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Preserving Journals for the Future

June 12, 2022 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby

As a writer, I love to write in any form including journals, blogs, and books. Something about putting words on a page is so satisfying. But I’ve asked myself recently if I’m writing the right things in my journals. Do I capture words that will be preserved for the future? Should I start a journal for the future that’s more about the day to day then about special days or my feelings?

Notebook and stack of books with title Journaling for the future by Denise M. Colby with a teal wood slated background

Hear me out. There’s a reason why I’m thinking about this in a different way. It’s not really about my own personal life and wanting to document it. It’s more about making sure how we live today is being captured for those who need this data in the future.

Journals are a Great Research Tool

As a historical writer, journals are invaluable to capturing the essence of the era we are writing. Long ago journals include terminology, names, and phrases of the time. There are recipes from our ancestors because they wrote them down. Which now are preserved and shared from person to person.

Also, a contemporary writer might have a character that is a teacher or plumber or Starbucks barista. They may need to learn about these positions. These journals could include lingo, interactions, schedules, a specific point of view, and more. They might gather these from blogs, more than journals, but the idea of finding content that helps explain the day to day in these lives is what I’m talking about.

I’ve even created a journal for my character so I could find her voice and figure out her feelings and perspective. I talk about this in my blog post on my website titled Incorporating a Character Journal In My Story. I now include a journal entry to the beginning of each chapter in my book.

1869 Diary entry by Olivia Carmichael in A Man Was Not The Plan by Denise M. Colby
A fictitious journal entry by my character.
Olivia Carmichael had no idea how much she would eat her words.

How Will The Future Read Journals?

Think of terms and phrases used in the past versus now. Terms such as binge mean something different now than 50 years ago. What would be other words or terms that might be obsolete in the future? What are terms that we no longer use today but represent a bygone era?

I sometimes feel silly writing down some of these more basic topics. But then I think about someone possibly reading it 100 years from now and realize that how we go about our day may be completely different in another century.

In today’s definition, journals could be blogs, notes in our phone, or actual books we handwrite in. And it will be interesting to see how people who keep and access these in the future. Personally I love handwriting. But it gets harder and harder to read someone’s writing either from faded ink or pencil or just reading handwriting itself as an art form is going away. I wrote a blog post about that a while ago titled Give A Gift That Lasts a Lifetime: A Handwritten Note. In some cases writing is more personal because of a person’s handwriting. I love coming across something my mom or dad wrote. It evokes an emotion in me that’s difficult to describe.

Will Journals Be Around in 100 Years?

To have a journal last 100 years, first people have to create them. Then they have to save them. Not by just the writer, but by someone who obtains them after the writer has passed. How many of us toss older books out? Or toss our own books out because we don’t think anyone will care. They may not care at 25-35 years, but something older? This is the future of a journal. The old adage – one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. A family member might think there’s nothing of importance in the journal, but a writer looking for specific details? It could be pure gold inside.

But what about blogs? To stay active, the account has to stay active. Where will all this content go in the future? How will these blog posts be preserved? I know. I’m causing anxiety where it’s not necessary. But being a history lover, I tend to think about these things often. Am I the only one?

Journals Preserved by Libraries

In rare cases, a library owns journals that are used by scholars who use them as reference materials. People of the past journaled for the future. My great great grandfather was one of them. He wrote detailed journals. A mountain man who faught in a war with Lincoln, was a trapper with Jedidiah Smith, and shared a campfire with the Donner party before they chose to ignore his warnings and take the short Sierra pass that ended in doom. We know all of this because of his journals. I have two printed versions of his journals in my possession, but I’ve also seen the real journals in person. These journals are owned by the Huntington Libary in Pasadena. And it’s been said they know what they know about that era, because of the details he captured.

James Clyman Journal of a Mountain Man Book Denise M. Colby 6th Generation to James Clyman
Books that have been written from the Journals of James Clyman, my great-great grandfather.
He created journals used in his future, which is our present. What will our journals be used for?

Questions for the writer in all of us

I wanted to ask questions because I’m curious. And I think a dialogue would be advantageous for all of us. Do you read journals for your stories? Where do you go for your inspiration? Do you journal? If you do, do you write about your feelings? Describe the weather? Mention a list of daily activities? What type of content do you put in your journal? 

