Happiness is a New Journal

Every spring, I kick myself for not starting a journal at the beginning of January, and then I remember I’ve been doing this blog for fourteen (?) years and that’s kind of like journaling, although I don’t publish the dark side of my life because who needs that? and besides I’m trying to project an air of competence and calm here, not scream into the night in despair and longing.

Where was I? Oh, right, happiness.

So I decided this week that since 2020 was such a cesspit, I’m throwing all of it out. Well, not the stuff I was writing, but the baggage that comes with it, the growing certainty that I’m a shallow mediocre writer, and the even stronger certainty that this cottage that I love is going to fall in on my head and kill me. Story of my life: Love gone wrong.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, reboot of my life through journaling.

So this year I’m going to start thinking about things in a new way, so I’ve sent for a journal and I’m going to write something every day that makes me look at things diffferently, although some of those days are probably going to be just “God, today sucked.” Of course, I’ve been trying to journal every year since I was twelve and got one of those white leatherette diaries with a lock and key, and I never follow through, but THIS YEAR I found a Christian Lacroix journal and it’s fabulous, or at least I hope it will be when it finally gets here. It was expensive, given that you can find journals for four bucks at Walmart, but this is COLLAGE, (go here to see it in all of its expensive glory), it has pop-ups in it, it comes with STICKERS.

Yes, I am four years old. What’s your point?

My point is that sometimes happiness is ridiculous and when it comes you must embrace it whole heartedly, especially the ridiculous parts. Everything in my life that has made me manic with happiness has been ridiculous, and even if it turned dark later, the rush in the beginning was worth it. The journal isn’t even HERE yet, and already I’m typing in ALL CAPS.

A ridiculous journal made me ridiculously happy this week and sparked BIG PLANS for 2021.

What made you happy this week?

122 thoughts on “Happiness is a New Journal

  1. Most of my Romancing the Runoff spoils came in the mail this week, so that was great.

    I had a Walter Matthau double feature of THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 and A NEW LEAF.

    And I was scrolling through Courtney Milan’s Twitter feed, where she shared this (she is a massive fan of figure skating): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rPyVS8ZS-U&t=213s

    I know absolutely nothing about figure skating, yet I’ve still watched it multiple times and will certainly watch it again. Even in my ignorance I can tell this skater is great. Also there’s just something about it that is infectiously happy.

      1. Oh that was fun!! Thank you for the link. I may need to go and find more skating now…

        1. That was fabulous. Coincidentally, I’ve been disappearing down the ice skating video rabbit hole this past week, too. This is the one I’ve been rewatching over and over again


          And it got me into a whole lot of Metallica covers, too, including an amazing one of Nothing Else Matters by Shakira, and a Mongolian metal cover of Sad But True by The Hu.

    1. Yuzu (as his fans call him) is one of the top male figure skaters in the world. He is always worth watching.

    2. A New Leaf is one of my all-time favorites. It’s so dark and yet so ridiculously romantic.
      One of my favorite parts is where he’s cutting the price tags off her clothes. It reminds me of the “beets, beets, beets” scene in Two Weeks Notice. Just the level of comfort they’ve achieved without realizing it.

      I really need to see that again.

        1. His horror when she described that drink was so funny. And then he had to tell his butler to get what they needed to make it. “Lower your eyebrows, I told you she was primitive.”

    3. My mother died about the time A New Leaf came out. I remember taking my 13-year-old sister to see it at the drive-in and laughing till we cried at something that happened in it, but I can’t recall what. I just remember her laughing uproariously in a spring that didn’t contain much laughter.

  2. I love journals. I think the trick is – don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
    I have one of those 5 year journals where you can see what you wrote the year before on the same day and it’s helpful for spotting patterns (usually just when my allergies pop up, but I’m sure some people have more interesting patterns!). It’s also nice (in a way) b/c there’s only room for a few lines so I don’t think I have to write anything particularly long or interesting. Sometimes, it’s just -“Yoga. Rain. Bleah.” etc.

    I also sometimes journal when I’m stuck in a writing project. Something about writing by hand and knowing I’m the only one going to see it helps me break through. I got that idea from Sue Grafton’s website, who swore by it. For years, I thought it was just a waste of time and I should be “actually writing” but then I was really stuck and tried it out of desperation and it worked! I just start talking myself through the project, what I like, what I don’t like. What I know needs to be done, even if I’m not sure how to get it done. And usually it clicks and words start to flow. Even if they don’t, I usually feel less crappy about being stuck. Brainstorming and mindmapping don’t work for me, personally, but this does.

    As much as I love Christmas, taking down the Christmas tree made me happy. We got ours early and it was a real one, so it was time. Welcome to the Family (Benvinguts a La Familia) on Netflix is making me happy and not just b/c it is a chance to practice my Catalan. It is kind of black comedy w/over the top farcical moments (okay, yeah I love those too, I am what I am) but my favorite thing is that the protagonist is a middle aged single mom who fiercely loves her kids and is trying to keep everything together even though she is very imperfect. And she has two love interests (!), but I already have my favorite 😉

    1. A five year journal, what a great idea! I never thought of that. I have just bought one.
      I have a Hobonichi, I have been using it both for work and a little bit of journalling but I don’t like to mix the two.
      This is the perfect solution. I like to print small pics on sticky back paper and just write a few lines or a quote from a book on the day I read it. This is going to be great. Can’t wait to start using it. It’s arriving on December 31 so I’ll be able to start it with the New Year.

  3. I love journals. I probably own at least a dozen of different sizes and shapes, many of which have writing only on the first page. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten past day three on any of them. For one thing, frankly, my life is boring. I mean, not to me–I’m never bored–but how many times can you write, “Got up, fed the cats, bad pain day, went to work, ran errands, checked on emails, took a nap, fed cats, ate X for dinner, wrote”?

    It’s not that I don’t have deep thoughts. I just don’t have any inclination to write them down. Because not only do I not keep up with journals, I never go back and reread them. So I guess I just like pretty books.

