Tag Archives: Steph Beth Nickel

Looking Back, Looking Ahead (Guest Post)

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

by Steph Beth Nickel

“Finish strong.”

We’ve all heard it. We may even be overjoyed with what we’ve accomplished this year.

Or not…

On her podcast, “The Next Right Thing,” Emily P. Freeman acknowledged the goal may not be to finish strong but simply to finish.

Let’s wrap up 2022 on a positive note—even if we didn’t achieve everything we wanted to in 2022.

First, let’s look back so we can look ahead with clearer vision.

Let’s ask ourselves the following questions about the past year:

Did I achieve my goals for 2022? At least some of them?

Did I take strides forward—even small ones? With regard to my physical health? My emotional wellbeing? My relationships? My writing goals?

Did I overcome procrastination—at least some of the time?

Did I change course when I recognized I was no longer moving in the right direction?

What goals do I want to carry over into 2023? And what goals do I want to set aside?

As we look to the year ahead, let’s be kind to ourselves.

Let’s consider the following questions as we look ahead to the new year:

What goals am I carrying over from 2022?

What would I say is my #1 goal for the year? For the first quarter of the year? For January?

Are there things I need to set aside, even if they’re incomplete?

How can I prevent those persistent dreams from always sinking to the bottom of my list of priorities?

How can I factor in white space in my schedule?

The term Simple, Not Easy has come across my screen from several sources. This is my phrase for the coming year.

This is how I plan to implement my Phrase of the Year:

Choose quarterly goals. From there, break them down into monthly and weekly goals.

Schedule in adequate white space: downtime and time to rejig when things don’t go as planned.

Commit to the incomplete and ongoing tasks I’m carrying over from 2022.

Be willing to set aside tasks when they are no longer moving me in the direction I believe I am to go.

Prayerfully consider new opportunities that come across my path. Just because I can doesn’t mean I should.

How does looking back help you determine your goals for the days ahead?

What’s your #1 goal for the first quarter of 2023?

Do you have a Word or Phrase of the Year?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Goal Setting and Finishing Strong (Guest Post)

Letters: GOAL
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Goal Setting and Finishing Strong

by Steph Beth Nickel

This is the time of year when we may 1) be tempted to abandon our goals altogether or 2) buckle down and finish strong.

While I intend to choose the second option, it will require modifying my goals.

I’m content to push out self-imposed deadlines and plan to “do better” next year, next month, even next week. Others consider it a failure if they’ve bitten off more than they can chew or if the unexpected happens.

Instead of giving up altogether, let’s be kind to ourselves and set a limited number of goals that we’ll likely be able to accomplish—even if things don’t go exactly as planned.

As we’re setting, or adjusting, our goals, let’s ask a series of questions:

  1. Am I trying to accomplish goals in too many areas of my life at the same time?
  2. Is this something others are counting on and am I the only one who can accomplish this task?
  3. Is there any hard and fast reason I can’t push out the deadline for this particular goal?
  4. Are there items on my To-Do List I can abandon, ask someone else to do, or reschedule to make room for the goals with firm deadlines?
  5. Have I left some goals on my list that are “just for me”? (Achieving these goals is important and can energize you for the non-negotiables.)

These questions, among others, will help you set and achieve your goals.

And what about finishing strong?

Finishing strong doesn’t necessarily mean achieving all the goals we set for ourselves way back at the beginning of the year or even at the beginning of October, for those of us who set quarterly goals.

Finishing strong means taking an honest look at those non-negotiables I mentioned and choosing one goal we’d still like to accomplish. For example, although I set the goal of hitting the 50K-word mark during November (National Novel Writing Month) combining words reviewed and new words edited in my YA spec fiction manuscript, I likely won’t be able to hit that goal.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t finish strong and write 1,000-1,500 words each day until the end of the month (and beyond).

So, go ahead and adjust your goals as needed. Choose one goal/adjusted goal you’d like to accomplish and aim to finish strong.

I’d love to hear what questions you ask yourself when you’re setting goals … as well as in what area you plan to finish strong—even if you’ve had to adjust your original goal.

