Journals Are…

Therapeutic.

Easy to keep, take with you and store.

Irresistible! The lure of a blank page, a page that belongs only to you.

Available in every single size, design and layout you can think of.

Easy to customize if you’d rather have something individual. Get a plain one and go DIY.

A legitimate excuse to either buy pens in a variety of colours or grab free ones whereever you see them.

A relief for those thinking what to give you for your birthday or Christmas.

Something you can find around the world to bring back with you.

A time capsule.

A source of something to do wherever you may be.

A possible harmless obsession.

Fashionable! Writing has never gone out of style and every day I see at least one adult scribbling away in a notebook.

There for you to put down whatever you want, without judgement, scrutiny or distractions from anyone else.

 

 

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Monday Diary: Rise Up Lights and Beauty and the Beast Trailer

Seriously, just try this, and see if you can ever stop thinking about this phrase in a new light (feeble pun!):

As shared on Girl Gone International Facebook
As shared on Girl Gone International Facebook

I first whispered and then just said this out loud to myself, and it works! Burning questions follow this entertaining linguistic trick. Do British people have an easier time switching to “razor blades” in their mind as soon as they hear themselves speak because of their accents? Do American accents still work nonetheless? Do various Aussie accents unwittingly get imitated as a result? If so, are they existing accents? Do we unconsciously try to Australian-ize our pronounciation (without really being able to, except after several episodes of McCleod’s Daughters in my case) as soon as we attempt to rise up lights? And most importantly: what will happen if an Australian simply says “rise up lights”? Life’s profound mysteries.

The internet was not done with us today, nor is it ever. A momentous event has taken place and I’m still fanning myself from excitement. Uploaded seven hours ago as of the time this is being typed and with close to half a million views already, I add my own click(s) to the official full-length movie trailer of Disney’s upcoming live-action version of the animated classic Beauty and the Beast. As soon as I hear those first piano bars from the opening track, despite having heard them thousands of times before, I’m gone.

If the teaser trailer already had me in pieces, this further gem makes me wriggle like an over-excited child and think, “OH MY GOD, this is real!” I can only hope that we will not be disappointed by the movie after the mood both trailers have successfully harnessed, and that Belle didn’t drop that candelabra after her first glimpse of the Beast. If there is one thing I’m certain of, it’s that I can’t imagine anyone other than Emma Watson playing our book-loving, plucky, dreaming heroine in this version.

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere/ I want it more than I can tell…”

It was a Monday of joyful, thought-provoking discoveries, and with all this talk of the supermoon, which I currently can’t see because of foggy Hamburg conditions, I’m in a witchy mood and will look up scenes with Piper Halliwell from Charmed on YouTube.

 

Sunday Diaries: Brunch Time

McDonald’s in Italy now has a Nutella burger on their menu. That was the first thing I saw in my Instagram feed when I scrolled through it on my phone as usual on Sunday mornings. I just want to ask, why go pay for something you can make just as easily at home, probably spend less money on and which simply seems…weird? I mean, a burger is not something I will always make myself, so I might go somewhere for it, but spreading Nutella on bread has not gone up astronomically in terms of levels of difficulty, I hope, unless I missed something. But hey, marketing, competition, whatever works and if it does make someone happy.

I spread some (non burger patty thick) Nutella on a warm, crisp bread bun myself today and it was deeply satisfying. Due to watching Crazy, Stupid, Love (and some of it was indeed stupid, though some was love because of Steve Carell and Julianne Moore) until late last night, getting up occured somewhat later and I did not have time for what I term as the breakfast before breakfast – eating a bite before getting to your late breakfast or brunch date so you won’t faint on the way. But then a glass of juice must be included and since the café wasn’t far away, I figured I’d manage. It is Sunday in Hamburg, and those who aren’t still asleep after a Saturday night out are most likely making their way to a brunch.