    1. if you are interested, I found julie Camerons The Artist Way to be very helpful for journal writing .. she recommends that you write something called Morning pages every morning.. that is what i use my journal for and it is free form .. just kinda imaginary, creative stuff.. maybe a bit of unrelated dialogue or scenery .. or just rambling disconnected sentences..

    2. I can’t get past day 3 either. I only keep trip journals now, which are great fun to read because the early days are fraught with my chaos and frantic gathering. By day 5 entries get MUCH smaller and by the end they’re often very brief: restaurants and food, notes on odd, special things I’ve seen/heard. On a daily basis that translates well to month-at-a-glance pocket-size calendars. Succinct! Side margins are big enough to hold technical details like restaurant addresses, museum details, venues etc. And easy to refer back to.
      But even then I lapse (sigh). 2020 has a lot of white spaces, but obviously not just due to lapses. Here’s to 2021!

  4. I can’t write on a journal. Out seems like the thing everyone is constantly urging me to do, but I just can’t. Last year I did an art journal which was much more fun. This year I did not.

    But on Christmas Eve and Christmas I put together three bookshelves, unpacked all my art supplies, and started painting. And that made me happy. Even though I realized how out of shape I am, despite walking daily. How can crouching on the floor to put a bookshelf together be so taxing? I’m still sore. Worth it though.

  5. In August a rheumatologist gave me the assignment to record mouth/throat problems every day and bring the journal to my appointment in February 2021. I haven’t found a journal yet, let along recorded anything.

    Jenny, please keep the faith that you are an amazing author! Once a writer, always a writer is my opinion. And you continue to write pieces I love and you write them well.

    Actually, Christmas is making me happy. No big, stressful parties; instead, lots of pleasant phone conversations. Manageable planning, shopping, cooking, and housekeeping. Instead of lobster tails, a huge beef rib roast, and extremely hearty sides, I served crown of lamb rib roast with asparagus and green beans. I slept Christmas afternoon and pretty much all day the 26th (and finished the last of the Hornblower series, Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies. Good stuff).

    Now I can start reading the books I was given at Christmas!

  6. “…The growing certainty I am a shallow, mediocre writer…”

    Jenny Cruise, you go wash your mouth out with soap RIGHT NOW!!! I don’t ever want to hear those words again. For shame. 😡

    Seriously. You’re telling this to people who would read your shopping list and think, oh, hey, what can’t I write that well???

    However, I really would like to have a new Cruise on the market to throw my money at. Preferably Surprise Lily…

    1. Great advice! ;). I know you don’t want to belabor this Jenny but I just have a couple of points I’ve wanted to bring up for a while and this seems like a good opportunity.

      For me, your books aren’t romances unless romances are defined as relationships between a person and the people in her life. “Tell Me Lies” was my first book of yours and boy did it cover the gamut. Mother and daughter, (both up and down–I don’t have children but I was sobbing out loud on page 342 when Maddie couldn’t even hold the phone after hearing Em was NOT kidnapped), friends–especially female but also male, one’s self (working on on developing a finely-honed sense of anger myself now), and of course lovers (I’ll probably loan a few copies of your books to my nephews as examples of the kind of men that girls would fall in love with). And there’s a big picture, a big arc(?) aspect to your books that’s subtle and lingers long after I put down the books. That’s why I’m kind of interested in “Nita.” Does Nick finally evolve through his lives to better understand and appreciate women? But no pressure–I’ll wait until you’re satisfied it’s done.

      And lastly, do you like Aaron Sorkin’s writing? A secret wish of mine is to read/watch you two banter. It’d have to be on a topic that you disagree on, which might be hard to come up with though… Maybe a collaboration then…

      But take care of the freaking falling down cottage for pete’s sake!

      1. I love Sorkin’s writing until he tries a love story. Then he face plants. But such great dialogue.

        1. Ah ha! Collaboration then! Rewrite–maybe I mean a whole new treatment of the shrew trope–of Taming of the Shrew? or His Girl Friday wising up and giving conniving Cary Grant a run for his money?

          YOU do great dialogue. Now I’m thinking you don’t need Sorkin.

          1. No. No. and a million times NO to the taming of the shrew. The last time I saw it was at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival and the acting and stagecraft were superb. But it clarified that Kate had serious psychological issues. And that the relationship was seriously abusive – Both mentally and physically. When the play was over, my husband said “Let’s not do this again”.

          2. But Ten Things I Hate About You is good. And the ShakespeaReborn version is fabulous. Two damaged people finding each other and defying the world at the end. Yes, Shakespeare’s original is patriarchal as hell, but the underlying story is about two people who are so hemmed in by their societies that they’re rebelling and out of control and then find a new society in each other that brings peace and love.

  7. I’m considering doing a quilting journal – partly to be able to see my progress (even when it feels like there is none), and partly to encourage me to take the time to actually *do* some quilting each day (it helps my mental health enormously, and I know that I really should take the time, but other stuff sometimes pushes it out of the way, you know?)

    We had the best Christmas we have had for probably the past decade. It was just absolutely lovely in every way (although I do apparently need to work on my skill at roasting vegetables – they were edible, but could be better – goals for next year…).

    And I’m currently sitting here typing this with glorious sunshine streaming through the window (which always makes me feel better).

    1. I’ve lost track of how many quilts I’ve made, but I started out keeping a three-ring notebook with a page for each one, with a picture, the design sketch, dimensions, inspiration, who it was made for, etc. I kind of got out of the habit over the years though.

      What I do now is keep a more general log of what I’ve done (using a quad-ruled composition book), so that at the end of the week/month/year I can see that I’ve done more than I thought I had. I do highlight summaries at the end of each month and then at the end of the year.

      I’ve also adopted the one element of bullet journaling that works for me — I have pages in the front of the log that are set aside for a table of contests and ongoing lists, mostly for my quilts and my published books. For my quilts page, I have a chart (the quad ruling comes in handy) for when each one was started, a description, then when the piecing was finished, the quilting was finished, and the whole thing was finished (binding, dealing with loose threads), and who the recipient was. I sometimes note the general size (like lap quilt or bed quilt). That way eventually I have a log of completed quilts, with a list of unfinished projects, and I can also see that some of them take ten (or more) years before I finish, and other ups and downs of my quilting.

