“Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint, and begin.”
We all have things we love – big things, small things, important things, extraordinarily ordinary things. Morning coffees, scrapbooks of photos, seashells scooped up from the ocean’s edge, swooshy scarves and fuzzy boots, the list goes on and on. It’s different for everyone, which, when you think about it, is really cool. How lucky we are to have such a give and take, to share relationships where everyone brings their own passions and interests to the table. For me, that includes writing journals. Sure, most of my work is done on the computer (pretty sure Mother Earth wouldn’t be a fan of printing out hundreds of pages to do hard copy edits), but there’s still something invaluable about keeping a journal. I use it to brainstorm, plot, and plan when beginning a new manuscript. I use it to keep track of ideas, sentences, sometimes several paragraphs of writing as I work – because, it never fails, future passages always come to me at the most random times. I write chronologically and seriously could never skip around throughout the book, but I am totally fine with jotting down notes and even full passages to include later on. That’s when my writing journal becomes a treasured friend. Over the years, many pages have been filled to the brim with notes in every color of the rainbow: pink, turquoise, orange, green, purple, and more. Each manuscript gets its own shade, and (this is going to prove when an organizational fanatic I am, but whatever), with character sketches, each person gets their own hue. Those pages are home to ideas come to life, seeds that blossomed more than I ever could have imagined when cracking open the stiff, fresh cover and easing it into its comfortable new existence.
In a word, that’s what those journals represent: comfort. They’re a way to look back on past inspiration and to glean new faith for the future. They’re a way to live my characters’ journeys and follow their paths. They’re a way to blaze some paths of my own. So when Sara gave me a fabulous new journal for my birthday last month, one with the words “Remember, ideas become things” scripted on the cover, it was love at first sight. As I flipped through the crisp pages to find a plethora of quotes scattered throughout, it quickly bumped every other journal out of line and scurried to the top of the pile for the next one I’ll use. Because those quotes? THEY. ARE. PERFECT. They’re encouraging. They’re motivating. They’re just the right pick-me-up for when the querying roller coaster takes a dip or when the editing process seems truly never-ending. They’re also the right starburst of inspiration for when things are moving along smoothly and you are in love, so giddily in love, with everything about writing and all it evokes.
And they make you think. Take the quote above, for example. As writers aspiring to be published authors, we get caught up so often in daydreaming about the future: how we’d react to getting The Call from an agent offering representation, how we’d celebrate the amazing news of selling our first novels, how it’d feel to walk into a bookstore and see our works of heart on the shelves. Dreaming big is important. It’s exciting. But what about dreaming big on a different scale? Instead of visualizing the life-altering milestone moments, why not visualize the ones we’re in control of on a daily basis? Visualize the euphoric, filled-with-adrenaline, I’m-so-in-love-with-this-project-that-I-can’t-stop-writing high of beginning a new manuscript. Visualize the moment of pride when you watch your characters truly grow and learn. Visualize the bittersweet moment when you write the last word of the last chapter, your first draft now more of its own person than your baby. Visualize the revisions you’ll make, the way your story will tighten with each edit until it snaps together like puzzle pieces that were always meant to be interconnected. Visualize the query letter writing, the synopsis writing, the agent research, the query emails. Visualize each and every bit of the process, and let yourself feel every emotion that comes along with it. See them, feel them, believe in them.
Maybe that’s the best mental blueprint we can have. This process is not easy, and the road often seems like it stretches too far into the distance to see where it leads, but that’s okay. One step at a time, we’ll get there. We’ll make it. We’ll turn that blueprint into something concrete. Maybe that will take our daydreams of agents, editors, and bookstores and make them a reality. Maybe it’ll mean that big dreams will morph into bigger dreams. Nobody can know for sure. But what I’m certain of, what I understand as though the knowledge has always floated through my thoughts, is that the journey will always be worth it. When things get tough, all I have to do is flip through my writing journals for a reminder. Because the words that splash across those pages, they don’t only bring my characters to life. They don’t only tell their stories. They tell mine, too.
And I’ll be forever grateful.
(Side note: how in the world is it OCTOBER already? Does that seem crazy and ridiculous to anyone else?)