if I’m not perfect enough for you, you can bet your ass that I don’t need anyone who doesn’t need me.”

I never really got the concept of “the one that got away.” I figured that if you had loved him, you wouldn’t have let him leave. You would have found him, fought for him, again and again, because that’s what lovers are supposed to do. I never realized that sometimes the best way to love someone is to let them go.  I never realized that sometimes you have to stop holding on to people tightly because their overloaded dreams are too heavy for your arms to carry.

 …

“You’re the kind of girl that deserves to be poetry,” he said.

 I turned to face him without hesitation saying, “Every girl is that kind of girl.”

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This One’s For You

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They say you have to know your audience when you write. That’s not a new concept – it’s a cliche writing tip really – and yet when I write I tend to blab on and on and hope someone from the interweb may stumble along and find my rants and possibly deem them worthy of a like. As a new blogger, that’s technically my audience – the people who wind up here by chance.

In large part, I don’t give great thought to my audience when I sit down to make a blog post, because I write for myself. Well, that’s pretty selfish, you might think. But writing is a selfish task. It’s the sum of your background, your experiences, your culture, your heartbreaks, your hometown, the books you read, the people you love, the thoughts you have at 4 AM…your writing is centered around you. Writing is a way of getting to know yourself first, before anyone else. It’s a way to tap into your own mind, creativity, and soul.

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And yet, writers aren’t selfish. They’re brave. They make themselves vulnerable for the world to see; they whisper their secrets to perfect strangers. All the lives that you’ll never know, all the people you’ll never meet, never will be – that’s the world. That’s my audience. I write for myself, yes, but also for the others. I write for the the underdogs, the cynical romantics, the seekers of truth. I write for every girl who’s ever been ignored because she isn’t “pretty enough” and every boy who feels like they can’t cry unless they’re alone. I write for anyone who’s ever let go of bitterness, drowned their sorrows with music, danced in the rain, fallen in love with their flaws. I write for the ones who are quietly brave, who have seen the world’s hatred and ignorance and brokenness and still believe it to be a beautiful place. But most of all I write for you, you as a human being with a heart and soul and piece of hope to share, I write to tell you that you are not alone and that no one is alone.

So now you know. This one’s for you.