      1. I’ve got a couple of binders with quilt info, including snippets of fabric, etc. I let that lapse over the past couple of years. I really should get that back and going.

    2. Just imagine all the fun you can have trying new combinations of vegetables before the next holiday. Yum!

    3. Yes, Frances! Quilting journal. Do it! Scraps of fabrics, sketches, anything you want. Even how you were feeling about life, the universe, everything while you were doing it (if you want). My Dear Jane quilting journal (done) has 10 years worth of work and emotions in it.

      1. I do already do a spreadsheet with a very practical checklist of where I’m up to with my various UFOs/WIPs, but I fancy playing with a little more whimsy.

        So I’ve ordered 2 pretty diaries for next year – one for ‘normal’ (in my case noting cute things my DS has done, rather than Deep Thoughts), and one for quilting, purely to note progress made on things. It will be of absolutely no interest to anyone but me, but then that doesn’t matter. I doubt my ‘normal’ diary would be of any interest to anyone else either (maybe DS in years to come, maybe/probably not). But I’m not doing it for anyone else’s benefit, I’m doing it for mine 🙂

        So we’ll see what happens (and if I make it past Day 3, lol)

  8. The only journaling I’ve done was the few years I really scrapbooks. It bring back goodmemories, but I don’t have the energy to do it again.

    I had a good holiday made better by my brother arriving. I’m sad he is only staying a week instead of the usual two weeks.

  9. I am in total agreement with Betty – you and an amazing writer as evidenced by your books and blog posts.

    We had a quiet, relaxing Christmas. Connected with family and close friends by Zoom, FaceTime and text. DH cooked our half turkey to perfection and the three of us enjoyed each other’s company.

    Called my eldest niece earlier in the week to wish her Merry Christmas. She told me that talking with me reminded her of “talking to Grammy” (my mother, who died 5 years ago). So sweet and made me cry.

  10. Lol! I’m 12 years old!

    I get a regular 288 page lined and margined A4 book and journal spottily in it for about 3 years. And then I start a new one.

    I stick notes, pictures, articles, in it when I need to remember something I wrote on scraps of paper or read in hardcopy somewhere. These make me very happy. Especially since I don’t use a new book every year, I can track changes if I need to. This will come in handy with the monthly habit tracker I’ve been using sometimes since September or 2019. The aim is to be much more structured this NEW year.

    The covers are covered with wrapping paper with very well balanced visuals pasted on, of the things that I want for myself, a living vision board, if you will.

    I’ve come into a spare A4 book this year and probably will start a new journal because there aren’t enough to last 2021 and it’d be good to start clean.

  11. Dear Jenny, how come I’m faced with so many people being overly critical with themselves?

    Your books – the backlist as well as the current projects and ideas – give joy. They are full of inspiration. Full of communities of interesting people I’d LOVE to know personally. Plus interesting details:
    We’d never have introduced Reuben sandwiches in our staple of winter dishes (Reuben are basically unknown in my part of the world although sauerkraut is not) and I’d never have got interested in cooking stir-fries (not being a great cook myself). The first whisky my husband got himself ever was a Glenfiddich on our first trip to Scotland – all thanks to Gabe.
    I would have loved to make our chairs into works of art and our first mini was named Steve after the goofy dachshund in Faking it. To name a few direct influences into our life. Only a few authors’ books ever had such an influence.

    Your books are wonderful and for me feel like a warm blanket whenever I feel like I need one. Because the kindness and passion, wit and great spirit of their creator shines through. A creator who lets us readers learn soooo much about the process of creating a fine story. And who is a tad too strict on herself imho.

    So many books are successful but really not well written nor intelligent and their creators don’t seem to think badly of themselves. And many of those mediocre ones I’ve read lately/in the past nevertheless got 5-star-reviews.
    It’s fine to have a high standard for oneself but one shouldn’t regard oneself as being mediocre. Ever!!

    Sorry, soap box.
    I’ve spent what feels like half of today with kid no. 1 of mine who is overly critical with himself, too.
    What does one do with a teenager who sets himself against standards that are way too high? Who doesn’t seem to be able to focus on the many great character traits he has, but has endless energy to talk himself into a deep pit of criticism after the tiniest trigger words? Who only sees himself as a loser compared to everyone else while in fact this is only due to his point of view? And his tendency to relinquish his feeling of self-worth to others? Which is always a bad idea.

    Did I do something wrong as his mother that he doesn’t *see* himself – a lovely and intelligent person, kind and well loved?
    Our school system isn’t helping (comparing, pointing out what’s lacking instead of what’s fine already, instead of giving support). Grades so often don’t reflect the talents of a kid/young person.
    All I can do is to be there for him and remind him that he’s so much more than his overly critical image of himself.

    In these moments, hours, days, being a parent sucks.

    So I find it difficult to say what made me happy lately.
    Yet: Spending time with the loved ones did. Spending a whole day with my parents did. Spending time with my husband does. Having a shoulder to cry on does make me feel glad if not quite happy.

    Lastly – journals:
    After watching Dash & Lily I couldn’t refrain from getting a red notebook. I don’t have a Lily to share it with. And sometimes I think why bother – nobody will ever be interested in what I ever thought. But journaling means being in a dialogue with myself, so it counts, if for nothing else.
    I might also use it as diary of books – some books just need to be commented on at least to myself.

    Sorry for this less than happy entry.

    1. You know that “nobody will ever be interested in what I thought” bit? That’s where I am, too, and I think you just scolded me for thinking like that and tried to convince your son not to think like that and . . .

      Maybe it’s just too much time spent in lockdown. I definitely have seen more of my navel than necessary.

      1. I would never want to scold you!!
        Just reassure you that we might think nobody is interested when in fact we don’t know. In your case there are definitely quite a number of avid readers out there that ARE.

        But lockdown makes everything hard really hard.
        So be kind on yourself, please.

        And the journal is quirky and great btw.

    2. Dodo, I’ve been through this phase of parenting and it’s hard. It’s hard to stand by and not being able to communicate with your child in a way that is encouraging and uplifting. Not being able to change the system for a better fit. Thinking you can’t give what is needed. It’s a marathon, too, not a short sprint.