Do you write daily? Are your journals organized by date or by topic? Ideas of specialized journals would be one for work related documentation and one for personal. Or a journal about movies, books, or other entertainment and another book for trips.

And last but not least, how do you think the world will use these journals in the future?

Curious minds want to know.

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Mental Reset for Writers After Receiving Contest Results

May 12, 2022 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , ,

I always have to pause and reset after receiving contest results. Am I the only one who experiences this?

blog post title graphic with picture of a blank journal with hand ready to write and words underneath that say mental reset for writers after receiving contest results

Contests are wonderful ways to get feedback, get in front of agents or publishers, and stretch yourself as a writer. I have entered many and have grown as a writer because of the them. 

But every time when the contest results are out, I’m so afraid of opening up the email and reading the comments. And this year was no different. 

Last week I received my contest results email from the 2022 ACFW Genesis Contest. I did not semi-final like I did back in 2019. For a brief moment, that right there makes it hard. Did I go backwards? Shouldn’t I have not made the changes that were in the suggestions?

But alas, I can’t do that to myself.

Contest Results Do Not Tell The Entire Story

I’ve had many pairs of eyes look over my entry and the overall feedback has been positive. And as I look at the scores from the three judges, two loved it and had very little comments (one even scored it a 99 out of 100, which is something to celebrate). But the third judge. It was obvious, my style of book is not their cup of tea. And even though two out of the three were positive, it’s still such a hard pill to swallow.

Is this what it feels like to read reviews of your work?

It probably is, and maybe you have to have a mental reset after reading those too.

But keep in mind some things. What’s being judged is such a small snippet (for me it was 15 pages). Not everyone will have the same opinion (which is why there are so many different authors and books available).

So What Do You Do To Move Forward?

I’m still figuring that out. For me, I needed to give myself a few days. Then dive right back into my manuscript. Keep editing, keep writing, and work toward the next opportunity when it presents itself. Pay attention to the things where multiple people gave similar feedback. And remember the positive comments (and the fact I earned a 99 from someone!).

I even wore this shirt to help me get back into a good frame of mind.

T-shirt with the words write on

I think it’s also important to relook at the comments and feedback a few times over a period of time. Each time they sink in more. They are not as personal. And there’s something in there that you can use. After a little while, you are ready to figure out how to adapt the feedback you want to include into your manuscript.

If any of you are struggling, I encourage you. You are not the only one. And as a seasoned contest results receiver, it is never easy. But putting our work out there is never easy. Yet we trail on, because our stories are more than our feelings. They are our work (my word for the year!). And it takes work (lots and lots of work) to get them into the best shape possible before we release them.

Hang in there. Keep writing. Write On!


Denise M. Colby loves to write words that encourage, enrich, & engage. Every year, she chooses a word to focus on. Her 2021 word was Wisdom and her 2022 word is Work. She talks about how one turned into the other in her blog at If you’d like to see more of Denise’s posts on this blog, you can check out her archives.

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When Our Confidence In Our Writing Wavers

April 12, 2022 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby, Writing tagged as , , ,

Have you ever had your confidence in your writing waver? Years ago I wrote something that really helped me in a very heavy doubt period. As I was discussing confidence in his artwork with my college-age son recently, I went and found this to encourage him to believe in himself. I needed the reminder as well. And I decided to share it with all of you too.

Blog Header with laptop computer, notebook, and person writing, with title When Confidence In Your Writing Wavers

Originally published on on June 6, 2017

This morning I was reading in 2 Corinthians and the following verse made me stop and pause, so I wrote it down on my handy 3×5 index card for future reference:

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.     2 Corinthians 3:5

I want to be a writer. Notice I said I want to, not I am.

I’ve only been writing things for over twenty years – either marketing copy or fiction stories. No matter which, the reality is I struggle with believing in myself. Having confidence in my writing. My takeaway from this verse is God’s telling me if I believe in him, I need to believe in myself.

After getting the kids off to school, I took a walk and the verse rattled around in my head. But for some reason the key word competence turned into the word confidence (I wonder who put that there?). As I mulled around thoughts about confidence, I knew I needed to come home and look up the word in the dictionary.

I love words. Definitions, synonyms – all of it. I also love seeing connections words have with other words.  So here’s what the website says about

CONFIDENCE: full trust; belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance:

And I love the example they gave in a sentence: His lack of confidence defeated him.

