Aunt Claire and the Journal Extraordinaire

With my yearly intention set, I notice myself already returning to ‘focus’ multiple times a day. If nothing else, it makes me mindful of the task at hand. Focusing on one project at a time means keeping my mind from wandering. I find this very challenging and, frankly, I’m not sure if total success is in the cards.

I like imagining that everyone has an Aunt Claire. You know, a Clarissa Montanague, the relative you sit with during the holidays, suffering through a drawn-out visit. The conversation drones on, jumping from one topic to the next, with an occasional witty remark or interesting piece of advice. Eventually, it all just blurs together because she never, ever, shuts up.

You know how your tummy starts to feel a little loopy if you consume too many sweets, too quickly? Yes, well, as the twinkle-lights sparkle on the tree behind her, too much conversation with Aunt Claire causes the same sensation. (I suppose a titch of that could be attributed to the endless glasses of Cabernet consumed to keep things flowing smoothly, but only the slightest titch).

My mind plays like that. My mind thinks it embodies Aunt Claire at her rambling finest. It too, never, ever, shuts up! So, as I’m performing any perfectly mundane task (washing dishes), my mind chatters away at itself. I think ‘focus’ and I realize how quickly I just composed an entire blog post… but to myself… only in my mind… not a single note jotted or sentence saved.  If Aunt Claire insists on babbling on, couldn’t she at least have the courtesy of recording herself?

That brings me to today’s topic – journaling – aka Getting Aunt Claire Out of One’s Head and Into One’s Dossier. Someone recently asked for advice on how to begin journaling. I responded with:

  • Step 1. Relax.
  • Step 2. Acquire a journal, or loose leaf, or a paper napkin. Anything that you can jot words upon will do.
  • Step 3. Choose your pen or pencil. Make it one that feels comfortable; beautiful works, simple works, it only needs to fit your grip and carry your thoughts!
  • Step 4. Lock up all your expectations of what Journaling ‘should’ be. Expectations pave the road to failure and disappointment.
  • Step 5. Put pen(cil) to paper and write. Anything. Scribble the same word over and over, if that’s what it takes to ‘prime the pump’ – eventually the words start to flow.
  • Step 6. Close the book and walk away. You’re almost done.
  • Step 7. Revisit another time. Often, I wait weeks, even months, sometimes only hours or days. Every time I re-read I’m struck by the author’s message. Invariably, it surprised me that those anecdotes came from me.

AuntClaireJournalExtraordinaireYou’ll note that my advice incorporates old-school usage of pen/paper. I continue to write long-hand, myself, though it seems archaic in our computer age. With just a page of paper in front of me, I focus my attention there. Paper eliminates distractions from ‘notifications’ or the allure of checking out that social media feed.

I get my general thoughts down, to edit once I get the laptop fired up. It allows my work to sit and mellow a bit, like a good bourbon or wine. When I pour it into the next vessel, such as my blog, I get to savor the notes that flourished originally, but I also get to mix in some bitters, muddled fruit, simple syrup, garnish, extra ice, or other spirit to make it truly palatable. Mixology Magic for writers!

In case you’re wondering, Aunt Claire has not ceased her chatter. Still in the back of my mind, she’s moved on to other topics. For me, however, that’s good to know. Her (unheard to anyone else) voice represents the wellspring of my ideas constantly brewing. Future concoctions waiting for the stir-stick. Comforting.

Time to move on to the next thing and thanks for joining me with today’s oodles of smidjens!


A (probably-not-necessary) disclaimer: Clarissa Montanague exists solely in my wacky mind, at least the Clarissa Montanague that I refer to as ‘Aunt Claire’. She is neither solidly or loosely based on any of my aunts, just a total figment of my imagination! She has no association to any other Clarissa Montanague that may exist in this Universe. Also, too, I should note, I do not suffer from dissociative disorder or any other multiple-personality ailments that I am aware of. Most importantly, Aunt Claire, my personal, mental chatterbox is not intended as an affront to anyone who may suffer from some conditions.


A Little Ramble About Intention Setting

Distracted, blurred, inattentive, indistinct, unmindful, aimless, foggy, heedless, unclear, purposeless, directionless, random, scattered, undefined, vacillant, ambiguous, indecisive, irresolute, doubting, adrift, digressive, fragmental, meandering, rambling, sidetracked, oblivious, half-assed – 27 words to describe how I feel outside of the work place. 27 words that basically share one definition: unfocused.

A work day progresses easily with a pre-defined pattern and a set of expected of outcomes. Outside of work, I find myself a bit adrift (28). Beyond work, my attention span proves much too narrow for the extent of my interests, which tend to shift with the wind. I sail from curiosity to curiosity and back again. Apparently, I lack the discipline to focus, and stay focused, on one thing at a time.

Even as I write this, I’m Googling instructions for another project, watching The Magicians on Netflix, contemplating a blog I just read entitled “101 Questions to Ask Yourself to Build a Successful 2018”, and taking work phone calls on my day off. My mind twists, paces and paces ahead on its own path, as if I were the ultimate multi-tasker. Which I am. But let’s be clear, that is not always a good thing. For me, it results in – no results. Nothing ever comes to fruition; everything remains in various states of partial completion.

Speaking of focus, as usual, I’m off track. The goal today consists of choosing one word to set my 2018 intention. Of course, many words came to mind because I love words – grand words, obscure words, words in foreign languages that just seem to ‘fit’ better than their English counterpart – long words, short words, quirky words – words that flow together or the single word that makes the point all on its own – nonsensical words, archaic words, I just love words. I collect them in the same way that I collect, well collections, of other things.

<Wait, I have a limit. I am not a fan of dumb, supposedly-trendy, slang words – think: yolo, ratchet, bae, on fleek, dab, pwned, deez – you get the picture (and I got the hives typing that list)!>

Every year I choose a word to come back to as a reset when necessary. A way to, ironically, focus.

In 2016, I adopted “shed” and dropped a lot of useless baggage from my life. Last year, “project” caught my imagination both for the noun definition of venture, and the verbs propel and foresee. Now my list of starter ideas just keeps growing. So, we come full circle to the first paragraph of this entry. I need to mitigate, consolidate, and hopefully complete — something.

So, for 2018, I choose FOCUS as my intention-setting word.

I pondered this for days before settling on it. Because, as always, I had to mentally exhaust all other options. However, I kept coming back to focus, but wanting a different word to say the same thing. Ultimately, there is no other word that describes better what I need. So “focus” will be my hearthstone for the upcoming Gregorian months of 2018. Focus on one thing at a time, not done perfectly, but done.

Just like this entry!


focus 2018 painting