      But one day, suddenly, I realized that things were changing. In tiny baby steps, but changing. Now my kids are grown up. When I turned 50 (a long time ago), they gave me a book full of memories and letters, and I could finally read how much they appreciated my efforts – not always at the time, but later. It was the best gift I ever received and yes, not every mom gets this in writing. But don’t stop looking for the small signs of change. It takes patience, but I wish you and your kid the best.

    3. I have a niece (now in her late 20’s like this). Nothing and no one can convince her that she is a wonderful, talented, adored person. She has struggled with depression and ADHD since she was a kid. Her twin sister, raised in the same home by the same parents, is happy and successful. It’s not the parenting. Sometimes it is just the way the brain is wired. Hugs.

      1. Yes, during the past few years that’s what I deduced. I’m learnkng. Also to be more relaxed about things out of my control.
        Kids also are quite the mirror. Kid no. 1 does have many of my own traits… kid no. 2 thankfully not so much…

    4. For people who have a hard time believing anything good about themselves, is it helpful to ask for statements in pairs? One “negative,” and then one “positive”?

      It’s the reverse of the typical writers’ group critique method, where you point out something that works and then something that needs work. But maybe acknowledging the sucky stuff first will make it easier to recognize the non-sucky stuff.

      1. Yep, we’ve tried a “tell me 3 good things” approach when all I got was whining or negative stuff. The daughter took to it but then she’s the more positive one anyway.
        I definitely have to remind myself to continue with this consistently.

  12. Happiness is reading Bet Me once again, on a not exactly happy Christmas Eve and Day, and seeing more things in it I missed. Because Jennifer Crusie writes layers, and hides surprises/clues. Diana laughed at everything Tony said when she first met him, for instance. Jennifer also writes multiple plot lines, which continually astounds me. This does not strike me as shallow, mediocre writing, on which I do not waste my time.

    I got a new journal for Christmas and will use it, though the cover doesn’t please me. I am a sporadic journal writer. I use it to work through things, say what I can’t tell friends. At the end of the year, I reread that year’s entries and look for patterns/trends/stuff I missed in living through it at the time. Most often I see why I was so tired! I’ve been journaling since elementary school, when I had one of those five-year journals, and really did write every day. Now my daily practice is Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages–I’m a total convert.

  13. That journal reminds me of the Green Fairy bit in ‘Moulin Rouge.’ 🙂

    Happy was: short work-week; nice Christmas Day with the Mr.; getting prep done and first-coat of Rustoleum Flat White on the shabby gate alongside the house; getting the volunteer palm tree out of the yard for good; writing 3K on the novel-in-progress yesterday (it’s not going to be finished this weekend but I feel like I might be within a nudge of ‘back in the groove’). Also, the plants I relocated are still alive.

    Plus: Now Hear This on PBS Great Performances (watched/listened to four episodes in a row yesterday) and Encore! on Disney+.

  14. I think the journal is perfect for you, it looks like your collages, and it have lined paper. Without lines on the paper, my writing looks like an exploration for the Northwest Passage, wandering up and down, and not quite having enough room.

    Happiness this week was a Christmas Eve service in the parking lot of a sister Congregational church. Just what I needed, properly masked, distanced, with extra Christmas trees.

    Then today, bold as brass, a big red cardinal lands on the willow tree, and then a second later a downy woodpecker flies in and takes the other side of the tree. I haven’t seen either of them yet this winter, so that was pretty cool.

    Another wonderful part of the week was exploring the painting tutorials online, you just search for “how to paint glass” and you find a lot of good stuff.

  15. Sorry, I didn’t mean to go trolling for compliments. The whole mediocre writer thing is something I need to discard for 2021. I am what I yam; comparing myself to others is not only damaging, it’s illogical. Of course I can’t write like them. I’m me. But thank you very much all the same.

    In other news, I forgot Christmas. Did not call my family because I didn’t realize the day was here, lost my phone so they couldn’t call me. Just got an e-mail from Mollie that said, CALL ME. I suck at mothering.

    BUT 2021 WILL BE DIFFERENT! Nothing but good times ahead.

    1. We knew your weren’t looking for compliments, we just can’t help ourselves. You belong to the short list of “books I had to buy again because I wore them out” authors.

    2. Curious here. When you were publishing, did you think of yourself with a “growing certainty” as “a shallow, mediocre writer…”?

      My guess is indeed you might have, but that thought was dim and temporary amidst a robust thought chain, thick and dense, and ongoing.

      Of course, these days, most of us are left with little else to contemplate save our navels. You are one among many.

      Where is my damn vaccine injection? My nurse friends – thank the goddess – are inoculated now with their first of two. Lordy, I want mine so I can once more look up.

    3. If you sucked at mothering, would she want you to call? It sounds more like you suck at keeping track of time and relatively small objects. And that we definitely CAN blame on the pandemic.

      My biggest happy this week is a card I got from my B & SIL in France. It was a copy of beautiful woodcut of the dove flying back to Noah with a leafy branch in its mouth. Just the reminder of growth and rebirth I needed to start 2021.

      As for keeping track of time, yesterday I was convinced it was the 29th and I wouldn’t believe otherwise until after I had rebooted my computer twice. I definitely need more structure and human contact in my life.

      I also would like to remind you that the reason we hang out here is that we get great pleasure and value from you and your writing. We don’t come here because we think your writing is mediocre. We can find that everywhere we look. The reason we go out of our way to come here (and gift your books to all and sundry) is because we appreciate you. You are neither unoriginal nor unskilled and that is becoming increasingly difficult to find. So stop internalizing the slowdown that comes at this time of year and then blaming yourself for it.

    4. Get a Tile (thetileapp.com)! You have a little dongle on your keychain, and when you lose your phone you hit the button on your dongle and your phone chimes at you. Conversely, if you have your phone and your keys are missing, then you hit the app on your phone and the dongle chimes.

      Of course, if you misplace both at the same time you’re screwed, but I’ve found that most often it’s only one or the other.