Is my lack of confidence in my abilities as a writer defeating me?

I think about my writing and the nudges I have had over the past five years and I know without a doubt God wants me to do this, otherwise doors would’ve closed on me long ago. However I’m not fully doing what he wants me to do because I have not had the confidence to just do it.

I’ve been saying for a while now, I would like to write devotionals. I have this strong innate desire to share hope, encouragement and God’s Word with others. What I haven’t been sure about is the how and what. So I haven’t done it, period.

When I took my walk this am something clicked and I couldn’t wait to get back home because I needed to do this right now. God has confidence in me. He has given me the desire. He’s nudging me to do this. Why have I not done this? Why?

I’m afraid – that’s why. What am I so afraid of? Putting myself out there? Looking like an idiot? Is that confidence then? I know I’m not looking for accolades, not looking for stardom. I just want to write and share my heart. But I’ve been too scared to do that. I have lacked confidence to go for it.

Then I saw the Synonyms for confidence – 1. faith, reliance, dependence.

And the Antonym – 1. mistrust.


In a nutshell, my lack of confidence in myself (lack of faith) and the abilities God has given me (lack of faith, dependence) are holding me back from sharing something he wants me to share.

My lack of confidence is holding me back in my writing

I’m not really trusting God then, am I? If I have faith, I should have confidence in what he’s asking me to do. And I need to depend on Him when I do it.

So here I am today. Writing a devotional and setting up a specific devotional page on my website. Only God knows what will happen. I just need to have the confidence to do it (already the nagging doubts are creeping in). I must rely on God with the rest.

But wait, there’s more. When I grabbed my Bible to write in the verse, I realized I made a mistake (was it really?) and the word was competence not confidence. Oh no! Do I scrap what I just wrote? Does it even relate? See maybe I shouldn’t be doing this after all. I paused for a moment then decided to look it up:

COMPETENCE: having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified:

And the Synonym: 1. fit, capable, proficient.

No antonym. Interesting. There is no negative/opposite of being competent.  You either are or you are not. I may not be the best writer, but I know I am proficient. So what am I waiting for?

Then I looked at 2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.

If God has given you skills – you are capable to use them for his glory. You just need to have the confidence through Him to do it. 

What abilities (competence) has God given you?  Where do you put your confidence?  In your own efforts, schedule, skills, voices in your head? Or do you trust God?  Do you have the confidence to put yourself out there with whatever it is?

God has given us all skills. We are all competent in something. Being competent does not need to mean you are the best at something.

Being competent means you are proficient. You can get the job done.

We should have confidence in our writing if we are proficient enough

We let our own voices tell us we are not competent because we think we need to be the best or someone does it better than us and we let it affect our confidence which in turn affects what we do.    

Everyone’s path is different and God has one he wants you to follow. He has given you these skills for a reason. You just have to have confidence in Him that He is with you every step of the way.

God believes in you and I believe in you too!

Denise M. Colby loves to write encouraging words. You can read other posts by Denise in her archives here on A Slice of Orange

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My Story Themes Trend Toward Having A Plan

March 12, 2022 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby

Do you find you have a theme trend in your stories that you keep coming back to?

I have heard that we tend to write where we are in life.

blog header with brown background and photos related to having a plan by Denise M. Colby

If that’s true. Then I’m all about plans and realizing that God’s plan is definitely better than our own. And that no matter how tight we might hold on to our plan, we need to be open to the idea that it just might need to change.

Spiderman had a plan too

I saw this so clearly in the movie Spiderman Far From home. In the very beginning of the movie Peter Parker slides into his seat next to his best friend and says, “I have a plan!”

And then something happened and he has a choice to make about continuing on, or straying from the plan. And he, like many of us, are not quite ready to give up the plan. So he continues on. 

He is so laser focused on his plan, he misses all the cues that something isn’t right. Until it’s almost too late.

How many times have you missed the cues that you need to change your plan?

Should you change it or keep going?

We hang on until we hit a breaking point and can’t control it all. And we feel everything is against us. Of course it happens because what we are doing is not fully working.

Once we let go we see new options.

New doors.

New opportunities.

My own plans have turned out differently.

