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What Do I Write About?

Recently, a similar topic came up on two different list groups I'm a member of.

First, one list posted this writing prompt:

I find that, unless I *force* myself to write something meaningful in my journal, I tend to just regurgitate the events of the day with little comment or insight. Is this a problem for you? How do you overcome it?

Then a fellow group member made this comment on a different list

[my diaries] mainly record the hard facts of a day i.e. "Got up, went to work, had ... lunch, came home, temperature was 72 degrees, nice day...

Synchronicity strikes again (but then, that's what synchronicity is all about).

There's nothing wrong, of course, with recording the day's events. One of the questions several people asked in response to the (first) writing prompt was: Why do you feel there is something to "overcome"?

Ask yourself why you want to do something other than simply record the hard facts of the day? What do you think you should be doing instead... and why? Asking the questions, and answering them, will make a journal entry of its own.

What I Do

Most of my "regular" journal pages provide just such a simple daily record. I start a new page for each day and I start each day's entries with a comment on the current weather and possibly the forecast. I include what I ate for lunch and dinner (I'm working on losing weight so my journal becomes a diet journal as well).

I'm currently unemployed, so I spend most of most days at home, just me, the cats, and the computer. There isn't much that's new and exciting on any given day. Then again, when I was employed, I was spending 5 days a week at the job site, 8 to 10 hours a day, working. Those days were rarely interesting — except, of course, for the day I got the revolting co-worker to explode, which triggered my leaving my most recent position. :-)


I belong to 6 different online journaling lists and follow at least half a dozen weblog memes! My responses to list group prompts and memes go into one section of my journal and/or into my weblog. The prompts give me different things to write about that are not specific to the events (or nonevents) of a particular day.

My daily record varies depending upon whether anything "different" happened on that day. Because I'm almost always near my journal (it's on my home computer and I'm on the computer for much of the day) it's easy to make entries fairly regularly. If it's been a while since I last did an update, I include the time. I also carry a small notebook in my beltpack when I leave the house, to jot any notes and reminders that come to me while I'm away from my computer and my journal.

Sometimes something unusual will occur, e.g., one day I took a bunch of "household hazardous waste" to the recycling center (and then came home and wrote about it). Another day I had a run-in with a rude and thoughtless "newbie" at the customer service desk at a local store. Those experiences become longer entries and I often also post them to my weblog and/or to one of the journaling lists.

Whenever I have something more than simple daily recording to write, I ask myself, "What can I say about this? What else can I say? Can I paint a word picture?"

Because I have 4 weblogs to choose from (and like to keep them filled) I also ask myself, "Should I post this entry? Where shall I post it? The family-only weblog? A public weblog? Do I have extra comments and opinions to make about this? Did the subject really strike me? How can I make this entry interesting to other people?"

What You Can Do

Consider what sorts of comments and insights you'd like to have. Make yourself a reminder sticky. Keep track of how often you add more to your journal than simple "regurgitation". Consider highlighting (or otherwise marking, with a sticker or a sketch) the entries you feel meet your goals for comments and added thoughts.

Start posting entries to a journaling list group. Comment on other people's entries, adding your own thoughts and insightful remarks. Start a weblog.

Put a small notebook into your purse, pack, or briefcase to jot notes during the day. For example, I've been keeping track of something I call Treasures (other people do this too and call them Positives, Good Things, Reflections). Treasures are memories encapsulated in a few words. The idea is to track things that catch your interest during the day - things that make you smile, things you want to remember, anything you'd want to tell a friend about "Hey, guess what I saw...?"

I publish my Treasures to my weblog and a couple of mailing lists at the end of each week. I try to get as creative and "poetic" in describing my Treasures as I can when I record them.

Some Tips

When you're recording, before you start to write, sit back, close your eyes, and take a moment to reflect on the day.

  • Got up

    Same time as usual? What was the weather? Did you wake before the alarm? What did you choose to wear? Any particular reason for the choice?

  • Went to work

    What did you do at work? Did anything interesting happen? How is your project coming along? Did you have lunch with a co-worker?

  • Had lunch

    What did you have for lunch? Describe the flavors. Did you enjoy it? Was this something you have often or something new?

  • Came home

    Did anything happen on the way home? Do you drive? Take the bus? What did you see?

  • Temperature was 72 degrees

    Did you know the temp because you saw a thermometer sign on a bank? Or because this was the first day in 3 weeks that you could take off your jacket?

  • Nice day

    What made today a "nice day? The temperature? The time of year? Were there clouds or was the sky blue? Was it "blue" or "that crystalline blue when you can see forever if you care to look"?

Start Today

As you practice, you'll see your writing change to match what you want it to be. Soon you'll have as much difficulty simply listing the days events as you used to have writing more.

The common wisdom is that it takes 21 repetitions to make a habit. I have discovered, over many years, that this is pretty much true. But if you "force yourself" a few times, you'll find that you need less force with each subsequent time until the way you want to do things has become automatic.

    Start to carry a notebook wherever you go.

    Start to track your Treasures (your Good Things, your Memories)

    Start to ask yourself what else you can say about everything you did today.

    Start to ask yourself what made today special.

    As you keep looking, you'll see more.

    As you see it, and remember it, write it.

March 23, 2004 in category Language Arts | Permalink


Excellent and useful tips to fill up the pages of my journal with. I started to write more descriptively about my day, which enabled me to open up more. Thanks :) x

Posted by: Daisy M at Aug 11, 2009 1:23:41 AM

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