AH: What Writing Means to Me

Hullo, world!

It’s finally feeling a bit like summer. Yesterday, we went out for a picnic for Canada Day. I had a marvellous time there and hope to do it again. ⸜( ´ ꒳ ` )⸝♡︎

Today, I wanted to share with you one of my all-time favourite authors. Her name is Ayako Miura, and what I find remarkable about her is that she’s a Christian author who wrote explicitly Christian themes and still left a mark in the Japanese literary world. Her most famous work, Hyōten (Freezing Point), set in Hokkaido, won a literary award and was dramatised countless times and was also made into movies in Japan and overseas. Many of her works are only available in Japanese only, which I find somewhat depressing, but hey, maybe it’s that time to learn Japanese!

Jokes aside, I recently came across her essay/reflective work, What Writing Means to Me. The first part is mainly a reflection on some of her famous works. The second part talks about her writing philosophy as a Christian author. The last part featured her thoughts on famous Japanese authors like Akutagawa, Dazai, and Ichiyō. What I thought I’ll do is to share some of the quotes that spoke to me from the second section. 

So, without further ado, let me introduce to you Ayako Miura’s What Writing Means to Me!

Disclaimer: I’ve done my best to translate as closely as possible, but any errors/misinterpretations are my fault. I also add an honorific “sensei” at the end, which we usually do for teachers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, authors, and anyone we respect. ୧꒰*´꒳`*꒱૭✧

i. “First, pray.”

This is the basic. If writing is God’s will, He will take care of the rest. 

This was her husband’s advice given to her on the night the story of Hyōten came to her, Miura-sensei writes. He told her it was alright to write as long as she prayed and this has remained central to her writing. What I thought was really remarkable was how Miura-sensei calls her occupation as an author a “writing ministry”. To her, writing is an evangelical mission…which is easily seen in her works that features many challenging theological themes that have continued to intrigue and uplift Christians and non-Christians alike. Prayer is the foundation to build this writing ministry. 

ii. “When writing a novel, I start with what moved me the most.”

If it does not move you, it cannot move the readers. What makes the reader cry, I have cried more over. 

“Faith literature”, Miura-sensei says, “is to entrust your faith into the novel when writing. So it cannot be simply laying out the facts–you must embody faith through your stories and characters.” Again, I love how Miura-sensei uses the word “faith literature” when talking about her work. Something I’ve always struggled with in my writing is the degree of explicitness my faith should be–should I implicitly write it in? What does being explicitly Christian even mean? But through Miura-sensei’s book, I came to realise that the reason her books seem to knock the breath right out of me is that she writes grounded in the Bible. She writes about how the world is one of confusion, and when she comes across a beautiful Biblical concept, she wants to share them with people the way you might want to share tasty food with a loved one. To her, it comes out as faith literature. 

iii. “Next, I write ‘the world I know the most’.”

That is, to “write your problems”. 

As a teacher, Miura-sensei struggled with coming to terms with the abrupt change in the teaching style during and after WWII. This was actually foundational to her journey to faith, so many of her works feature teachers and the limits they have when they come across complicated family situations/moral dilemmas. She also battled many illnesses and spent a long time in hospitals and around doctors, which she attributes as being influential to “her world”. 

I think a lot of writers lose heart when they’re told to write “what they know”. But really, what that means is to write “what matters to you”. What matters to me will come to matter to people because chances are, we all struggle with similar problems. For Miura-sensei, she started with her problems and went deeper by researching/interviewing to see what else she could talk about. And this is what “writing the world I know most” looks like. 

iv. “Lastly, if you have started a story, you must finish it.”

Even if it’s a wonderful novel, if it is half-written, it cannot be published. 

This, Miura-sensei writes, is the most important thing when it comes to writing a novel. Miura-sensei also writes about the importance of keeping a journal. When keeping a journal, you must come to face yourself, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. To continue this process, she writes, is what makes us grow as persons. 

I used to have no trouble finishing my wips and used to write stories as presents to friends and families. (Now, I think they were too nice to me, but that’s beside the point.) Some were long, some were short. But the point was that I finished them, so people could read them. 

Now, I have more trouble finishing the work I started. I have grand designs and themes and piles after piles of words, but they’re unfinished–and hence, unreadable. Whenever I feel like I won’t see the end to my current wip, I can remember Miura-sensei’s words… “Even if it’s rough, if it’s written, it’s a novel.” 

And with that in mind, let us keep writing. ( ᐢ˙꒳​˙ᐢ )

Thank you for reading! Have you heard of Ayako Miura? Do you have an author you respect from the bottom of your heart? What are some of the advice from Miura-sensei that spoke to you? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

AH: Writing From Rest

Hullo, world!

It’s finally April, meaning spring, aka my favourite season of the year. It seems like spring is exploding everywhere around me, not to mention there are actually sunny days. *insert gasps & fervent hopes it will stay* I can’t believe my academic year is coming to an end soon, either…it felt so short!! 