  16. I’ve been doing Morning Pages for probably twenty years now, but they’re more a place to whine/rant and lay out the coming day than to journal per se, so I’m happy with cheap college-ruled composition books. They make me happy because I can get them in bright colors, and they all match in size/shape when I line them up on a shelf.

    Usually, they end at random spots in the book when the new year arrives, and I just keep going, but I was thinking that this year I would stop on Dec. 31st and retire the book, no matter what, except apparently the universe already had the same idea, because for the first time ever, the year and the pages will run out on the same day this year.

    Meanwhile, I’m having some imposter syndrome at the moment too, and the thing that keeps me going is that from what I’ve observed from the writing community, the only people who do NOT ever get imposter syndrome are the ones who really are imposters (the Dunning Kruger community).

  17. I am off for two weeks, so have spent the first week sleeping in and crafting. I got a nice present haul, so that is appreciated. I have gotten to hang out with a few friends on Zoom as well, mostly doing online crafting parties.

    As for the crush: I have been having The Agoraphobia going on again since early November and have been talking myself out of going to see him multiple times what with all the infection rates going up, but I took long enough on finishing his present that mail was ah, not really an option any more. Finally on December 23 he messages me wanting to know my mailing address, as presumably he gave up hope that I might come in. (I’ll note that when I did come in he said, “Hey, stranger!”)

    I said I’d come in tomorrow, and then finished up, and then spent a sleepless night trying to figure out what the hell to write on the card. Alas, sleeplessness + presumably that line from Love Actually about at Christmas you tell the truth (really?!) + time crunch with ten minutes to go before I left led me to write down the things I missed about him. That might have been…. a bit much, I fear?

    Anyway, my present (stuffed dragon) was both silly and adorable, much like me, I suppose. I tried to mutter that he should read the card later like the last time I gave him one, but ah…he read it, and that was like the longest excruciating minute of “oh crap, I did this to myself, this is so embarrassing.” He didn’t really know what to say either, but did say thank you and hugged me.

    He’s still talking to me, at least, as there was some Christmas texting later about silly presents and cards and he even initiated with that!

    And that’s the last update for the year. Dunno what will go on from there, if anything, but hopefully it only gets better from here. I’m not quite going to say “nothing but good times ahead” yet, but Trump’s getting out of office, there’s two vaccines, and the Gavle Goat (look it up) did NOT burn before Christmas, so that’s four fall miracles right there. Maybe someday.

  18. A variety of good and less so, but I am embracing all the happies and letting the less-than’s fade to the back ground as much as possible. Don’t have to go back to work until Monday the 4th except for a brief errand tomorrow and the sun is shining. I have a ridiculous amount of quality sugar in my house, and am re-reading Murderbots, with “The Black Sheep” next in the queue because DH chortled his way through it last week which reminded me that it is a favorite. Nothing but good times ahead.

    1. Oh, thank you for the Dave Barry reference. Was it the first time I’ve laughed all year or does it just feel that way? As good as eating a thick slice of buche de noel.

    2. Thank you for this. My sister usually reads this, cackling, to me and this year, thanks to you, I can return the favor.

  19. been writing in journal since 8th grade

    question: what do you do with them when they fill up couple of boxes on the top shelf of closet?

    1. One Blogger I read occasionally once burned her diaries from her youth and early years up to iirc her divorce.
      I found this disturbing. It would feel like destroying parts of me – my life, my past, embarrassing as it may be.
      So I’d say keep yours.

      1. Hah – I absolutely understand this impulse, but my partner insisted that there had to be a better way. Their suggestion was to duck-tape them closed and leave them with a friend. So they exist for posterity, if anyone wants them, and I can’t fall into them by mistake and be horrified by my younger self. I thought this was utterly brilliant and did that will all my writing from high school to grad school. I kind of stopped that form of journaling once I graduated, and have other systems running now.

    2. I read through them (sometimes, some things are too painful to relive) and then scribble over the super personal parts or shred them. If there’s something I really want to keep, I might, but the vast majority of it I toss after a year or so. Yes, even though the notebooks are very pretty and I love them. I realize that’s not for everybody, but that’s just my personality. I get the joy from using them, not from keeping them. And I’ve moved a lot and have a small house, so I hate feeling suffocated by stuff.

      1. Thanks, Jill Q and Dodo! No fucking idea what I will do or when, but after (just did the math and can’t even bring myself to enter the precise number) x years of doing this, I think that of all the things I stuck with over the years (and there aren’t many), I wish I hadn’t stuck with this one.

  20. I journal as a way of talking to myself; especially since I live alone, it’s my way of sorting my head out. In particular, working through creative blocks and frustrations. I also have a gardening journal, not only as a reference and a place to note ideas, but as a source for future writing projects. And then there’s my work diary, which I have to keep as part of my accounts; and which I’m really bad at filling in – I usually note my billable hours in my editing notebook.

    This year, having bought myself a Faber Poetry Diary for work, my nextdoor neighbour unexpectedly gave me another A5 diary, whose layout is better for work. So I’ve decided to use the poetry diary, which also has really good paper, to note down each day an observation or experience I’ve had that connects me to nature. Which may also come in handy for future writing projects.

    I finally remembered to chase my surveyor for his bill, nearly two years late (well, I’m sure I did mention it then, but his wife had cancer and I guess it was overlooked). It was for two oral surveys (I followed him round, taking notes, and he checked my typed version), so
    I feared it’d be substantial. I felt really bad I’d kept forgetting to remind him. Anyway, he was lovely – said it wasn’t worth the bother to raise an invoice now, and suggested I could donate £50-100 to a local cancer charity instead – which of course I did, straight away. I’m also going to give him a couple of landscape photography lessons.

    So that’s one black cloud gone. And I’ve had three long sunny walks in the hills, plus good food, loads of vegging, and some great chats with friends and relations.

  21. Forgive me if this has already been mentioned here (as it almost certainly has) but while watching Dr. Who reruns on BBC America over the holiday, I saw a commercial for a show called The Watch and heard the word Mor-pork and thought, “Did I just hear..?” and indeed I did. A new show based on Pratchett’s Discworld. On AMC. Streaming.

    Now I just need to justify still another cable charge.