It’s interesting being a parent of adult children. Things change daily. Doors open and close. And it reminds me of my own plans at their age. 

I planned out my major in college and decided that work in non-profit PR, doing special events, would be my thing. But taking a paid internship at a corporate job took me on an entirely different career path. 

I also thought I’d be married and have my kids by age 25. But I didn’t get married until I was that age and I was in no way ready to have children right away. In fact I had my first kid at twenty-nine.

And I don’t regret a single change in any of those plans. 

Because they turned out better than my original.

Sometimes we need to have a plan just to move forward.

I have done it with my writing. The plan was to be published by now. But for many different reasons, the plan has changed, multiple times. And I think my stories, my writing, and my mindset is in a better place because of the extra time.

Is it what I’ve planned? No.

Is it something I’m accepting? Yes

Image of checklist with pink highlighter checking off boxes. writing out plans is important

In my novel, “When Plans Go Awry”, Olivia did not want to depend on anyone else. She had a plan. It would be how she would survive. Except everything she thought she needed, she didn’t. And what she thought she didn’t need, she did. But she’s got to go through a lot of strife before she finally realizes it. The little town of Washton has to teach her a thing or two about friendship, depending on God (and not herself), and of course, love.

Not at all what she was looking for but everything she needed.

I think having a plan is important.

Being flexible with your plan is necessary.

Knowing when to fight for the plan and when to change it is smart.

Here’s to us writers making plans and knowing when to adapt them.

If you enjoyed this topic, Denise talks about Real Life Turning Points in this past blog post.

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Being Out of Balance Stifles Creativity

January 12, 2022 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

Do you ever feel out of balance in your life? Where you find your days lopsided in your to-do’s, and you aren’t able to dig into your well to do what you really want to do? Have you found yourself with the desire to create stuffed inside but no way to come out? Am I the only one who needed a mental and creative break at the end of last year?

Blog header with rocks stacked on top of each other and words Being Out of Balance Stifles Creativity by Denise M. Colby

When I say creative break, what I really mean is giving my brain a chance to catch up with itself. Taking the time to organize thoughts, goals, wins, and losses, and get out of the funk I found myself in.

Time to conduct a Sacred Rest Assessment

Susan May Warren added the Sacred Rest assessment in her 2022 Brilliant Writer Planner (that I love!). It’s a way to determine the rest you are lacking (and what you are not). It’s all about balance. And she organizes our needs into these buckets:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Creative
  • Spirutal
  • Social
  • Sensory
  • Mental.

When you find your life is out of harmony

For me, my mental and creative areas are sorely lacking. And taking time over the last two weeks to purge through some to-do piles, evaulate my year, and write out thoughts, made me realize I don’t schedule this type of downtime for my brain enough. 

And that’s exactly what the assesment is supposed to do. 

Help you figure out areas you should focus on this year.

For me, I like time to let my mind catch up with my inputs. Let my mind wander. With my scheduled life, I don’t get a lot of time to do that. Yet when I did recently, I found the creative juice I’ve been missing.

Ideas began to pop into my thoughts. Energy to dive in and get to work.

Finding Symmetry

And that what was so exciting, because WORK is my word for 2022. Something I chose because God isn’t finished with me yet. And I am not finished with this writing journey. 

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. Philippians 1:6.  

Noun: exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something

Dreams don’t work, unless you do.

My manuscript is a work in progress

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart….Colossions 3:24-25

Which is exactly what I plan to do for 2022.

I process my thoughts by writing. I explore what’s in my brain by writing. And what I found myself not doing at the end of 2021 was writing.

It takes work to write. And I’m now ready to get to work.

Figuring Out Balance

In her Sacred Rest Assessment, Susie May asks three questions at the end 

1. What areas do you need to focus more on this year?

2. Why do you feel you are depleted in those particular areas?

3. What activities can you pursue to refresh your life with Sacred Rest?

And just like that I figured out how and what to schedule (what I need to bring balance back to my life) into my week.

How about you? Are you in balance with your Sacred Rest?

You may want to schedule some time to assess to help you bring yourself back into balance this year and together, maybe we can help each other do just that!

Denise M. Colby loves to write words that encourage, enrich, & engage. Every year, she chooses a word to focus on. Her word in 2021 was Wisdom. If you’d like to see more of Denise’s posts on this blog, you can check out her archives.

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