Anyhow. 

Lately, with so many things coming to a close, it feels like I’m finally starting to get the idea of writing from rest. It’s a mindset, a posture, a practice. And today, I’ll be talking a bit about how I try to keep this in my heart even when it gets dizzyingly busy. 

So without further ado, let me present to you, AH–Writing From Rest

But wait…what does “writing from rest” mean??

Good question! For me, it would mean:

Writing-from-rest

/ˈrīdiNG – frəm – rest/

verb

  • Writing from a leisurely manner/state; creating from a space of rest
  • the mindset of writing (as outlined above)

i) Sleeping earlier & waking up earlier. 

Something that has greatly helped me in writing from rest is sleeping earlier and waking up earlier. 

And before those of you who are not morning persons run away, hear me out:

I think that we can all agree that writing takes energy. The act of creating something out of distinct, arbitrary 26-letters is not something to be taken lightly of. I won’t pull out the research on the benefits of sleeping earlier or waking up earlier, but one thing I personally find is that it does help restore my creative energy. 

In the morning, where nothing has really happened yet to clutter the mind or sap one’s energy, it becomes much easier to focus on my writing, and that only. Starting from a blank piece of paper, physically, mentally, and spiritually, can help you relax and let your imagination roam free. 

> Practical steps to take:

  • Go to bed 15~30 minutes earlier than you usually do. Turn off your phone 15~30 minutes before going to bed
  • Set an alarm for 5~15 minutes earlier than you usually wake up
  • Set out the clothes you are going to wear the next day by your bed. As soon as you wake up, take this to the washroom/wherever you go after waking up & get changed!
  • Put the kettle on. Make yourself a cup of tea or simply hot water. Drinking something first thing in the morning lets your body know you’re awake!

ii) Setting up a morning routine. 

Another thing that might be super controversial, but has helped me nevertheless, is having a solid morning routine. (Well, more or less solid…but later on this.) 

When I say morning routine, don’t think you have to do what I do, or a set thing that another influencer might do. You do your own thing. Which, I think, is the whole point of having a morning routine–a set of things you do that helps you wake up refreshed & become ready to face a new day

My morning routine looks more or less the following:

  • Wake up & get changed
  • Put the kettle on. (As advertised earlier!)
  • Light a candle & do my morning devotions
  • Listen to worship music & make breakfast/lunch to take to school
  • Get ready for university!

> Practical steps to take:

  • Brainstorm. What are some things that help you feel refreshed & energised in the morning? List out three of the things that help you do this.
  • Make a plan. From the list of three things that help you in the morning, think of ways to make it even easier to do–for example, if you plan to run in the morning, can you get your running gears in place? If you plan to do devotions, maybe already have your Bible (& notebooks, or other resources) in an accessible place–like on your desk, by your bed, etc.
  • Don’t be stressed. As I pointed out earlier, the whole point of having a morning routine is to help you feel refreshed & ready for the new day. Don’t feel like you’ve failed first thing in the morning even if you can’t follow along with your routine perfectly. They’re more like…guidelines in the first place! Feel free to change up the order, cut out some of the things, etc. 

iii) Being okay with the day’s writing. 

Lastly, be okay with the amount of writing you get done on that day. Maybe you wake up earlier and you are able to squeeze in a writing block in the morning. Maybe you’re like me and have to go somewhere, so the only writing block you get are the in-between times of classes, work, etc. Maybe you won’t have any time to write in the morning, OR later on. 

But the important thing is–being okay with it. One of the most important things about writing from rest is having a calmer, rested mindset from where you create. It does not have to be a solid hour of writing with everything perfectly falling in place. It can be the five minutes of quick journaling, three minutes of working out in your head about a particular scene, or a minute of Pinterest scrolling. (Yes, don’t be so aghast that I just endorsed Pinterest scrolling. It’s called brainstorming!) Whatever you get to do on that day, it counts as writing as long as you are putting your mental energy into it. Just take a deep breath, turn off your phone for a bit, and let your creativity take place. 

> Practical steps to take:

  • Schedule a writing block. Find a time in your day that you can fit your writing into. Remember, it doesn’t have to be long!
  • Plan to do one thing in that writing block. It can be simple as “make character profiles” or “write one paragraph”. Or, you can be more ambitious and set up wordcount goals. Just remember to be happy with what you get done!
  • Write down your thoughts about that writing session. This also does not have to be long. It can be one sentence, like, “I’m happy with what I wrote!” or “I feel like I want to write more.” I keep my thoughts, progress, and goals in my writing journal, which you can read more about here: 3 Steps to Start a Writing Journal

And that’s it for today!

Thank you for reading! What did you think? Do you practise writing from rest? Are you a morning person (or want to be one)? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you! 

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!