  22. I’ve never gotten into journaling, even when traveling. Perhaps I’m not trusting enough. What would happen to my journals when I’m gone? Hah! That is a positive outlook because truth is they’d be drivel and embarrassing. My kids would toss them for sure. But I do like the look of this one, Jenny. Very interesting.

    1. I’ve told my executrix to burn all the writing–journals, notebooks, whatever. She’s a trustworthy soul, so it will be done.

  23. The closest I come to journeling is a list of quotations I run across. No themes or particular subjects, just things I like or find interesting.

    My community dodged a bullet when the river crested lower than predicted. Unfortunately, the gun’s not empty because it looks like a repeat forcast is coming our way.

    Happy to count down days, and not just for the New Year.

  24. Never mind Jan 1, or dated pages or any of that. Just pick up a nice, enticing notebook–or a plain old lined spiral notebook–and START. Any time. Any date. And if you let it lapse a bit, okay, just pick it up again and carry on. No tyranny of dates and accusatory gaps.

    I keep mine by the bed, with a writeable flowy pen, and unwind at the end of each day before turning out the light.

    Granted, I’ve been a desultory sort of diarist for years, off and on, but I’ve written something nearly every single night since early this year. Because, well, you know…

  25. I’ve kept a journal since sixth grade (1965) but only off and on until I got my first computer in 1993. I can’t type as fast as I think, but it’s better than my handwriting speed. Also about ten time more legible. Nowadays I write every day, several times a day, and I usually reread the year before when January comes around, and then randomly from time to time afterwards. The last ten years I’ve averaged 300,000 words a year. But there’s no plot, of course. I enjoy reminding myself of what happened when, although other people would get bored quickly with my detailing what meals I had and what housework I got done.

  26. Taking up journaling sounds an awful lot like a New Year Resolution. For myself, I long ago made a resolution never again to make a New Year Resolution, the only one I have resolutely kept. That’s just me, and anyway, that’s not what I wanted to post about.

    I have a blog, a Live Journal account, which I post in very irregularly. Not many friends still onLJ. They all migrated. Or died. Or quit. MySpace took some, Google Groups got a few, then FaceBook and Twitter seemed to suck up the rest. Not me. There were a few stretches where fellow writers convinced me that posting daily would get me in the habit of writing, and I’d finish my in-progress stories. It worked. I still inhabit LiveJournal on occasion, though I even quit FaceBook. That’s just me, and anyway, that’s not what I wanted to post about.

    Oh! Christmas is over. I’ve taken down 2 of 3 trees (all under 8 inches tall, plugged into USB but not any more.) I’ll get the last one shortly. That’s just me, and anyway, that’s not what I wanted to post about.

    And hey, I’m at chapter 8 of Skirting Danger and somewhere in chapter 1 of Pupcakes, Chapter 7 of the third story in the “Crusie Collection” (which is Crazy for You), and started on three other books because I wanted variety or couldn’t focus. That’s just me, and anyway, that’s not what I wanted to post about.

    I posted a link to a (big C) Conservative, MAGA loving website for the YouTube video that I actually wanted to share, of an Indian Woman playing Jingle Bells on bagpipes. She’s Archy J, “The Snake Charmer” and an InstaGram link would be https://www.instagram.com/p/CJOn4PBn5Db/ so nobody needs to follow the Trumpista link. Sorry about that one. I should have watched it in YouTube and shared that link. That’s just me, and anyway, that’s not what I wanted to post about.

    The dotter emailed me at work yesterday – and yesterday was her first look at my shaved face, which prompted “No, Dad, that’s just wrong, grow it back!” from her – but the email asked if she could borrow my car and could we do the Shopping and Dinner thing on Monday instead? Of course I said yes. Anything for the dotter. That’s just me, and anyway, that’s not what I wanted to post about.

    What I wanted to post about was food. I like food. A lot. It’s my favorite thing to eat. Today I tried something a tiny bit different. I tore off six or eight inches of RenRap (that tinfoil stuff) and used a lid from a soup thingy to make a couple depressions. Next (and this step should have been proceeded by lubing the foil somehow) I broke jumbo eggs into the depressions. The foil was on the baking pan of my toaster oven, which I used to cook the eggs at too many degrees for too many minutes. I used a fork to pry the eggs off the foil, and ate ’em with a little pepper. They were fabulous! That’s just me, and anyway, that’s what I wanted to post about.

  27. When you said that your new journal comes with STICKERS, it reminded me of Don’t Look Down and Pepper with her Wonder Woman sticker book. It made the girl so happy, and the memory of reading about it made me happy too.

  28. Five years ago during a cleaning spree I tossed over twenty-five years of journals. Since, not a whiff of regret. The habit had become burdensome and I have changed into a person — who does other things.

    I remain a great promoter of the journaling habit, though. Just not for me.

  29. Remember that thing that made me very happy a few weeks back? It’s making me happy still and now I can show you: https://www.instagram.com/p/CJUyM7Cgovj/ and https://www.instagram.com/p/CJUxv_-ggl3/

    The thing is, my daughter is moving to London and her dog is staying behind. This way, Callan will always have Darcy with her. It’s heartbreaking for Callan, but Darcy will be fine. She’s going to live with Callan’s dad and his partner. They love Darcy and she’ll get long runs down country lanes and ten acres of land to roam. She’ll be happy and safe. Safe being the important thing?

  30. Good luck, Jenny — we all love you and what you write, so we are a less-than-desirable audience for anything negative you might have an observation about with regard to yourself. Our failing, probably, rather than yours.

    One thing that made me happy this week was the resolution to a Terrible Terrible mistake I made in ordering a “family-sized” meal of eggplant parmesan, penne pasta and caesar salad from a local Italian shop.

    “We’ll have leftovers!” I thought. “It’ll be great and comforting!” I used to love the eggplant parmesan at an older restaurant that is not open during the pandemic, and I missed it a lot.

