My Life Is An Open Book

“You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare.” ~Georgia O’Keefe


I recently had a novel idea. Not an idea for a potential novel, but the notion that I had more or less already written one. I began blogging in 2009 when our sons were 6 and 8 and I could cobble together enough minutes in a day to return to writing. I kept handwritten journals for decades, but when we had the boys that fell to the wayside along with exercise and sleep. For years, a nagging voice in the back of my head has told me I should write a book. My frontal lobe, however, had predetermined I had neither the time nor the talent to undertake the endeavor.

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in bed with Steve at the end of another long day, doing a verbal dump about a writing group I was joining. I was, as usual, doubting myself. What made me think I had anything to contribute in a writing group? So many people call themselves writers. The title seems meaningless and arbitrary. I haven’t been paid to write in almost 18 years. I had the sense I would be out of my league in any writing group, and I said as much to Steve.

“It feels weird to call myself a writer. It sounds pretentious. Seriously. What have I written?” I whined.

“What about your blog posts?” Steve asked.

“What about them? That’s a hobby,” I dismissed.

“How long have you been writing your blog?” 

I had to think about that for a minute. I’ve had several blog sites. My first posts were on a blog I called Suburban Sirens, both referring to the sirens beckoning me back to writing a the time and the sirens I fully expected to hear in our suburb as the mental hospital ambulance arrived to take me away.

“Looks like I started in late summer of 2009,” I said, perusing the posts on that original blog.

“How many posts do you think you have written since you started?” he continued.

Another good question. I visited all four sites where I kept posts and checked for post counts. I did the math.

“It looks like it’s a little under 700,” I answered.

I let that sink in for a minute. Had I really written 700 short essays? Holy crap. A bold idea crept into my head, so I threw it out into the world.

“I should print them out so I have them somewhere other than online,” I said mostly to myself. “It would be fun to go through them and see where I’ve been and where I am now.”

“You should do it,” came the response from my ever-supportive spouse.

The negative thoughts snuck in.

“That would be a lot of money in paper, notebooks, and printer ink. And what would I even do with them? It’s not like anyone is going to sit around and read them. They will just sit on a shelf. What’s the point?” 

I’m back in therapy. One of the things I am working on is believing I am worth the effort. I am worth showing up for. I am worth asking for what I want, and I am worth not accepting less than what matters to me. I am worth taking a risk on. Wouldn’t printing out my blogs be a step in that direction? How bad is it if I think my own writing efforts aren’t worth the expenditure of time or money? Am I really worth so little? Perhaps growing my self-esteem begins with the simple act of cherishing my own thoughts enough to decide they are worth the money. No further justification necessary.

So, I bought a ream of paper, a few three-ring binders, and some page protectors, and I began the mundane task of copying, pasting, formatting, and printing each of my posts. It’s been an eye-opening endeavor. It’s allowed me to relive my experiences as the mother of young sons. I’ve been able to recollect some events I had long forgotten, and it’s been fun sharing these with my husband and my sons. It’s also afforded me the opportunity to witness my own growth. Like going back and reading my journals from junior high and high school, I’m seeing who I was and how far I have progressed. It’s been good for me on many levels, mostly in validating the hard work I’ve done both in parenting sons and writing reflections about my life. Some posts made me utter, “Wow…that was pretty good.” Those moments caught me off guard. I wouldn’t have owned that two years ago. Progress!

I’ve done a little more math since and determined I have written roughly 519,750 words about my life since 2009. An average book chapter is around 4,000 words. This means I have created what equates to approximately 130 book chapters. I guess it’s time to stop believing I don’t have the energy or time to write a book. I’ll also have to stop believing I have nothing to contribute.

By turning my life into an open book, I may have inadvertently written one or two.


  1. For what my $ .02 is worth, I’ve been reading your blog on and off for years (not just under this persona but also my non-anonymous one) and you are definitely one of my favorite writers in the blogosphere. I struggle with the same self-doubts – Oh, who wants to read about my life? And yet I think people do. Reading about your life over the years, while I was in a similar situation with kids and family and trying to find time to write, has really encouraged me. You’ve been a bit of a blogging role model – a benchmark, if you will. Because if you could find the time and at the same time actually be interesting in your writing, then darn it, maybe I could too! So you go, girl. Write that book. Publish those blogs!! Own that rhetoric!

    1. Oh my, Muffy. You made me cry. And, while that gets easier to do with each passing year, it’s still not something I do readily. You have no idea how much your comment touched me. I turn 51 soon, and one of my goals is to stop second guessing and nay-saying and just DO. Thank you for reaching out and for lifting me up. THANK YOU!! 💗💗💗

      1. Yep something about passing 50 really helps put things in perspective doesn’t it? I’m so glad you were encouraged because every word was true – I’m not one to say things lightly! Looking forward to seeing your book in stores!

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with muffythedramaslayer. I’ve also been reading your blog for years and your posts are always the ones I get most excited to see pop up in my Reader. For some reason, you stopped showing up in my Reader for a while so I missed some of your posts. You are such a fantastic writer Justine. I did NOT know until I went and read your posts in Suburban Sirens that you had a Master’s in Writing, but it makes perfect sense now! While I am way behind in reading and commenting on blogs, I did read through your entire Africa series and I was speechless! I was thinking, wow, this woman needs to publish this somewhere! I fully intend to go back and read your Africa trip series again (a little slower this time) and I also plan to send them to my sister who is the traveler in our family and who is planning a safari trip to Africa. I enjoy your writing so much and have enjoyed your adventures and “watching” your kids grow. You’re a fantastic photographer too!

    1. Gail! So nice to see you. I too am way behind on reading and commenting. Thank you for your kind words. It is unfathomable to me that anyone reads anything I write, as I mostly put it my words out there just to keep track of myself. It sure means a lot to me, however, when others take the time to read, and you have been one of the few who have made this writing journey less lonely. I’ve appreciated reading your posts too because they make me feel part of something bigger than myself. Thanks for reaching out. Your words touched my heart!

  3. Justine:
    Just a quick note to let you know how easy (and free) it is to put together a book and publish it online.
    I’m working on a second fiction project, and will move on to excerpt essays and poems from the original Armchair Zen site.
    Have a look at Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s publishing site.
    (There are others available, but I found Amazon to be easy to use, and is the giant in the market.)
    Simply put together a manuscript with easy instructions, and upload a PDF.
    You can offer your book as print-on-demand (POD) and e-book at no cost to you.
    You retain all rights, set the price, and authorize expanded distribution.
    A fun addition to my hobby of writing.

    All my best,


    1. Paz,

      Thank you for taking the time to write this comment on my post. I have long considered self-publishing, but I hadn’t given myself the permission to do it. Funny thing about low self-esteem is that it convinces you road blocks exist where they don’t. After seeing your comment a couple days ago, though, I’ve been looking at self-publishing differently. I think you gave me the permission I was afraid to give myself, the permission to believe that my words are worth the effort of publishing. Sometimes it helps to have someone in your corner, someone who has no stake in the outcome, someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself. Thank you for being that person for me and for encouraging me to take a risk on myself. Your faith in me gives me reason to accept that maybe there is something there that I haven’t been willing to give enough credit. It’s way beyond time to do something for myself and stop worrying about the negative talking heads. Please know that your support over the years has been the buoy I’ve clung to when my ludicrous self-talk was working overtime to convince me I had nothing to say.

      Thank you — a million times over!

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