Please note: Some of you have had tragedy strike and making it through to the end of the year is the most you can hope for. My prayer for you is that the God of All Comfort will hold you close, enable you to set aside goals you had hoped to accomplish, and sense His love, which is not dependent on what you can achieve.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Writers Earning an Income (Guest Post)

Writers Earning an Income

by Steph Beth Nickel

Some writers put pen to paper exclusively as a means of creative expression. Some writers, whether they’re paid or not, do so to make readers aware of important issues. Others write what they love and seek to sell their work. Still others write exclusively for the purpose of earning an income. For many, it’s a combination of reasons.

There are countless reasons to write, but if you’re seeking to supplement your income or earn a full-time living from your writing, here are some things to consider:

  1. Authors rarely earn enough to live on exclusively from the books they write.
  2. If you would, eventually, like to earn a full-time living from your books, you’ll want to publish regularly.
  3. Building a devoted readership takes time. Plus, in most cases, it’s far easier to do if you stick with a single niche. Multi-passionate authors who write across genres about multiple topics can earn a good living, but it can be more challenging. You’ll want to weigh the pros and cons. Personally, I can’t imagine writing only one type of book forever and always.
  4. There are countless opportunities in the job market to earn an income using your ability to string together interesting, coherent sentences and paragraphs.
  5. If you want to earn an income with your words, there are times you may have to supplement your most impassioned writing with pieces on topics that are of little to no interest to you personally. I write about railcar movers, yard equipment, and various styles of fireplaces, for example. Don’t tell, but these aren’t my passion projects.

And finally…

If you’re an author who wants to earn a significant amount of money from your books, you’ll want to consider the following:

  1. Indie authors who self-publish retain far more of their royalties than traditionally published authors. However, they are responsible to foot the bill for editing, cover design, promotion, etc. This route requires a great deal of self-discipline and the willingness to learn about all facets of publishing and promotion, as well as writing, but can be very lucrative and satisfying for those who want control over every aspect of the process. It’s the route I intend to take with my yet unfinished series—plural.
  2. Only the extremely rare outlier hits it big with a single book. Writers who want to earn a steady income from their books will have to produce and promote an ever-increasing list of titles. Even traditionally published authors will have to promote their books—especially those on their backlist, provided they’re still in print.
  3. Authors typically earn supplemental income from their books while holding down a day job or a part-time job, perhaps one that makes use of their writing skills, perhaps not. I recently heard an author who has been in the business for over a decade say that a day job that doesn’t use up your creative skills leaves you with energy to pursue your writing even at the end of a long day. Interesting! It’s definitely something to consider, especially if you’re finding it difficult to even consider working on your book after you get home.

Remember! Your words have value, and there are readers who need them. And although you may produce thousands of words that never earn a dime, it is not wrong or unspiritual to earn an income from your writing.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Is Balance a Bad Word? (Guest Post)

Letter tiles spelling out "Balance".
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Is Balance a Bad Word?

by Steph Beth Nickel

How do you feel about the word balance?

When I was in Bible College (approximately a million years ago), I thought the word was synonymous with compromise.

If you “balanced” your spiritual life with your other responsibilities, weren’t you denying the scriptural mandate to do everything as if doing it for the Lord?

It took time, but I realized balance is not a bad word. It doesn’t necessarily mean compromise. Plus, it doesn’t mean that you believe God is more interested in certain aspects of your life than in others.

For example, we are faced with the challenge of balancing how we spend out time and what we focus on every. single. day.

Do I stop and pray for those in the path of hurricanes such as Fiona, which recently affected friends in both Bermuda and the Atlantic provinces of Canada or do I forge ahead, crossing off items from my never-ending To-Do List?

The answer should be BOTH.

As I pray, I can ask God if He wants me to become more personally involved.

If the answer is yes, then I may have to set aside items on my list that are not of high priority.

I must find the right balance.

When I hear about things that are important to me, things that fire me up, I can be tempted to change course, to take up a banner that is not mine to carry, to get distracted from the call of God on my life. I can—and often do—become unbalanced.

I have to ask myself some questions when I’m tempted to change course, something that happens far more frequently than you might imagine.

