3 Steps to Start a Writing Journal 

Hullo, world!

It’s so nice to be sitting at my desk, basking in the sun and writing this post. It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I hope that you are having a wonderful day, too. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how process and the heart is what matters, not the end product. Too often we focus on what we get out of something, not what we are doing. Which, I think, is really sad. There’s a lot to be learnt from how we do things. There’s joy in baking waffles or flipping pancakes for brunch. There’s joy in reading, not in finishing a book. (Maybe both, but still.) 

And today, I want to focus on the process of writing–and introduce a tool that has helped me with being mindful of how I write…

May I present to you, the Writing Journal!!

You’ve probably heard me mention how I’m a hybrid writer (hand-writing & typing sort) but what’s interesting is how I lean more to the hand-writing side when it comes to brainstorming. Sure, I do have folders after folders in Google docs on my various WIPs. But the baseline, or kernels of my ideas, I try to grow by hand. Writing by hand, I realised, helps me not forget. It’s a more organic process for me (which is also shown by research) and overall, I fully advocate writing journals. 

And, without further ado, I will break down how (and why) I keep a writing journal–and how you can, too. 

1. Get a notebook

The first step is, very obviously, to get a notebook. The type of notebook you get will dictate the use (a little bit), but most of the time a normal notebook will work. Personally, I like using notebooks without ring-binders. (FYI, I think ring-bound notebooks are a nemesis to the whole world.) I use A5 notebooks and B5 notebooks, both from Japan (but I think Muji might carry them if there’s a local Muji around the place you live) which opens flat when I’m writing. The point isn’t to get the same notebook like mine, though. As long as you love the design and there’s practicality in the notebook, you can use it for a writing journal! 

2. WIP-wise v. Schedule-wise

After you’ve gotten yourself a notebook, decide on the two types of writing journal you’ll use for–WIP-wise or Schedule-wise. 

WIP-wise journals are solely used for brainstorming, restructuring, outlining, conducting character studies, etc. I’ve found there’s no one way to do a WIP journal since the WIP pretty much directs what you’ll need to write. 

Schedule-wise journals, on the other hand, look a lot like bullet journals. If you’re familiar with the concept, bullet journals are a system where you can quickly jot down tasks and ideas in a planner-type notebook. 

In both types of journals, I create a blank page for a title, another for an index (so you’ll be able to find things easily), and number the pages after that. 

3. 54321, Campaigns, & Daily Logs

What goes into a writing journal, ultimately, depends on you. But at the same time, here are the three basics things that help me in my writing journals:

  1. The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, method

I explained this in detail in last year’s goal-planning post. (See the Plan section.) This is the long-mid-short-term goal setting method that works well for me.

  1. Campaigns

These are also in the same post above, but basically what I do is to come up with writing campaigns (write every day, host a writing retreat for myself, etc.)

  1. Daily Logs

This is the aforementioned bujo-ing method(?) I use on a daily basis. I write down one to three things to do concerning my writing (e.g. write chapter 13, re-read chapter 13, etc.). This is also the place where I quick-log my thoughts (“Writing went well! Happy with what I’ve written!”) concerning that day’s writing, or make notes to myself for tomorrow’s writing session. 

Overall, a writing journal is very flexible. You can put a lot of information into it, or just the bare minimum. Either way, the act of writing helps you become more conscious of your process. (Not to mention you’ll have a hard copy to refer back to later on.)

In the end, what matters is how you do it, not what you do. When writing can feel like jumping through loops, take a step back—breathe–and write down what you feel about your writing. Write down what you’d actually like to do in writing. Write down why you write. 

And, in the end, that’s what counts. 

Thank you for reading! What did you think about the post? Do you think you’d like to keep a writing journal now? Or, do you already keep journals? Are you a hybrid writer like me? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

10 Quirks of Being Japanese + My Brainstorming Process

Hullo, world!

I can’t believe in just two weeks, it’ll be Christmas! (I haven’t even considered Christmas shopping, since I almost never do it.) I’ve been working on and off which has been okay and also finished applying to most of the universities, which is relieving. Now I only need to keep up my 3.8-9 GPA intact. 