The cafébar Gloria is located in a beautiful street in Hamburg called Bellealliancestraße. Cosy, residential, inviting and with multicolored buildings following each other, it makes for a nice pre-brunch walk in these fresh winter temperatures. The Gloria is red, easy to find and hard to miss. With 20 years of existence behind it, it’s clearly a favorite neighborhood meeting point and I’m excited to try the brunch buffet with my friend. And what a buffet it is. Roughly 15 euro with a glass of champagne or orange juice included for all you can eat – fresh bread, small croissants, fruit, various cheese, butter, jam, potato salad, cooked red beets (Russian roots seal of approval), smoked salmon, just to name a few choices, and very prettily arranged. Almost floor-length windows let in the sunlight of this clear, cold morning, and the atmosphere is relaxed, welcoming, as I listen to the snippets of conversation around me in French, German and English and dig in to my food. The staff is quick, attentive and smiling without seeming stressed. As I lean back and sip my fresh peppermint tea, I think again about how much I enjoy being part of a morning crowd like this, and that I will have to come back, because there is no room for the homemade cheesecake that my friend warmly recommended.

One once again idyllic walk around the glistening Alster river later, and I make lunch for the next day at work, only to discover that I had forgotten to defrost the meat I needed for the dish. But the internet saved me with this trick that actually worked!

One could have made a Nutella burger, but I’ll leave that to the pros.

 

 

Sunday Diaries

It’s logical that most of these will probably start with what I was thinking about after I woke up, since lying in bed on a Sunday morning is a luxury I like to enjoy when I have it. A bit of daydreaming, a bit of music, a bit of reading, getting the brain whirring if the spirit so moves you, before you can’t deny that you do have to get up and eat, for breakfast is also a beautiful and wonderful thing.

So I don’t grab, but normally, even gently reach for my phone (dropping it once was enough), that handy purveyor of things entertaining, and scroll a bit on YouTube. Grace Helbig’s review of this year’s celebrity Halloween costumes got me sniggering and put me in a slightly sarcastic state of mind, which lead to typing in some words in the YouTube search bar that had been simmering at the back of said mind. These words were benching dating. This new word for age-old behaviour has apparently been setting both the dating world and the internet ablaze for quite some time now, unfortunately, and we are never too old nor too uncreative to find a label that might take at least some of the sting off those “What the hell?” moments.

One of the first videos that popped up was this snippet from The View upoloaded in June of this year. “Well, it’s kind of poopy, but what are you gonna do,” host Whoopi Goldberg says matter-of-factly. “It’s poopy,” she continues, “Well, I think it’s just a ball of **** to do that to somebody.” I’m neither a fan nor an expert on this particular show, but as usual Whoopi confirmed my hope that as long as I came across this video, she would be the one to say what needed to be said.

Scrolling through a few other videos and remembering the numerous articles I had read on the subject in the past few days, it was both strange to seemingly re-identify a known problem, narrowing down the more general “not calling/ texting/ writing/ dating back” actions somewhat to a description that fit a repeating MO, and saddening to see just how easy it is to set someone on the path of emotional turmoil. Was there a little bit of relief involved at finding some kind of words that seemed to box in what so many were going through? I’m not sure. Whichever way you spin it and however you try to categorize it, it still boils down to mistreatment and disappointment. Both facts of life.

But that was enough for now of letting benching occupy my thoughts on a day as precious as Sunday, so well-scrambled eggs on sliced tomato and bell pepper, with a bit of cheese, as well as toast with jam, followed my musings, nourishing ideas for a possible future blog post.

It’s very easy to give in to staying at home on a Sunday that is a bit grey and automatically makes you think it must be cold out there, but my determination to combat these yearnings today won over. The world is your oyster if you have the right shoes on and cover yourself where you can get cold. Or, in this case, my trusty Alster river walk was once again my oyster. A not new, but re-confirmed piece of wisdom: going outside, moving, breathing, looking, thinking, listening to music, observing, taking pictures and feeling what must only be creative adrenaline of your very own is most often the right decision. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were still plenty of autumn colors to snap and fill my Instagram with, and no matter how many times I have been here, the area just keeps surprising me. Venturing in to the side streets you see along the way is a good way to branch out, and I think how much there is still left of this city to discover. It’s a comforting thought. Damp, dark, sometimes moss-covered tree trunks frame turn-of-the-century villas and yellow leaves flutter against the almost white sky.

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This local blend of urban, historic and nature provides a lot of joy for kindred souls I spot along the way, silently strolling along with headphones on, like me, giving each other a glance sometimes and what I like to think is a small, secret smile of acknowledgement. Walking to the soundtrack of your choosing is a film-esque experience right there, especially for a person with a quickly romantic imagination, and spotting a house that immediately makes you think of Pemberley (even if it does look different, but I can’t travel to England right this second, so let’s make the best of the already wonderful things we have) makes you tingle.