These questions might also help you if you’re trying to balance your priorities and pursuits.

  1. What are my current obligations? Are there any I could consider setting aside? Which are non-negotiable?
  2. If a new opportunity comes my way, do I have room in my schedule and the energy to take on something more or will I have to set aside something I’m currently working on?
  3. Do I say yes to tasks because I feel God has brought these opportunities into my life or do I say yes because I have a hard time saying no to people—especially if the opportunity intrigues me and is something I have the skill set to accomplish?
  4. On the other hand, do I wear blinders and miss opportunities that the Lord brings my way because I’m so focused on sticking to my current To-Do List?
  5. Do I take on things because I’m “a fixer” who genuinely cares about coming alongside others? Still, there is only so much I’m responsible for, and it’s important to prayerfully discern God’s priorities before jumping in and trying to “fix” something He hasn’t called me to fix.

As a woman of a certain age (61), I’ve finally had to admit that I can’t pursue every shiny object or take up every cause that is important to me.

I foresee that I will always be eclectically interested and eclectically involved. However, I am prayerfully trying to focus my energies on accomplishing the tasks that God has clearly given me and leaving the rest up to others.

Have I found the perfect balance? Not by a long shot, but I’m getting closer.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Did Bobby McFerrin Have It Right? (Guest Post)

Image by Sirpa P from Pixabay

Did Bobby McFerrin Have It Right?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Whether it’s cancer, COVID, or corruption, it seems everywhere we look there is something threatening to steal our peace.

And in the writer’s world there are contacts, conferences, and contracts to consider as well. While these may be exciting, they can still cause stress.

So, what are we to do?

Should we simply do our best to follow Bobby McFerrin’s advice: Don’t worry; be happy. (Yes, Bob Marley sang it, but Bobby McFerrin wrote the lyrics.)

We can only ignore what’s going on around us for so long. Plus, in the long term, this is 1) virtually impossible and 2) extremely irresponsible.

We are called to fulfill our commitments. Granted, some of us (read “most of us”) take on too much—at least at times. But even if we’ve learned to say, “No, I’m unable to add that to my schedule,” it’s probably because our plate is already full to overflowing.

And would we really be at peace, worry-free, if we could sing and dance our way through life without any thought to the heartaches going on all around us?

Sure, we need to take regular breaks to clear our mind and refresh our body. But the real happiness, the real peace, comes from obeying God’s commands in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (ESV).

If we try to obey the first part of this verse in our own strength, we’ll soon throw up our hands in defeat. It isn’t as easy as choosing happiness instead of worry.

However, as He always does, God shows us how we can set aside our anxiety. Pray and give thanks.

That sounds easy enough, but we all know it’s not “one and done.”

I have a tendency to obsess over (read “worry about”) things I can’t change until God reminds me AGAIN of Philippians 4:6.

So, what are you laser focussed on with regard to your writing right now? Is it stressing you out? Is that stress quickly turning into full-fledged worry? Is it immobilizing you, which adds to your stress levels?

Be encouraged. God cares about you. He can—and will—work out all the details.

Take your concerns and requests to Him. Focus on all the things you have to be thankful for. “Rinse and repeat” as necessary. If you’re anything like me that will be often.

Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Excuses vs. Reasons (Guest Post)

Signposts: One arrow says "one way" and the opposite one says "or another".
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Excuses vs. Reasons

By Steph Beth Nickel

Do you scold yourself when you don’t get everything done on your daily To-Do List or when you don’t achieve everything you’d hoped to achieve?

Beating yourself up about it rarely, if ever, gets the job done.

However, we all must be honest with ourselves and evaluate if we’re making excuses or have legitimate reasons for failing to cross everything off our list.

Excuses include the following (just ask me how I know):

  1. Watching “just one more” episode of a show we’re enjoying…or, at least, tolerating.
  2. Scrolling through our newsfeed for “just a few more minutes.”
  3. Thinking, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” (Trust me; I put the PRO in procrastination.)

On the other side of the coin are legitimate reasons for not achieving the things on our list:

  1. Something truly urgent comes up that demands our immediate attention.
  2. Our expectations of ourselves are unreasonable.
  3. Our physical and/or emotional well needs refilling.

