Dear Diary . . .
A diary, a journal, a memoir or – for the Star Trek fans among us – a personal log. Regardless of the name by which it is called, the intent is still the same: to record our life experiences.
As a writer myself, I am sure it will shock absolutely no one to learn that I keep a journal. For me, journaling serves many purposes, chief among them being the ability to write without worrying about appeasing an audience. When I write in my journal, I am less concerned with proper prose than with just getting my thoughts down on paper. No one’s eyes except mine see it, so I have no one but myself to impress.
While most people never allow another person to peruse their private writings while they are still alive, journals can be a wonderful find for friends and family long after a loved one has departed. I recently finished reading the Auburn McCanta novel “All the Dancing Birds,” in which the main character, who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, writes a series of letters for her children to find after she is gone. The writings talk about how she met their father, her childhood and how it feels to her to be slowly losing her memories and were a source of comfort for her children after her death. Things we often cannot bring ourselves to share while we’re alive often are cherished after our deaths.
There are other reasons for keeping a diary, including as a way to record ideas for future projects. As someone with a creative mind, I often find myself jotting down ideas that may not be fully formed as of yet, but show promise for the future. Some of the best-selling novels that have been published are personal memoirs of sorts, including “The Diary of Anne Frank” and the most recent NY Times best seller “Guantanamo Diary.”
Keeping a journal also can help an individual become more self aware. “One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer and which in a general way are naturally believed, surmised and admitted by you, but which you’ll unconsciously deny when it comes to the point of gaining hope or peace from such an admission,” said Franz Kafka (From Diaries, 1910-1923).
Another useful purpose for a personal log is to reflect on one’s past and grow from the many experiences. One of my favorite things to do – especially during times when I’m finding myself whining about a particular circumstance – is to go back and read some of my old journals. The mind is a funny thing. It can choose to remember an event years after its actual occurrence, or totally wipe it from existence. Reading my old journals reminds me of where I’ve been, where I’ve gone and where I’ve yet to go. It can be quite reassuring to reacquaint myself with events that, at the time, I felt I surely would not survive – yet here I am, still making my way in the world and being all the more the better for it.
If you’ve never tried keeping a diary, it’s never too late to start. I prefer to keep a handwritten log, which can seem like an outdated practice in a world where everything has become computerized. For me, there is nothing quite like the feel of my pen as it glides across a fresh piece of paper. I also keep my journals dated, as I have many of them and it’s easier to reference them when they are in some semblance of order.
It’s important to write about everything and anything in your journal. And on days when you feel you have nothing relevant to record, don’t feel pressured to come up with something just for the sake of writing that day. And last but not least, if you truly do not want prying eyes to read your written thoughts, it is probably best to keep your journal hidden away.
Have your own tips for keeping a personal diary? Feel free to share them here in the comments section. And until next time, happy journaling.
Blogger’s Note: I am going to venture a bit from my usual content to provide a review of a new indie book I had the privilege of reading recently. Indie and self-published authors often do not get the recognition they deserve, so I would like to do this more often. I have read many good indie and self-pub books over the last year and am going to start writing reviews every so often. If you are the author of an indie or self-pub book and would like me to review it on my blog, please let me know.
“Life is like licking honey off a thorn.”
To say that is a mild understatement about the world in which Solo now finds himself living would be a mild understatement. The main character in author Mike Kilroy’s new book, “Solo,” finds himself bouncing between two realities in a desperate search for his past.
It’s clear from the very beginning of this book – which finds the title character romancing a mannequin in an abandoned department store – that Solo is not quite right. While readers will identify his quirkiness right from the get-go, it won’t become apparent until later in the book that Solo might be far more than just a little different than everyone else – he might just be a monster.
Solo travels from a post-apocalyptic world known as the After – where roughly 99 percent of the population has disappeared without warning or explanation – to a mental ward in the Before, where he struggles desperately to figure out why he is there and whether he is the kind of monster who simply has forgotten that he is a monster.
While Solo travels between the After and the Before, he doesn’t remember much about his life in the Before. Bits and pieces of memories flood his mind, none of them good. An abusive, drunken father and visions of mutilated animals and violent confrontations with others, fill most of his flashbacks of his life in the Before. There’s also a girl named Lydia who Solo affectionately refers to as Eye Lids. He knows she is important to him and has been a constant in his life – but he can’t remember the exact nature of their relationship. Are they lovers? Friends? Family?
In the After, Solo makes his way through the deserted wasteland with a friend named Tom, a survivalist with a blunt personality who spits out folksy one-liners in an attempt to cope with the post-apocalyptic world in which they find themselves.
As he bounces back and forth between the two realities in a desperate attempt to remember who he is and which reality is real, his world slowly starts to unravel. Solo is left to face the fact that searching for the truth isn’t always the best approach if the truth about who you are is too horrible to comprehend.