All life aside, today I’m finally going to be talking to you about my secret inner self…My experience being Japanese!

Yes, that’s right. So many people have asked me over the course of blogging what’s it like being Japanese and living in Tokyo (where I used to live), so I’m going to reveal things Japanese people are thinking all the time. (JK, it only applies to me, in all honesty!)

So without further ado, let me introduce you to the 10 Quirks of Being Japanese… 

1. I love Japanese (the language)

Well, duhhh, obviously. I think Japanese is officially the politest language on earth (you don’t want me to get started on the levels of formalities) and also the serenest. Speaking Japanese most of my life, I didn’t appreciate it as much when I lived in Japan. But once I moved to Canada, I started to see all the wonderful qualities of Japanese. And now that I think about it, maybe I should do another post on introductory Japanese…

What I think Japanese looks like.

2. I love Japan (and living in Japan)

One of the best things about Japan is…well, Japan.

My favourite city, Shinjuku.

Although politics suck almost everywhere on earth, living in Japan has been (for the most part) a very calm experience. I always joke that the Japanese people are hobbits because of  their lack of awareness for security and their love for food. I mean, you’re taught in kindergarten to report any money you find on the street to the police, be it ¥100 ($1) or ¥1,0000 ($100). I also lived in a very old-school Japanese environment with lots of elderly neighbours, so I think my experience living in Tokyo was different from other people’s experience. I mean, I lived in a park which used to be a military training ground in WWII and an Edo-era garden for one of the samurai under Ieyasu. 

The Showa-feel I grew up in.

3. I only really trust made in Japan

I know, I feel bad saying this, but as kids, my siblings and I would inspect our toys to see which one was made in Japan and which ones weren’t. Even from that age we only really trusted made in Japan and studied our toys made elsewhere with wary eyes. Plus, no one bought grocery that wasn’t Japanese grown. Even though now that made in Japan costs a fortune so I can’t be picky about it, seeing a tag that says MADE IN JAPAN fills me with joy. #sorrynotsorry

4. I’m naturally inclined to become an otaku

Yes, I’m busted. I’m crazy about manga like Hetalia, Tokyo Ghoul, The Promised  Neverland, Bungo Stray Dogs, and more recently Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer–which is a terrible translation, since the original means something more like the Demon Destruction Sword…I know, waaay cooler.) 

But what happens is that if you grow up in Japan, you are saturated with manga and  anime everywhere. The highest ranking movie in Japan is anime (No. 1 is Spirited Away, close No. 2  is Demon Slayer Eternity Train). All the cram school brochures are manga. On that point, some instructions are manga. (Okay, that’s stretching it a bit too far, but you get the idea.) 

And almost as much as I love made in Japan, I have pride in the history of manga and anime that I simply can’t stand it when people say anime is not real movie. Like, half the live-action movie in Japan are based off manga. Couple that with the fact I grew up in Osamu Tezuka’s “hometown” where Astro Boy’s theme was the train departure bell, you can’t possibly expect me to become anything other than–well, a natural otaku. 

The iconic scene which made it a box-office hits.

5. I eat Japanese food mostly everyday 

This is not an overstatement since every “western” food we make at our house ends up with a Japanese twist. One example I find hilarious is our Shepherd’s pie. For one thing, half of the meat we replace with tofu bits called okara, which is a left over substance one finds when making tofu. For another, we always use soy sauce as a hidden flavour. Our mac and cheese (or mine, to be exact), includes dashi, lots of veggies, and a hint of bunito. 

To top it off, we make our very own natto–fermented soy beans Kanto-people like us love–and miso. 

Our family dinner look like…

6. My favourite authors include manga artists 

Okay, I feel like I kind of already talked about this in point four, but just to be clear, some manga artists should be considered authors. For example, Osamu Tezuka’s Adolf Ni Tsugu (Message to Adolf) was first published and serialized on Bungeishunjū, a historical and prestigious literature magazine. A manga was serialized on a literature magazine. Guys, just think about this for a moment. And  although Tokyo Ghoul is a bit morbid and somewhat traumatizing (esp. if you’re  younger), the thematic truths and the prose is stunningly beautiful and haunting. It’s not something anyone can write. 