These are only a handful of examples, but you get the idea.

And now for the good news!

Whether you’ve been making excuses or have perfectly good reasons for what you do or don’t get done, there are ways you can silence that finger-wagging inner voice:

  1. If you make a To-Do List or simply record deadlines and occasions you don’t want to miss, prioritize your list. What is time-sensitive and something you must/really want to remember? To make sure you don’t miss anything important, write it down somewhere you will check often—whether in a paper planner or on an app.
  2. While it’s important to take other people’s feelings and ideas into consideration, be careful not to allow their priorities to influence your schedule unless those priorities line up with what you believe to be God’s plans and purposes for you.
  3. Be reasonable. There are only so many hours in the day, and you’re only one person.
  4. If you don’t achieve everything on your list, be honest with yourself. Did you have legitimate reasons, or did you find yourself making excuses?
  5. If you find you’re making excuses, choose ONE to work on until it’s no longer a default. Don’t try to eliminate all the excuses at once, or you’ll simply become frustrated and scold yourself even more.
  6. Get into the habit of making an Accomplishments or Victory List. Record what you get done and regularly review the list. It will help when you’re tempted to become discouraged. (Include household chores and running errands. It may feel like you’re getting very little done, but an itemized list will put that misconception to rest.)
  7. As believers, committing our day to the Lord before we get out of bed, praying over each task, and laying down what we did or did not achieve before Him each night will make a huge difference in how we create our To-Do Lists. It will also help us keep our focus where it belongs and will make us more sensitive to His leading.

Be positive. Be patient. And be prayerful.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Chasing Inspiration (Guest Post)

Tile letters spelling "inspiration" with floral background.
Image by Mango Matter from Pixabay

Chasing Inspiration

by Steph Beth Nickel

I wrote over 40K words of my first YA speculative fiction novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2020. And then . . .

True confession time . . .

I left it so long that I wanted to go back and read it from the beginning, making minor changes and getting my momentum back.

But that didn’t happen. At least not until June of this year.

In just three days, I read the 44K+ words, tweaked those 140 or so pages, and organized my notes (character names, questions that needed to be answered, an idea for a possible freebie, etc.).

The more I worked on it, the more motivated I became.

Waiting for inspiration hadn’t worked. Chasing after it . . . did.

Are you stuck? Unmotivated? Uninspired?

Here are three ideas to help you get your mojo back:

  1. If you’re a discovery writer (aka a pantser) like I am, there comes a point when it’s a good idea to make yourself some notes. Keep track of who’s who. Make a list of times you dropped “the first shoe.” If you never drop the second, your readers will not be pleased. Unanswered questions and unresolved issues are not your friend. When you reread your work, be on the lookout for inconsistencies. I once had the wind inexplicably change directions—on the same page. I’m so glad I caught it before letting anyone else read that story. Diving into the details can inspire you to get back to writing.
  2. I love giving my characters the freedom of taking me where they want to go. Of slowly but surely revealing their personality traits and quirks to me. Of making me unexpectedly laugh or gasp. But if I don’t have a rough idea of where the story will end, I can find myself wandering around aimlessly by the middle of the story. I have the epilogue written for a contemporary women’s fiction story I plan to get back to. Plus, I’m currently working on the last chapter of the YA novel I mentioned earlier, even though I’ve only written approximately half the manuscript. The plan is for it to be the first book in a series. So, I need a cathartic ending that is still open-ended. I’m happy with what I’ve settled on. Writing a possible ending for your story may help you decide how to get from where you are to where you want to go.
  3. We’ve all heard it. And it may be the last thing many of us want to hear again. But I’ve found it’s true. I have to turn off Netflix (and Disney Plus and Prime Video and Paramount Plus), not to mention social media, and sit at my computer, open my writing program, and keep at it—even when the ideas don’t come pouring out. Walking away from distractions and focusing on your writing may be just the thing you need to get those words flowing again. It’s 100% fine if it begins as a trickle. Keep pumping out the words, and that trickle could very well become a steady stream.