    Unfortunately, when I picked it up I discovered that it was difficult to separate and heat up portions of very different foodstuffs, and the salad required tossing in the dressing from a plastic container. I made large areas of mess in the kitchen trying to create two plates worth of things at the proper temperature. And then the eggplant was strangely unsatisfying, as if it had been made with The Wrong Cheese Entirely. The salad was haphazard and the dressing not great. The penne were huge and ungainly with the eggplant. It was the worst restaurant meal I’d ever tried to recreate. And we had leftovers of it! YARDS of leftovers!

    The happy part was that I called a local homeless shelter I’d heard about and found that they were short of food and full of residents this Christmas, and they would LOVE big containers of pasta and eggplant and salad. So I packed the remainder up again and drove it out to the shelter and felt like a Bad Thing had been turned into a Good Thing after all. Merry Christmas!

  31. The other thing is this. I consider myself a hack writer. And I try not to compare myself to you because it’s just too depressing. And if you were actually mediocre then that would make me even worse than a hack and that’s beyond depressing.

    Luckily, you aren’t mediocre but are just in that headspace for the moment. An easy place to find oneself at the end of 2020. I try to remind myself that we all have value and everyone’s work touches peoples’ lives in different ways. It doesn’t stop me wishing I knew how to finish that stupid fish book, or that I’d kept writing in my twenties so maybe I’d be better at it now.

    But I also wonder where I’d be if I hadn’t sacrificed my career for my husband and kids. If I’d actually have a career and a pension – and possibly some respect. So possibly it’s the cumulative effect of 2020 that’s making some of us second guess our life decisions. I am wondering if it’s too late to try for a career and if it isn’t what should I do?

    1. It’s never to late!!
      I retrained in my late 40s. Had stayed at home with the kids and seen my freelancing “career” go down the drain (I’m short on talent to self adverize).
      The training gave me new self respect which had been disappearing as well.
      Part of the training was a long internship.
      Hard at first, but great eventually. Am still there, noq in a good position and fine colleagues. And very clever boss.

      1. I know I’ve written this before, but I started over (jobwise) in my forties, too. I was in a mundane job but close to home because of the kids. Our town at the time had night school for everything from cake decorating, furniture repair to entry level business classes. When the company I worked for closed I was ahead of the game by already starting with typing, computer class even shorthand. That should tell you how long ago it was. Long story short from that I moved into a totally different job and ended up retiring with the benefits I never would have had otherwise.

    2. So well said, Kate. And so relatable for many. Agree with Dodo that it’s never too late to try something new. Or, to drill down on something you already love like writing and hone your craft like you wish you’d had more time for earlier.

      That second guessing thing can be tricky for sure because doing the best we could at the time with the options in front of us then counts as well. Otherwise, we’re left with a kind of “sliding doors” game where it’s so easy to imagine another path may have brought us to a new “better” place even though in reality that other path may have had its own share of tricky roads that left us second guessing those, too. So as you say, best to move forward from where we are now and try not to compare our journey to others. Especially since there’s a good chance those others are second guessing their choices at times as well:)

    3. Never second guess life decisions, that’s sunk cost. I’ve made so many bad decisions I’d never dig myself out of that regret hole. Draw a line under it and move on. And you are not a hack writer. Come on, would I have wasted time teaching a hack?

  32. The only times I did anything close to journaling was when I wrote about my kids when they were little. I still have those and occasionally read them with delight. I am sure anyone outside our nuclear family would find them intensely boring.

    I spent the past four days not working which was lovely and starting to put together a 2020 bingo card and a 2020 puzzle for our annual New Years party which will require more structure since it will be zoom…

    And my review of 2020 to make them confirms that it was a truly weird year.

  33. Jenny, your writing is my favourite, I love everything you’ve written and you’re a fantastic writer. I’m so pleased you’re coming round to our way of (correct) thinking in 2021.

    Also, I’m very self absorbed, so about me for a minute:
    I got the best Christmas present. A new running watch. It doesn’t work (I’ve had it 4 days, and it still hasn’t made me go running?) but OMG it has the best feature: find my phone. Yes, push a button on my watch, and follow the homing bell to my phone on the shelf/under the couch cushion/in my jacket pocket etc. Genius. #happy

    And lastly, So. Much. Cheese. Not sure of the day of the week. Yay holidays.

    1. Thanks – but alas, as usual, not in the UK. Her ebooks are so expensive, and the library doesn’t have them (I don’t think they’re buying any new stock at the moment), which is why I haven’t yet gone beyond the first two novellas.

      1. Same issue for me. I read and enjoyed the first one but nearly 10 quid for a novella seems so extortionate to me that I haven’t bought the others. Every time a discount is announced on a US website, I go and have a look and it’s never available in the UK. Very frustrating!

          1. I know, I would never have bought a novella for that. Tor was giving the novellas away in free downloads, and I got them then because, hey, free. Read them all and immediately ordered Network Effect for full price. I even went back and bought two of the novella for full price because I’ve reread them well over a dozen times, so I thought I owed Wells the sales.

            Have you tried used bookstores? There have to be copies out there, those books have been out awhile.

          2. I don’t know that they’ve been as much of a success over here. Could have been, but I’d expect the library to have them in that case. Of course, her publishers haven’t been promoting them here!

            I might try the library again – they’d got one title in the series. Or I might end up being extravagant.

          1. I was happy to see it was on sale in EPUB as well as Kindle, which is seldom the case with
            Amazon sales, so now it is mine.

  34. Just remember you are an artist, artists have an idealised idea of what they want to create and when they bring it out into the world it won’t be as perfect as in their heads. However as long as they manage to overcome their anguish over the lack of perfection and show it to someone, other people usually think it’s pretty good and wonder why they can’t see that.

  35. That journal is totally you! I love it!

    Also, comparison is the thief of joy, and we all need that Teddy Roosevelt reminder every now and then. For me, it’s the fact that I publish fewer books than others in my genre. They can put out 8-12 books a year, while I struggle with 2. But the thing is, while I’m in the final editing phase, when the structure’s solid, the arcs well defined, the plot points are working, that’s when I can finally focus on nailing the dialogue/descriptions, etc. That’s where the beauty comes out, that feeling of deep satisfaction…that’s where the joy lives for me. So it’s in that moment that I shrug it all off and remind myself that this is my process, it works for me, and I’m going to stick with it.

