Write it down!



A post for the journal-averse.


There are many ways people’s lives generate a journal without them picking up a pen. I wrote about them last week. (Read that one here.)


But some lives don’t . Add up what you do regularly, how you spend your personal 24 hours. Forms typed, orders filled, cars fixed, spreadsheets populated, buildings torn down or erected. Kids raised, meals cooked, miles run or driven, departments managed. The mind boggles at the numbers, if you add them up, but they don’t leave a written record.  


Life is filled with quotidian tasks (I just learned “quotidian” – meaning “occurring every day,” and I’m smitten with the word.) They seem meaningless, but their aggregate isn’t. The total time spent, the body of work produced, made a mark on the universe.


Quotidian mice.Yeah, right, you say, if you feel your day job was a waste of your time. And honesty forces me to admit that some jobs lack meaning. But your life doesn’t.


For you, a conventional journal might be a good thing. And it might start out mundane, because you might not be in the habit of sussing out your thoughts. Remember, in George Orwell’s 1984, Winston’s initial journal entry was four words: “I hate Big Brother.” He’d been out of touch with himself for a long time.


So maybe get a journal, maybe write some stuff down. Here’s a list of tips if you do:


·      Write every day, or…

·      Don’t write every day. I don’t. I find waiting a day or two helps sift the raw material of life, helps me separate wheat from chaff.

·      Get a dated journal if it helps you, or…

·      Don’t. I used them for years, and eventually found them unhelpful. It’s like “SHOULD!” is printed atop each page, alongside the date. My friend Hannah Wells rightly says, “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.”

·      Flesh out your feelings. That first journal entry in 1984 opened floodgates for the character. I disqualify myself on this one – if I’m disposed to rant or to rave, I usually do it outside the pages of my journal. For most, the ranting or raving is the reason to keep a journal, and I think that’s swell, just not for me.

·      Or, stick to facts. This method tends to reveal the substance of your life by the sheer build-up of evidence over time. I record, compulsively, what I cook for dinner.  Old journals reveal me as an inventive, ridiculously frugal, cook, juggling a tight budget with the appetites of growing boys.  Spaghetti omelettes and a rice-and-bean-and-cheese-and-mushroom number show up in my old journals, and make me smile. Too many times, domestic chefs forget the sum total of satisfied tummies we catered to. Journaling can remind us.

·      Journals are wonderful for revealing things you didn’t know you knew. In reviewing my first journal – from 1979 - I found, only a few months in, a near-prophetic entry: “Today I learned to use a 35 mm camera. Marvin Runge,“ [at that time barely an acquaintance] “was, as you’d expect, a kind and patient teacher.”

That “as you’d expect” leaps off the page, now, in 2022. Whatever caused me to record it, bespoke me knowing something I had no idea I knew. A quarter of a century later, I married Marvin Runge.

·      Don’t ignore a passing thought. Grab an old envelope and write it down. Don’t feel constrained to only use your journal. Sometimes you’ll catch a thought from God. Here's my for-instance:

Back in 2012, I jotted down an early morning thought: Your brother is not okay. My actual brother was/is in Arizona, where it was 5 a.m. Unsure of the validity of the thought, I did not pick up the phone and call. But after an hour of prayer, I received a call, from my younger son. My ex-husband had had a stroke, about an hour earlier, he told me, and in a moment, the five words I’d jotted down took on new meaning. I knew I was supposed to step in and help. The outworking of those five words reconfigured our broken family, and healed our hearts in various ways. My ex and I function well as brother and sister these days, like the thought indicated.

·      Don’t be afraid to be wrong. If you think it might be God talking to you, write it down. Let it sit. Pray. After a while, if you’re thoughtful, you’ll get clarity. If the thought is potentially life-changing, run it past a mentor. Don’t move to Mongolia on an unconfirmed journal entry.

·      Allow yourself to be honest about the negatives, but…

·      Don’t allow your internal dialogue to live in the ditch. If your journal becomes a gripe-fest, you’ve missed a piece of thankfulness somewhere. You’ll know you’ve gone wrong if you find yourself enjoying a sticky-sweet pool of self pity. Foster a habit of written thankfulness. It pays dividends.



Journaling is a journey. It can open your eyes to some remarkable scenery. It can show you the contours of your life, reveal its direction. Done right, it can help you get to know yourself, encourage you to be kind to yourself. That’s important.

I can easily practice thankfulness for all my subscribers. I could be thankful for you, too! Subscribe here. Thank you all very much for reading.