While my focus is on fiction, the same principles apply when you’re writing nonfiction, although it’s far more challenging to apply discovery writing techniques to nonfiction.

How do you chase inspiration?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Conquering Overestimation (Guest Post)

Conquering Overestimation

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you ever overestimated how much you could get done in a day? Do you perpetually add more things to your To Do List than is reasonable? Do you find yourself discouraged at the end of the day—or thinking, “Oh, well! Maybe tomorrow will be different”?

Yes?

Me, too!

Below are six ideas that help me—if I remember to implement them. (Note: I work from home and have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. Hopefully, even if you have a traditional 9-5, you’ll find some of the suggestions helpful.)

Planner notebook
Image by Miesha Moriniere from Pixabay 
  1. Start with gratitude. It’s so easy to dread our “evil day job” or resent spending time with our family if we view them as interruptions to what we really want to do. If, instead, we itemize related things we’re thankful for, it will go a long way to changing our mindset. Recently, I purchased a taskpad that says HAPPY on the cover. Each morning I fill a single page with things I’m thankful for. I use coloured markers and include stickers and washi tape because this simple expression of creativity makes me happy.
  2. Prioritize your list. Currently, I place each task I want to accomplish under one of three categories: YES, MAYBE, and HOPEFULLY.
  3. Double check your list. Is there anything that gets your mojo flowing on your YES list or do these pursuits get relegated to the MAYBE or HOPEFULLY column? A strong work ethic and sense of responsibility are admirable, but if we don’t “refill the well,” it gets more and more draining to accomplish the non-negotiables.
  4. Know yourself. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Determine when your creative juices flow most freely and when you have the highest energy levels. As much as possible, schedule your tasks accordingly. If a certain task requires a clear head and undivided focus, try to accomplish it at the most opportune time of day. You may be able to fit in those you can do on autopilot when your energy stores are running low.
  5. Schedule at least one much-loved task when your energy levels are high. Accomplishing one such task when you have abundant energy goes a long way to building your reserves. You don’t want to leave all the tasks that bring a smile to your face until you feel depleted. If you do, it’s hard to be enthusiastic about even the most eagerly anticipated items on your list.
  6. Create a schedule rather than a To Do List. This gives you a better idea of how much time a task will take. Don’t forget to add everyday responsibilities to your schedule (i.e.: appointments, household chores, coffee with friends, etc.). In this way, you can glance at your planner and see where there are available timeslots. As we hear from many sources, it’s important to leave margins in our schedule. After all, we still tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in any given 16-hour day. (Don’t laugh! Some people actually get eight hours of sleep a night.)
  7. Don’t forget to add REST to your schedule. Many of us feel we must accomplish something every waking moment or our time is wasted. There are countless benefits of going for a walk, curling up with a good book, or simply sitting outside in the sunshine—too many to go into here.

I’d love to hear how you curb your tendency to overestimate what you can accomplish and how you prioritize how you spend your time.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

The Season of Promise (Guest Post)

Baby Robins (photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel)

The Season of Promise

by Steph Beth Nickel

Birdsongs. Budding trees. Flowers opening to the sun.

Signs of promise and new life are all around us here in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, my favourite season has begun.)

Regardless of the season, we have the opportunity to experience God’s promises each and every day.

Will we experience the fulfilment of His promises in our time and in the way we’d choose for ourselves? Rarely, very rarely.

Still, His promises are Yay and Amen!

How can we rest in those promises—and share them with others?