I first had the opportunity to read this book when the author made a shorter version of it available online for free. Each week, Kilroy made available a new chapter of the book for readers who had decided to join Solo on his journey. Each week, when I finished the new chapter, I found myself impatient for the next installment to arrive. So when I heard Kilroy was going to expand the book and make it available in print and online, of course I had to have a copy. And I must say that I was not disappointed with the expanded version.
Before I say what it is I really liked about this book, I think it’s important to explain that I am not generally a fan of the science fiction or fantasy genre. I prefer to read mystery and crime novels. However, after stumbling upon the shortened version of this book online, I knew I had to expand my horizons and give it a chance.
My favorite part of this entire book has to be the bizarre plot line. As a writer myself, I often find myself disappointed when I’ve figured out the intended twists and turns of a book long before I ever reach the end of it. I can honestly say that was not a problem with Solo. Just when I thought I had figured it out – BAM! – Kilroy would pull a fast one and totally leave me speechless. I don’t want to give too much away in this review, but trust me when I say that readers will never see the ending coming.
Kilroy also did an excellent job fleshing out his characters. Even though Solo is more than a bit weird, readers can’t help but fall in love with him and will find themselves rooting for him, regardless of whether he ends up being a monster. The other characters we meet along the way – Tom, Mar, Brown Robe Guy and Eye Lids – are equally well developed. Kilroy injects a unique personality – along with some utterly fabulous nicknames – into each and every one of his characters.
There are a lot of flashbacks in this book, not just between the Before and After, but also memory flashbacks Solo has of his past life. It can be a tricky thing to bounce between present and past so frequently within a book, but Kilroy manages to pull it off without leaving readers confused.
I would like to offer up some constructive criticism for this author, but am finding it difficult to do so. If I am honest about it, there is not much about this book that I would have changed had I written it myself. For an indie book, it is both well written and edited. My only disappointment with the book was that it ended too soon. I could have read on and on about these characters for another hundred pages and not found myself tiring of them.
There are a few slightly disturbing scenes in the book that may make it inappropriate for younger readers, so parents will have to be the judge of whether this book is suitable for their young reader. I definitely recommend this book for fans of the science fiction and fantasy genre. I also recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, a well-written plot and characters with plenty of personality. Even if, like me, you are not inclined to read this genre, give Solo a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Check out this author’s other books: The 17 and Nine Meals.
Improve Your Website
It is hardly a secret that having a website is a vital tool for growing a business. Yet, as of the writing of this blog posting, 75.2 percent of all businesses – with 55 percent of that accounting for small businesses – still do not have websites according to the most recent U.S. Census data available.
That data, which included information from 14.4 million businesses, indicates that only 3.5 million of those businesses had a website. According to a report from Interconnected World, 61 percent of all global internet users research products and services online prior to buying, which creates a unique dilemma for businesses without an online presence. It places them at a distinct disadvantage with their competitors in attracting new clientele.
However, heeding the advice of professionals and creating a website does not guarantee a business will flourish overnight. A website is only as good as its design and its content. In our last blog post, we discussed how to determine the effectiveness of a website. If analytics routinely indicate that the website is not engaging its users, there are steps that can be taken to help boost its performance.
The most important thing that can be done to improve the traffic to any website is to provide quality content. Gone are the days when search engines like Google based website ranking on special code website developers could include during the development stage that allowed the website to be found. Now, most search engines base rankings on content, and the fresher the content, the better.
Providing visitors to your website with quality articles that address their needs is ideal. For example, if the website is for a pest control company, articles that address the various ways to eliminate pests from homes and businesses, as well as information about the kinds of products used in the process, would be appropriate. Not only will this kind of quality content help the website to rank better in search engines, it also will engage readers enough to keep them on your website for more than a few minutes.
A caveat where content is concerned: it’s not enough to simply provide quality content. Fresh content must also be provided in order to stay at the top of the search engines. A great way to accomplish that is through a blog. Businesses can use their blogs as a resource for customers and other visitors. An informative blog – one that is about more than just tooting your own horn – will keep readers coming back to your website, which will improve your website rankings.
Once you have produced great content on a user-friendly website, use social media to promote it. Twitter is designed for short links, whereas Facebook and Google+ lend themselves to more extensive information and links. LinkedIn also is becoming more popular among business and industry for sharing content, so don’t be afraid to post something from your website’s blog to your company’s LinkedIn account as well. You will reach an entirely different demographic, and increase your chances of another professional in your business linking your unique content to their website or social media feed. It’s also important to provide RSS feeds on your website so that users can sign up and automatically receive an email or text when new content is posted.
Have tips for our readers or personal stories about how you improved your website? Feel free to share in the comments section, or send us your information via the Contact feature.
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.