Bumping in to a friend out on her jog was a pleasant surprise. After some chatting I watch her run on with light, energetic movements, and feel suddenly happy, hopeful that we, or at least those I know, are all doing something today that is making us content, peaceful and just what we want to be in this moment.

And why would anyone want to know or read all of this, you might ask? Well, isn’t that the reason why we blog?

When Blocked Creatively

When I think about this, I always remember a radio interview with J.K. Rowling from quite a few years back now. She describes staring at a blank piece of paper and not being able to write after the tabloid press had riffled through her past and published the results. She said she had a very strong compulsion to write, it was something over which she had very little control and which she wanted to do a lot. The words were simple, but the pain behind them was palpable. This was the real thing.

Of course, whatever is causing blockage or a drained feeling doesn’t have to be big in scope or a harrowing experience, nor does it deserve any less attention, regardless of what puts you on pause when you don’t want to be. But it does help to step back and examine, if it’s because of this and that, is it really as bad as I think, and is it worth not doing what I want to do because of it?

We all have different ways of dealing with this – here’s what helps me.

legally blonde

Sleep

This applies especially if you are trying to start or finish something in the evening and it just won’t come together. There may be a very simple explanation – you are tired! So go to bed. Chances are you will wake up early and refreshed the next morning, and as a result what you wanted to do will turn out faster and better than if you tried to force yourself the night before. Particularly if you are getting something done before you go to your day job. Of course, sometimes we have to grit our teeth and work a longer evening or even night on a creative endevour, because we don’t have a choice, for whatever reasons. But if you do, give yourself that break. And if you are inspired and on a roll, well, great!

Distance

This can be executed in many ways. Sometimes all you need is to get away from the laptop, sit down, close your eyes and breathe through your nose. Things become clearer and it’s easier to pinpoint what was causing the wobbliness. Getting some chores out of the way might also be helpful, even if you tend to procrastinate on those in the name of art (no, that’s never happened to me, pah!). It’s so much pleasanter to sit down to whatever you’re dying to do when the laundry is finished. Nobody cancelled the fact that you do not want to live in a hovel. And one of the easiest ways to get some distance is to go for a walk. A two-week trip to the Canary Islands might be pushing it a bit far, but hey, if it helps and you can swing it financially, why not. Anyway, do go outside.

Attention

For me this is simply listening to yourself and doing some tougher self-exploration if necessary. Something is bugging you or you feel frustration that is distracting you from the project at hand. What is it? What do you keep coming back to in your mind? Is it a bigger problem, or a smaller incident that happened earlier? Can you do anything about it? If yes, do you need or want to do that right now? If not, let go, at least for the time you wanted to allot to your project.

Exercise

Yup.

Communication

Write it out in a journal, meet up with a friend who understands, talk to your Grandma if she loves hearing about your progress, watch interviews on YouTube with writers, artists, performers you admire about how they work and deal with the hardships. You might hear something helpful.

Pep

Some positivity goes a long way. Take a break and do something that stimulates you and where you feel your best, whether it’s a favourite activity, a building you like to look at, listening to cheesy mood-boosting songs from your youth or reading a book in the park. These favourite things might also be the key to some inspirational ideas already.

Discipline

All of the above is good, but it all comes down to the fact that we have to buckle down and just do it if we want to accomplish something. That’s all there is to it. I read an article recently about showing as much commitment to your creative projects as to your day job, for those of us who are in that situation, and I completely agree. This doesn’t mean getting up as early during the weekend or spending an 8-hour day on things in addition to the five you already do, but if you want it, you have to make your own personal job of it. Nitty-gritty life wisdom I sincerely hope I can follow myself.

nikeOf course, we are all only human, after all. I like to remember this here saying from the great and powerful Internet: “If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. Stay cool!”

Writsomniac Worries etc.

When writing…only occasionally…every other day…now…just to fuel the creative fire.

