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How Journaling Helps Me Juggle the Writer’s Life

By Elizabeth Musser

A few years ago, I was asked by my Dutch publisher to write a novella for the Dutch ‘Week of the Christian Book’. (I wrote it in English-someone else translated it:). Christian bookstores throughout Holland put on this annual event where, for a week, any customer who purchases over 10 euros of merchandise in the store receives a free novella. The theme of animals was chosen for the year I was asked to write the novella.

I had never written a novella before and, being a rather long-winded novelist, felt the task a little daunting. But as soon as I learned of the theme, I knew my story. It had been hidden in my journals for years, just waiting to find the light.

I would write about our wonderful, neurotic mutt, Beau.

And so I did.

I told the story of an emotionally and physically scarred teen, Peter, who finds healing through his relationship with a rescue dog. Although the story was about Peter, I decided to tell it from both the mother’s and dog’s points of view.

In many ways, that story, Waiting for Peter, ‘wrote itself’ as I simply turned to the many journal entries I had penned throughout the years about our loveable mutt and all the lessons I had learned from life with Beau, especially lessons about how I should view my Master with the same love and devotion as Beau viewed me.

In my last blog post for ACFW (Don’t Quit Your Day Job), I alluded to the fact that keeping a journal is a great way to find inspiration for future stories. And so it was as I wrote Waiting for Peter. In fact, some of my journal entries found their way almost verbatim into the novella. Beau helped me through many hard times, and especially empty-nesting. So of course, the mother in Waiting for Peter finds solace during that season of her life too.

When writing The Dwelling Place, part of which takes place in Scotland, I reread all that I had written in my journal years earlier about the bustling, energetic city of Edinburg and the rolling hills around Sir Walter Scott’s birthplace. As I reread my words, the emotions I felt while traveling through “the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Loman” came back in all their beauty. When penning The Sweetest Thing, I again turned to my journal and what I had jotted down as my then eighty-five-year-old grandmother recounted her life.

Sometimes my journal is my ‘think tank’, but it is mostly the place where my soul spills out, my little personal psalms to the Lord. In them I pour out my joys and fears, my frustrations, and the excitement of something in Scripture jumping off the page and into my heart. I journal about life. Events, circumstances, soul talk. It’s all there.

So the next time you need a little nudge of inspiration, turn to your trusty journals. You do keep one, don’t you?

PS As a bonus to the joys of writing Waiting for Peter, Beau’s photo appeared on the front cover (yep, that’s him below). And when I went to Holland for book signings, we took a hundred of Beau’s paw prints, stamped by Beau (with much difficulty) onto little stickers. Beau signed his story which, by the way, is now available in English, too. I can almost hear his ‘woof’ of approval from where he is frolicking in doggie heaven.

Waiting for PeterElizabeth Musser writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet-tool shed-outside Lyon, France. For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions work with International Teams. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and her new blog.

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