On the side note, I enjoy reading books in Japanese, too, so check out this post if you’re interested in finding out more about Japanese authors I love!

What my favourite Japanese author looks like”

7. Studio Ghibli, Hosoda Mamoru, and Makoto Shinkai are movie creators, not animators

Now I’m definitely being kind of annoying about this point, but bear with me. 🙂 

I know this isn’t the case nowadays and many people respect Japanese anime, but I still occasionally come across people who think anime is for kids. 

Anime is for kids??? *looks at Tokyo Ghoul and the original Nausica manga*

No, my friends, it is not. You might be confusing animated movies with anime, not that I think Dreamworks and Disney aren’t great. (In fact, I love Dreamworks and Pixar!)

But  let’s just agree that some animes, especially ones like Studio Ghibli, are epically and officially movies. 

Just watch one of the Studio Ghibli movies or Your Name, and you will know.

8. Nobunaga Oda is my favourite historical leader

You might not know about him, but please look him up. He’s the famous sengoku daimyō (the sengoku period was from 1467 to 1615) who first unified Japan. He was also a great advocate for Christians, although he wasn’t a Christian himself. His innovative methods and powerful attitude drastically changed Japan’s direction. I always wonder what it would be like if Akechi hadn’t committed treason and Oda hadn’t perished in the Honōji no hen. 

9. I used to loath kanji

Like I hadn’t appreciated the beauty of Japanese until recently, I hadn’t liked the notion of kanji. For those of you who don’t know, Japanese is unique from languages like Korean and Chinese in that we have hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are derived from kanji, but hiragana was born during the Heian period (794 to 1185 AD) amongst the ladies of the court and katakana within the buddhist order during the earlier part of the Heian period. They’re like alphabet  except it’s fifty letters. 

Kanji, on the other hand, is the Japanese version of the Chinese characters, which is the reason I can kind of read and sort of underestand Mandarin. In elementary school, we have to learn 1026 kanji and the various pronunciation we have. 

Yes, this is the reason Japanese kids hate kanji. 

What studying for the Kanji exam looks like

In Chinese characters, I heard there aren’t too many ways to pronounce a certain kanji. But in Japanese, we have both the Chinese pronunciation (on-yomi) and the Japanese pronunciation (kun-yomi). And depending on the kanji applied to it, the way you say a word changes completely…

You can either think it fascinating or excruciating. 

10. Cuteness heals me

And lastly, cuteness heals me. I think this is something that comes from growing up in Japan. You’re automatically surrounded by cute things, whether you’re a salary man or a joshi-kousei (high schooler). And at the end of the day, nothing can give you greater joy than the sumikko gurashi notebook and gudedama stuffy…

Wow, that was long. Maybe you should grab a cup of tea before I jump into the next section?

My Brainstorming Process:

I just started another WIP! It’s top secret, so I won’t tell you much else than the fact it  happens in Japan featuring Tokyo and a pandemic. 

Anyhow. 

This is my brief intro to my brainstorming process.

A: Find two exciting ideas

Like Stephen King once said, a great story is a combination of two exciting ideas. For example, I love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because it combines two exciting ideas–Pride and Prejudice and, well, Zombies. It’s unheard of and utterly scandalous and oddly perfect. 

I usually try to find two exciting ideas (one might be a dream) and build off from there. 

What I wish brainstorming looked like.

B: Write down the basic premise 

This is where I write a rudimentary note about what the story looks like, which can be a sentence or a few paragraphs. It often includes rough character sketches and worldviews of the story. Plus, a conflict of some sort. 

C: Create a Pinterest Board 

I always create a Pinterest Board for any story I write, and this is where I start the visualising my story. I find I can create more when I find  pictures to go with my story, so I’ll set a timer to capture exactly what my story feels like. 

D: Expand

And this is the place I keep building on. I might go back and re-define my premise, or review the ideas and the feel I have for my story. I might create a character playlist, which Brooke writes about in this post. I create as many aspects of this story I need to start writing. Depending on whether I plan or pants or plants, I also write a rough outline at this point. 

Me Brainstorming in a week.

And that’s what my brainstorming process looks like!

This  ended up being kind of long, with me ranting about being Japanese and my Brainstorming process, but thanks for reading!