  1. We must spend time in God’s Word. No matter how familiar it becomes, there is always more to learn.
  2. Prayer is crucial. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: what seemed impossible and surreal—unthinkable even—may be waiting just around the corner. Prayer is the only way to find peace and assurance in the midst of unimaginable circumstances. Plus, it’s a great way to focus on the Lord rather than on … well, anything else.
  3. Spend time with other believers, those who will encourage you and build you up. If you’re unable to do so in person, keep in mind that it’s important to carry on two-way conversations, not simply watch church services online.
  4. Head out into creation and soak in the wonder of the season, knowing that God reveals His nature in what He has made.
  5. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s 100% fine to get the help you need, including professional help. These past two years have taken their toll emotionally as well as physically as never before.
  6. We can’t wait until we’ve got it all together before we reach out to others, or we’ll never reach out. We’re always facing one challenge or another.
  7. Even before you feel adequately equipped, look for ways to bless others. Drop a card in the mail. Allow that person with only a couple of items to go ahead of you at the checkout. Smile at a stranger. (Even if you’re wearing a mask, it will show in your eyes.) A simple act of kindness can go a long way to brightening someone’s day—and our own.
  8. Prayerfully consider the writing projects you have on the go. Is it time to persevere and complete them or is God leading you in a different direction? (Remember: just because you’ve hit a wall doesn’t mean you should scrap the project. This is when we need abundant wisdom and clear guidance.)
  9. Take on a new project that will allow you to share the promises of God and evidences of the new life we have in Christ. Write a related blog post. Record an encouraging podcast. Start a Bible study—in your home or a private Zoom room.

We each express our creativity in unique ways, but we can only do so for a limited amount of time if we don’t refill the well.

What is your favourite season and why? What promises does it bring to mind? How do you share this encouragement with others?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

The Many Faces of Journaling (Guest Post)

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

The Many Faces of Journaling

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you ever opened your electronic journal or notebook and simply written, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”? I have. Maybe not with that many Hs, but you get the idea.

I’ve also written what Julia Cameron refers to as Morning Pages, three pages of whatever pops into my mind (also known as “stream of consciousness writing”). Cameron recommends doing so first thing in the morning to clear out the cobwebs. I should probably get back to this practice.

Journaling is a wonderful way of expressing our frustration, clearing out those cobwebs, and what I refer to as “rambling until we stumble upon truth.”

The advantage of journaling is that no one, not one single person, ever has to read what we’ve written. We can process thoughts, emotions, and questions we’re reluctant to share with anyone, even our most trusted friends and family members.

As a Christian, you might be concerned that your journal won’t always overflow with faith-filled declarations. I came to grips long ago that God knows my innermost thoughts and motives already. It’s often good if we face up to them and learn to apply the Truth in genuine, truly lifechanging ways.

Of course, we have much to be thankful for. Gratitude journaling has become a prominent idea, at least as far back as the publication of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Keeping track of what I’m thankful for is another practice I’d like to get back to.

Journaling Supplies

  1. An app on your phone, such as Day One or your Notes app.
  2. Good ole Word on your laptop or desktop.
  3. A simple notebook and a ballpoint pen.
  4. An elaborate journal and colourful gel pens.
  5. An artist’s grade sketchbook, brush markers, washi tape, and stickers.

Lies to Squelch (Trust me, I’ve told myself these lies repeatedly.)

  1. Each sentence must be perfectly crafted with proper punctuation and no misspelled words. (This is a hard one for writers to set aside, but it’s important to do so.)
  2. If my writing is horrible… If I can’t find my favourite pen… If my “artwork” looks like a preschoolers got her hands on my supplies… I might as well give up. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
  3. I must “hold back” for fear someone will come across my journal. (There are ways to ensure this doesn’t happen, including asking your family to respect your privacy and/or tucking away your journal where they will not find it.)
  4. Pouring out my random thoughts has no benefit.
  5. God will think less of me for expressing my fears and doubts.

Ways to Get Started

  1. Give Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages a try for at least a week. She recommends using pen and paper as there is a different neurological connection between brain, pen, and paper than between brain, fingers, and keyboard.
  2. Pouring out your heart in the form of prayers is a great way to focus. I know praying aloud with others or writing in my prayer journal keeps me focused far better than “saying my prayers” silently.
  3. Buy a simple notebook to get started. If you spend a lot of money on elaborate supplies and a leather-bound journal with handmade paper (my favourite), you’re less likely to put pen to paper for fear of messing it up.
  4. Grab a pack of multi-coloured gel pens. Sometimes, just writing with fun-coloured ink can elevate your mood.
  5. Slap on some stickers. This is one of the easiest ways to express your creativity and summarize the mood or topic you’re dealing with.

Are you a journaler? What are your favourite journaling tools? Is there something you hadn’t thought of that you’re going to try out?

Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.