    Your writing is the standard by which others compare themselves, so maybe just find where the joy lives for you and block out anything that sours it.

  36. OMG, I LOVE that journal! That is magnificent! I’ve bookmarked it so I can buy it for myself as a treat when my bank account isn’t quite so low.

    I don’t journal or keep a diary (rather than being a place to express private meandering ideas or dark thoughts, I found years ago that it it felt like just One More Chore), but I keep notebooks all over the place, including my purse, where I write down all kinds of stuff as a daily habit: story ideas and story thoughts and story questions and story development; To Do lists; notes for yard and house projects; quotes and sayings I want to remember; places I need to call or visit or write to; recipes where I can’t easily find a print version (such as when watching YouTube), local shops or sites or walks or events someone mentions, a record of my hours and tips (I’ve been working part-time as a walking-tour guide for some years); library and store hours and locations; brand and ingredients and styles I want to remember (ex. one notebook has a list of wines I’ve liked at other people’s houses and want to remember to look for at the wine store; another notebook lists bras that I like, since I’ll never remember); my mother needed a LOT of help this year after my father died, and so I have nearly a whole notebook filled with notes about her stuff (selling off the contents of her house, apartment hunting, To Do lists, questions for lawyers, etc.).

    So I love notebooks. And I love fancy notebooks–it’s nice for things we use a lot to be fun and beautiful and inspiring. 🙂

      1. What’s more, by the time you need to replace the bra you like, many launderings have made its tags impossible to read, so you never find that particular model again (if the manufacturer hasn’t retired it, which invariably happens to a favorite).

  37. My daughter is a dedicated journalist. She has journals going back to her teen years and occasionally pulls one out and reads what was going on at that time. I would love to do the same. One thing I loved about school was brand new notebooks. I still hover over new journals in the store but I know I will never use them. I just never can write down anything personal. I’m an extremely private person and somehow writing down personal thoughts for others to possibly see just doesn’t happen. The closest I have come is when I worked I kept a notebook on my desk where I wrote down all my notes for work. Phone calls, reminders, anything that people normally put on scraps of paper I entered in that book. When I filled it up I kept them on a bookshelf. It is amazing how many times I had to refer back to those books trying to remember someone I talked to or for a phone number that I needed.

  38. I used five-year diaries to record stuff our kids did when they were little–just a sentence or two, not even every day. Those books are treasured.

    I am still disposing of the two diaries that I kept sporadically from age 12 to 25. I’ll read a couple pages at a time to find any funny family stories I can share, then rip up the pages (and warn my husband to steer clear of the recycling area because the air is heavy with teen angst).

    Jenny, I know you’re not trolling for compliments, but yours are just about the only books I can read a dozen times over, finding something new with each read. Your books are treasured, too.

    1. I had been thinking about doing what you are doing.

      Except I think I will make a bonfire with what I don’t keep. : )

      Thanks for all the many ideas throughout this post!

  39. So I was writing down ideas from this post to remember for the future. The movies, books, journals that I wanted to get. (I get so many good ideas from people here). And then I never can find the papers. Reading this post, I remembered all the journals that I bought for a family project (favorite recipes, only Mom played) that never really happened. So I went & looked through my stash. I found one that has typewriters all over the cover. So I can keep my list of ‘Things I Want To Remember From Argh.Ink’ in one place & now I can actually *find* them. 🙂

  40. This will probably get lost but the Kindle ebook of Network Effect, the Murderbot novel is on sale for 2.99 on Amazon.ca, possibly on sale in other regions as well.

  41. Happiness this past week…hmm…starting Bridgerton on Netflix. Having a moment to come check in here again (hi!). 2020 has been rough and I definitely have felt lost at some points. Gotta remember to embrace whatever happiness comes along and probably practice a bit more gratitude.

  42. Hey, my first comment is still in moderation, but for those of you following me on Instagram I’ve posted picts of the quilts I did for Christmas – including the one of my daughter’s dog that made me so happy a few weeks ago.

    kate_george_mystery_writer on Instagram if you are interested. I’m quite proud of the fabric portrait I did of Darcy the dog.

  43. A friend was in from out of town this week, so three of us gathered a pizza place next door to me that has an awning with heat lamps. We sat and drank beer and eventually ordered pizza and it was just generally a highlight.

    I am one of those people who has not found all the pandemic quarantining to be a burden. I particularly enjoyed Christmas. I’ve said before that I find my family to be a bit much when I have to spend 12 hours with them, so doing an hour Zoom in the afternoon was just fine.

    The day after Christmas I bought a refillable advent calendar on sale. I’ve filled it with peanut butter cups and am counting down to January 20th. I’m keeping the Christmas stuff up until at least then too. Eventually I’ll take the ornaments off the wall trees but I think I’ll keep them up for a while. February is so cold and dark. If I had my way, people would be required to put up outdoor lights and keep them up until Presidents Day at least!

  44. 1. The dumbest thing ever purchased was a 2020 planner.

    2. I was so bored I called Jake from State Farm just to talk to someone. He asked me what I was wearing.

    3. 2019: Stay away from negative people. 2020: Stay away from positive people.

    4. The world has turned upside down. Old folks are sneaking out of the house & their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors!

    5. This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into my house & told my dogs. We all had a big laugh!

    6. Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Sweatpants will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.

    7. Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands?

    8. I never thought the comment, “I wouldn’t touch it with a 6-foot pole” would become a national policy.

    9. I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.

    10. I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to the Backyard. I’m getting tired of the Living Room.

    11. Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank teller wearing a mask & ask for money.

    Happy Holidays to all and here’s hoping for a Happier New Year!

    Feel free to copy and paste, I did 🤣

  45. I do a morning page (not pages) most morning – just a quick brain dump. I’ll talk about what I want to do that day, maybe comment on the quality of my meditation that morning, scribble about the book I’m working on, bitch about the husband and/or cats – whatever. It’s a good way for me to start the day, and in this very weird year when every day can seem like the same, it’s been helpful to be able to go back and figure out when some stuff happened. And I love Moleskine notebooks so this is my excuse to buy them in my favorite colors.

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