“I can DO this! Right? RIGHT?”

yes

“This is OK, I’m in touch with my thoughts and my feelings, and I need that, I can identify them, I am my own psychoanalyst, I’m my own well of double-checking for that realistic human touch, I can DESCRIBE, for God’s sake, just the fact that I’m writing down this (hopefully not pointless) stream of consciousness makes me my very own James Joyce, so THERE.”

aha“Oh no. I’ve been sitting here for an hour now, and the text field is still empty. Shouldn’t something be happening by now?”

trampoline“This idea isn’t working. Why did I think it would work? Am I writing and making sense, or am I just typing whatever comes to mind? Does this even sound like me? Is it authentic? Is it true? Is it just a monologue about my idiosyncrasies and nothing more? Noooooo.”

cat“I don’t know if it works, or if it turned out the way I wanted it to, but at least I finished it! And now I can dance! Watch mah fingers!”

full house“Huh, I’m getting likes for this? Wow! Yes, of course this was a brilliant idea, dahling.”

no way

“I’m just going to go outside and breathe in the smell of flowers and look at butterflies. It might inspire me, I’m allowed! Everything will be alright!”

flowers

 

From the Writsomniac

During my online wanderings I stumbled on this article by Candace Ganger, How I Lost and Found My Writing GrooveI enjoy stories with a personal perspective to them that’s moulded by experience, but this title in particular made me stop, as have others capping stories on the same subject.

“…the dream I’d always had, no matter what distracted me along the way, was to be an author. I’m talking NYT bestselling, critically-acclaimed, buzz-worthy kind of author. The kind of writer whose words stick with you long after you’ve finished the last page… It was more than a dream. It was my lifeline.”

I studied journalism for my first university degree, and on the first day one of the professors said all (aspiring) journalists wanted to be writers. He was neither a nice person nor a good professor, but that was a sentence that stuck with me, because I had been wondering myself whether that was true, and whether it was true for me. The conclusion I came up with was that maybe not all of them wanted to be writers, but everyone who envisioned themselves in journalism obviously wanted to be an author, to have their name attached to a storytelling result with words or images. As for me, well…still lots of thoughts on that one.

A few years later I had one of those unexpected, but hey-I-feel-this-way-too-only-I-kept-it-to-myself-until-now conversations with a mentor who had the gift of people wanting to be near him. Due to this gift of his we got to talking about writing, and since he had studied some subjects similar to mine at university, some shared views led to him observing that “writing a book” is probably on the list of most people from these academic fields, whether at the front or at the back of their minds. Most likely true, or at least statistically valid, says my general observation. While journalists certainly receive the tools to someday be able to put a book together, and academic influences sometimes predispose, writing something finished that you want to go out in to the world is by no means a predictable process. And lastly it depends on the person themselves.

Bottom line, there are a lot and a lot and a lot of people out there who think about this.

Candace Ganger depicts how she started to climb the writing ladder and later arrived at a major blockage due to a string of disappointing experiences culminating in the loss of her agent. She describes natural feelings and how she ultimately won her writing spark back: “So I picked myself back up, and I wrote. A grocery list. A short story. Anything to get my groove back. And one day, when the tears dried up and the devastation all faded, I got it.”

Simple words that echoed and made me remember. They are true. Because while I am only starting out, there was a time when I stopped writing, or stopped doing what represented to me that I was writing, at the level I was at that moment in life. Things were not like they were before. What used to come effortlessly wouldn’t. Trying to come up with ideas felt like a chore and only discouraged me. Discipline felt out of reach. The words that did come  felt only wrong. And worst of all, the process of writing did not excite or take me away like it used to. Guilt was followed by mounting terror – was this it?

My epiphany was there all along, though, waiting to happen. I was detailing the above Angst in a journal, and then it hit me. I was sitting in an armchair in this very moment, writing. The notebook was almost full and I was worried the last page would not be enough to record what was flowing from my heart in to my pen. A half-finished list of books I wanted to buy, along with birthday present ideas for friends lay on the nightstand, and I remembered the scores of daily emails and messages I never stopped exchanging with family despite “not writing”. The family, by the way, just let me get on with things at my own pace. I still jotted random things down on scraps of paper and ran out of pens. Why did it take so long to realize? I guess I needed to sort through other things occupying my brain. Maybe for once that took up the space and energy otherwise used for coming up with stories or posts. But once it was done, it was over with, and it gave the writing experience a new depth, and me hopefully a new courage. Even if sometimes I was the only one reading what I came up with.

I had never stopped and realizing that fact was like a breath of fresh air after being inside too long.