What  did you think? Are you multi-racial? Do you have any quirks being a certain nationality? What does your brainstorming process look like? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

5 Ways to Write (Without Actually Writing)

Hullo, world!

I must convey to you how happy I am to be writing this post. In the month I took a rest from blogging, I realised just how much I missed it. I’ve actually been blogging for almost five years counting my Japanese and science blogs, and blogging is one thing that sparks joy inside me. 

Anyhow.

Today, I’ll be talking about the 5 Ways to Write (Without Actually Writing). I think a lot of times as writers, we’re pressured to be constantly putting in that word count for your WIP. “Writers write”, right? 

Well, not entirely.

I mean, I’ve done my share of the “writers write” routine where I was writing every day, no matter what. But sometimes, you can’t really “write”. Maybe you’ve started a new WIP, and the ideas are all kind of floating in the air. Maybe you’re suffering from a mild writer’s block. Or a little stuck. 

In these cases, there are 5 things you can do to “write”…without writing.

1: Outlining 

Yup, you heard that right. Regardless of whether you’re a planner or pantser or plantser, you can always work on writing by outlining. Outlining is a great way to sort through the direction of your story. There are also many different ways you can outline, but I would specifically recommend looking at K. M. Weiland’s various outlining methods. A detailed outline can help you work towards your “writing” phase when you are putting in your wordcounts, and also help you not to write incessantly. (Like I did for Woodstone…) It’s like creating a map of words to help you “write” better. 

2: Journalling 

Didn’t see this one coming, did you? I started bujo-ing last May, and the habit has been creeping into other areas of my life. I resumed my diary, began a book review journal, and began journaling for my WIPs. 

Yes, that’s right. I journal for my WIP. There isn’t a direct way I do it, but I usually start with leaving the first two pages for the table of contents, then letting my mind wander the pages and write down any inspirations that come to my mind. This has been a singularly useful way to sort my thoughts (and keep them), as well as figuring out characters and worldbuilding. Which happens to be the next thing on the list…

3: Worldbuilding 

When you are less inclined to write, the one fun thing you can do is to build the world. There are various ways you can go about this regardless of the genre. One thing I love to do is to create a Pinterest board. I like to look for “keyword” + “aesthetic” to get the feeling of the story. Establishing the mood and atmosphere of the story is vital. It’s an important part of your author voice as well. 

Then, I transfer the images to words. I create locations of importance with detailed descriptions. I shift through the “normal world” of the WIP–modern or old, with magic or not–and establish that  “normal world” as a reality in that story. 

Because the more real the story is, the easier it is to write about it. 

I also create a detailed timeline of the story, whether the story spans a month or eighty years. By creating a solid world, you get a better sense of what the story is going to be about. Plus, you get to write while you do it. 

4: Character Sketches

As I mention various parts of writing that do not include direct “writing”, one of the most important things to do is Character Sketches. (And undoubtedly the most exciting thing to do other than actual “writing”.) 

You start with an empty head, a character, and a blank page. Then you write whatever comes to your head. This way, you get to rediscover the person you thought you knew. It works especially well with the antagonists of the story. 

For Juliet, I wrote a short story from the main antagonist’s pov. It helped me deepen his character and understand where he was coming from. It also solved a bunch of plot holes and blank spaces of worldbuilding. 

5: Other WIPs

And lastly, let me just say this: When you can’t “write” your current WIP, it’s perfectly fine to switch to another WIP. 

I was one of those people who resolutely refused to work on another WIP if I was not finished with at least the first draft. 

Me with most WIPs

But sometimes, it doesn’t work that way. And you actually need to switch to another story when the one in front of you isn’t working. Maybe you need to go back to the plotting stage. Or perchance you’re missing an important thematic truth. Whatever the problem may be, sometimes switching to a different genre, a different scene, simply something different, can change your perspective. Then, you can come back to your writing with a fresh eye, and “write”. 

So that’s my perspective on not writing (but kind of writing). 

I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day! 

What do you think? Do you have periods of your writing life when you’re writing (but actually not)? Or vice-versa? What are some other ways you keep writing when you’re not working on you WIP? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!